It’s that Thanksgiving time of the year and as 2020 comes to a close, COVID has made each of us see life differently. We all have much to be thankful for but I would like to use this moment to thank all those in the field of healthcare that have sacrificed so much this year. The Eastland community is blessed with an outstanding medical community; however, I want to single out one person in particular, Dr. Robert DeLuca, who has also served as the community medical officer.
I worked as a Registered Nurse at Eastland Memorial Hospital and in the field of Home Health in the Eastland community for over 20 years. During that time and even in retirement I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Dr. DeLuca for 25 of the 34 years he has been practicing medicine in Eastland.
I think it is worthwhile to reintroduce the Eastland community to Dr. Robert DeLuca, as much of this information has been lost in time. He graduated from the University of North Texas Health Science Center’s Texas College of Osteopathy Medicine in 1984. Two years later he joined a previous fellow medical student, Dr. Sandra Hazelip in her practice in Eastland, where they have remained lifelong friends and colleagues. Dr. Hazelip tells me Dr. DeLuca was president of his medical class three of four years. That was just the beginning of great things to come for Dr. DeLuca.
In 1986 Dr. DeLuca became a member of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians (ACOFP) participating in several committees and was elected as a governor on the ACOFP Board of Governors in March 2012, serving as chair of the Convention and Site Committee. He is a past president of the Texas Society of the ACOFP and was named Family Practice Physician of the Year in 2005. Over the years he has won several awards including the Sam Buchanon Sr. Memorial Service Outstanding Graduating Clinician Award, the Outstanding Preceptor Award, the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award, and the Community Service Award from Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Most recently in 2019 Dr. Robert DeLuca was sworn in and inaugurated as the 66th President of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians at the ACOFP 56th Annual Convention and Scientific Seminars in Chicago, Illinois. He was also recognized as an osteopathic family physician in Eastland, Texas with 35 years’ experience, as well as serving as an Associate Professor of Family Medicine at the University of North Texas Health Science Center’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, his alma mater.
Dr. DeLuca has impressive credentials and Eastland should be honored to have someone of his caliber practicing in the community. However, beyond all these impressive credentials is a very compassionate, caring man who has touched the lives of many in the area. I’d like to share a couple of special moments although I know there are many more.
I remember the night I was working the night shift and he sought me out asking if I had the hospital camera. I did most of the publicity for the hospital at the time. He then shared he had a patient that did not have long to live who was a big Elvis fan. He wanted to go home, put on his Elvis outfit, sing to her bedside, and give her a photo of her and Elvis. With her family in the room, I’ve never experienced a more touching moment as when he sang to her while I snapped photos. We covered her wall with Elvis and her, her family cried with joy, and when he left for home, we announced over the intercom……………” Elvis has left the building”. It was a morale boost for everyone!
I also remember when one of his colleagues had recently lost his wife to cancer and now his youngest daughter had been thrown from a horse. After hours of exams, testing, and sitting by the bedside, Dr. DeLuca sent his friend and colleague home to rest. I walked by in the wee hours of the morning to see Dr. DeLuca sleeping in a chair by the young teenager’s bed, holding her hand. I whispered to her “How are you feeling?” and she whispered back “OK”, pointed to Dr. DeLuca and smiled. He’d known her since she was a little girl and I know next to her father who was physically and emotionally exhausted, this was the right person to be with her.
The emergency room staff watched him tutor his daughter when she was growing up with her spelling words during downtime, we’ve watched him take staff back to physical therapy and do some manipulation that osteopathic physicians are specially trained to do when he noticed they were struggling, we’ve all heard him calling patients after they left the hospital to check on them, or making personal phone calls to colleagues with referrals to get his patient in with a specialist. I’ve watched him mentor aspiring medical students and physician’s assistants too numerous to even count. He always has a student and is a willing teacher to everyone whether it is a patient, family, medical student, nurse, etc.
I could go on and on about Dr. DeLuca but I won’t. I have not asked his permission to share this information. He is too humble and would say no, so I’ll just ask forgiveness. Dr. Robert DeLuca has a warm smile, a compassionate heart, and is an exceptional physician. He is a good person. I have watched him maintain his professionalism and composure during this worldwide pandemic called COVID, when he has been both personally and professionally attacked by keyboard warriors with medical degrees from Facebook. We all know the saying “Don’t shoot the messenger because you don’t like the message”
It’s the season of Thanksgiving and it only seemed right to say “Thank you Dr. Robert DeLuca for who you are and all that you do to touch and improve the lives of everyone you come in contact with. We are all richer for your presence in Eastland, Texas, throughout Texas, and the United States. Thank you for your service in this war called COVID and every day in the war to provide healing, hope, and comfort.”
I’ll close with Dr. DeLuca’s COVID mantra “Be kind.”
~ Danna McKelvain