After caring for patients for 36 years in the McCall region, Dr. Dave Burica saw his last patient in the clinic on Wednesday, Dec. 1.
In 1986, Dr. Burica was finishing up his internal medicine residency in Spokane, Wash., when he saw a recruitment notice posted by McCall’s only internist at the time, Dr. Munch Cussler of Long Valley Clinic.
“Join a proactive team of physicians,” the card read. “Low pay and providing high quality medicine.”
Who could resist?
Dr. Burica followed up, arranging interviews with Dr. Cussler, the rest of the McCall Memorial Hospital medical staff – Drs. Wayne Allen and Eddie Droge – and the hospital administrator at the time, Karen Kellie.
“It was February, a bluebird snow day when I visited, and I was able to get some cross-country skiing in,” Burica said.
“Coming from Spokane where winters are quite gray, it was a wonderful experience, and I immediately knew this is where I wanted to live and practice medicine.”
His first day was June 28, 1986. At the time, all the physicians were included in the emergency department rotation. His first shift in the ER was the Fourth of July weekend.
“As I recall, there was a riot outside of Foresters bar in the afternoon, the fire chief hosed down the revelers and it snowed,” Burica said. “I was glad Dr. Droge was backing me up; it was a busy weekend.”
Dr. Burica quickly learned that while delivering quality care and continuous improvement are always at the forefront, the physician’s role at a small hospital and clinic is extensive. Dr. Burica served on his fair share of committees, as chief of staff and as medical director for med/surg (inpatient) and cardiopulmonary. Other committee work included compliance and peer review. He also helped develop the current hospitalist program.
Some of his most meaningful work came out of involvement with the quality and infection prevention committees; he has worked closely with St. Luke’s quality leaders and the local chief nursing officers through the years.
“I’m proud of this work, and being able to bring this important information back to our local medical staff and clinical teams for improvement was meaningful to me,” he said.
“Quality is so important, and we have improved and accomplished so much over the years.”
Over his nearly four decades as a physician, many things have changed. Some have not.
Until the early 2000s, physicians cared for their own patients, regardless of whether they were in the hospital or the emergency department. Inpatient and emergency care has evolved; specific physicians now work in the hospital setting at all times caring for patients, reducing the need for all physicians to be on call 24/7.
Other changes have included hospital expansion in the mid-90s, joining St. Luke's Health System, implementing the electronic medical record and the more recent expansion that is ongoing.
McCall Memorial, a progressive critical access hospital, was skilled in serving a rural and resort population, while St. Luke’s brought specialists and additional resources.
“When we joined St. Luke’s in 2010, each organization brought strengths and expertise to the table.” Dr. Burica said.
Another big shift was the common digital records system.
“The electronic medical record was a big change,” Dr. Burica said. “It gave our physicians direct access to specialists and streamlined communications, in addition to having access to our patients’ medical charts when they received care in Boise.”
What hasn’t changed?
The bond he has with his patients.
“The personal relationships I’ve built with my patients over the years is precious, and it is a gift,” Dr. Burica said. “It has been an amazing and wonderful opportunity to care for people and getting to know them and their families over their lifetime.
“It has brought me great joy, and it has been an honor to care for my community.”
Community members may still see him around, though. He plans to help reduce the backlog of stress tests, delayed due to the pandemic, and proctor his replacement, Dr. William Loome, as he becomes more familiar with the hospital and clinic.
Dr. Burica is also looking forward to pursuing personal interests, home remodeling projects, solar energy, traveling and doing volunteer work with his wife Ingrid, a retired physical therapist.
Of course, he also plans to embrace many of the pursuits that made life and practice in McCall so appealing all those years ago, like skiing, hunting, fishing and hiking.
“I’m looking forward to retiring,” he said.
“I have a lot of projects on my list.”
Laura Crawford works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.