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'Dr. Drury' dynasty draws to quiet close

Marge Belisle (left) and Dr. Colin Drury have been serving patients at the Family Medical Surgical Center since 1990. The small clinic is set to close Dec. 1, however.

On the wall of the Family Medical Surgical Center in New Richmond are photos of the long line of Drury doctors who have treated area patients for decades.

First in line is Dr. Walker Drury, who practiced medicine in Amery and Wanderoos beginning in the 1920s.

Next is a picture of Dr. Ernest Drury, Walker's son, who was a popular family physician in New Richmond from 1937 to 1977.

Finally, there's Dr. Colin Drury, who began his local medical career in 1974 as a partner with his father.

But on Dec. 1, when the small independent clinic closes its doors and Colin Drury officially retires, the family's influence on local medicine comes to a quiet end and the photos will come down off the wall.

"I knew this was an inevitable thing that would have to happen eventually," Drury said. "It's a natural progression of things."

Drury has actually been semi-retired for about two years, seeing patients only when he's wanted and leaving most of the practice in the hands of long-time assistant and nurse practitioner Marge Belisle.

But Belisle was getting tired of working seven days a week, and being on call 24 hours a day.

So Belisle recently agreed to work with the expanding Stillwater Medical Group clinic in Somerset, which means many of Drury's and Belisle's patients will be transferring their medical records a few miles west.

For Belisle, it's a bittersweet moment in her career.

"I'm going to miss the small clinic atmosphere," she said, while sitting in the waiting room of the clinic that Drury started in 1990. "But I'm trying to get away from the business end of running a clinic. It gets to the point where you can't handle it all."

Her schedule at the Somerset clinic will be three days a week at first, expanding to four days a week later, Belisle said.

"Four days a week compared to seven days a week will seem like a vacation," Belisle said.

Drury said he's ready to let his medical practice end, so that he can have more time to enjoy his retirement. He's an airplane pilot and likes spending time with other pilots.

"There are days when I have no idea what I'm going to do that day," he said. "But I keep busy and now I'll have time to focus on other things."

Drury completed his undergraduate and medical school degrees at the University of Wisconsin. He also holds a master's degree in cardiovascular physiology.

He completed his residency at Swedish Hospital in Seattle, Wash. before returning to New Richmond to practice medicine and perform surgery.

He practiced in his father's medical office for two years, prior to joining the New Richmond Clinic for 14 years.

But Drury said he longed to be both a surgeon and family practice doctor, which was more difficult to accomplish in the larger clinic setting.

"I liked all aspects of medicine," he said.

He also didn't agree with the trend among doctors to limit patient visits to 15 minutes or less. Drury said the clinic staff spends more than 30 minutes with each patient visit.

So 18 years ago, he established the Family Medical Surgical Center across the street from the New Richmond Heritage Center. The practice has thrived ever since and continues to grow.

"This is a one-of-a-kind place," Drury said. "The independent clinic just doesn't exist any more. We have a lot of fun, we're not pressured and it's low key."

The 1962 New Richmond High School graduate said it's hard to believe that Family Medical Surgical Center has been operating for 18 years. The time has flown by quickly.

But with the sale of the clinic's building and Belisle's decision to move on made this the perfect time to close the practice, Drury said.

"It's been fun," Drury said. "Most doctors today don't have the fun that we have had. We might not have made as much money as some groups get, but we've had a good time here."

Drury said all of the patients have been very understanding of the decision to close, and many have stopped by to wish the staff well. He expects well-wishers to stop by over the next couple weeks as well.