Kitfield to retire from four-plus decades as Wiscasset doctor

Posted:  Monday, September 24, 2018 - 8:30am
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When Cornelia Kitfield, highly allergic to bees, would get stung, her doctor would send the rocks flying as he drove up the dirt road to the family’s home in the country in Durham, New Hampshire with the medicine.

“He’d rush in and give her (the shot), and she’d come back to life,” her son Ed Kitfield recalled Friday in the lobby of his practice, Wiscasset Family Medicine at Water and Lincoln streets. “It was really impressive. So he was some of my inspiration to go into family medicine.”

The loneliness of lab work in college also steered him to it. Being a doctor and getting to be a part of people's lives and the community has been a privilege, Kitfield, 71, said. He has always felt so. On Facebook and the practice’s website  Sept. 20, practice manager Shelley Strozier announced Kitfield will retire Dec. 20. 

Three years after Dr. Cortney Linville joined the practice, Kitfield said he feels very confident leaving her in charge of the practice and working with its other providers who have been with it longer. He sold Linville the practice last year as part of planning his retirement. “I’m using this year as a transition year to say goodbye to patients and get them situated with another provider,” he said.

Strozier has worked with Kitfield the last three of the 42 years and two months he has so far practiced medicine. She has been amazed at his talents and his heart in working with patients. He once stitched up her son Sam Strozier's lip, cut while the then-Wiscasset Middle High School student was cheerleading. Strozier said Kitfield has built a huge legacy everyone at the practice wants to continue another 40 years.

Asked for his most surprising moment as a doctor, he recalled a midwife calling him to help with a baby just born. Kitfield helped resuscitate the child. “The baby came around, and was fine. Well, 10 years later, this man came up to me and said,  ‘Oh, you’re Dr. Kitfield. You saved my baby’s life.’ So that was emotional, for sure,” he said.

Obstetrics was some of his most satisfying and exciting work. He probably last delivered a baby in 1988 when another doctor took over that part of the practice, he said. More of his work now focuses on geriatrics, he said. That's great, too, because he's known some patients 40 years and has aged along with them, he said.

He said he's had a meaningful career and wants to also find meaning, in or outside the health field, in retirement.  “I'm going to take a few months and figure that out."

Kitfield will still own the practice's two buildings at 66 Water St. and 1 Lincoln St. He plans to keep living in Westport Island, keep woodworking, keep sculpting with rocks and keep attending "Destination Christmas," his family's huge annual celebration. He and wife of 38 years Lydia Kitfield, a retired nurse and band manager, have six children, his, hers and theirs, and seven grandchildren from San Francisco to Boston.

Patients have been telling him he deserves to retire. Some don't know how they will get on without him. "But I'm sure they're going to do fine," he said.

He came to practice medicine in Maine’s prettiest village after a residency at Maine Medical Center in Portland. He and fellow MMC resident Dr. Stephen Reed had an office at Wiscasset Health Center. Back then, the area had far fewer doctors to cover Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta, including the emergency room, Kitfield recalled. “When I came here, we had to do everything, the five of us ... That was tough.”

Kitfield said another change for the better in recent years has been the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's patient-centered medical home model. It has gotten hospital-based practices and private practices working together to study outcomes and improve care, he said.

He is ready to move on and has been telling his patients for about a year it was coming, but he said leaving will be a "big loss" for him. "This is such a happy place, I still look forward to coming to work because I'm going to see my friends: the people I work with and my patients. So it's all very comfortable."

As the buildings' owner, he still expects to be around some. Looking out a window, he smiled and said it looked like the hedges could use a trimming.