Dr. David Hay
We know how a lot of things go: the child who insists she doesn’t need a sweatshirt ends up invariably shivering and whimpering three hours later; you will hit every red light on Route 512 unless you need to reach for something in the back seat and then it’s as green as Saint Patrick’s Day; and most hospitals and doctor’s offices come standard with a long wait time, three to six outdated People magazines, and approximately one New York minute once you actually make it to the exam room.
Stories of the “old country doctor” who – with a vintage Gladstone bag in tow – stops by your house mid-morning to check on your health and knows the names of your children seem like stuff of legend, don’t they?
Actually, such a mythical creature exists. His name is Dr. David Hay, Jr., a podiatrist who spends three days a week making house calls. He sees 6,000 patients a year, though, so does the fairy tale end in the waiting room? “We do have a waiting room, but we hardly ever use it,” Dr. Hay says. “People are surprised when they check in and then we’re like, ‘Okay, I’ll take you right back.’”
This year, he’s celebrating the 60th anniversary of his practice, located at 680 Harrison Street in his hometown of Emmaus. He joined the practice 30 years ago, initially started by his father who served in World War II and went to medical school on the GI Bill. After graduating from the Pennsylvania College of Podiatric Medicine (now the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine) and completing his residency, Dr. Hay returned to his old stomping grounds and worked side by side with his father at their practice for nine years.
After his father passed away, Dr. Hay opted to stay in private practice, and he kept the business thriving. One thing that he’s able to do that might be beyond his control in a hospital setting is keep his staff genuinely happy. “We’ve never had to fire anybody, and in 60 years, we’ve only had maybe six employees,” he says. “There has hardly been any turnover – two nurses who were with us for 40 years and an office manager who decided she wanted to go to nursing school.”
It’s not just the specialty he loves, however. It’s also the opportunity to practice medicine in his beloved Emmaus.
A true family business, Dr. Hay’s wife, Cathy, works as a bookkeeper, while Allyson, one of his daughters, is the office manager. Dr. Hay recently invited his former protege, Dr. Jason Fiske-Baier, to join the practice, in part so that he can absorb some of the surgical responsibilities and Dr. Hay can continue to make house calls.
“There’s a rumor going around that I’m retiring – even my relatives are asking if I’m retiring – but I’m staying put,” Dr. Hay says. He says that bringing Jason on board reminds him of his father, but this time, he’s standing in his father’s shoes. “It’s sort of like deja vu,” he says. “My father had been practicing in Emmaus for 30 years when I joined, and now it’s been 60 years and Jason just joined, so it reminds me of when I had just started with my father.”
While Dr. Hay was mostly set on following in his father’s footsteps, there was a time when the young undergraduate thought he might become a game warden due to his love of hunting and the outdoors. “Then I did my research and I found out you had to basically wait for one of the game wardens to die to get in,” he explains, laughing. So he became a podiatrist, a diverse specialty that he loves. “You get a variety of cases and ages,” Dr. Hay says, noting that the most common injury he encounters are fractured toes (midnight snackers beware!). “There are kids with warts and ingrown nails, surgical cases like hammer toes and bunions, weekend warriors with sports injuries and sprained ankles, and I’m gearing towards geriatrics now because I’m a baby boomer.”
It’s not just the specialty he loves, however. It’s also the opportunity to practice medicine in his beloved Emmaus. “Emmaus is still a closely-knit community,” Dr. Hay says. “With most of my patients, it’s almost like family.”
The podiatrist is also an active Lions Club member, which is one of the ways he gives back as well as enjoys the quaint small-town events. “Everybody in the community knows that twice a year we make clam chowder for the Lions Club,” he says. “Where else do you ever see that, people getting up at 2 a.m. to make thousands of quarts of clam chowder?” In addition to community service, Dr. Hay’s office dispenses orthopedic shoes and keeps a stockpile of shoes people didn’t want for annual donations to nursing homes and the Salvation Army.
The doorbell-ringing doctor may be a dying breed, but in the age of WebMD and physician consultation apps, Dr. Hay has managed to keep medicine personal and private. “Financially, you don’t make much doing it this way, but I’ve always done it and I enjoy it,” Dr. Hay says. “People are so appreciative that you go out to see them, and then you run into them on the street or at a restaurant and they tell you they’re feeling better, and that’s really what it’s all about.”