Sunday profile: After 40 years, a long-time New Castle doctor steps down
There may not have been a fiery passion behind Dennis Eicher’s decision to study medicine more than four decades ago.
His brother was a doctor; many of his cousins were doctors or dentists; and a lot of his friends in college were in pre-medicine.
“It seemed like a good thing to do,” Eicher said.
But whatever Eicher found in medicine was enough to keep him in the field for more than 40 years.
Eicher will retire from his family practice in New Castle on Jan. 10, which also happens to be his 70th birthday.
Getting to Glenwood
Eicher grew up in Ohio, and moved to Colorado after college. He got a deferred acceptance to medical school and had to delay a year – but that allowed him to work for Coors Brewing, and take a motorcycle trip to Alaska and back in the late ’70s.
After he finished his residency in Denver, Eicher and his then-wife were looking for a place to settle. They visited Iowa and the Pacific Northwest, but Glenwood Springs wasn’t a strong possibility.
When they got back to Colorado, they decided to spend some time in Glenwood Springs while they made their decision.
“We hit the pool, and it was like, actually this is pretty good.”
After working in family practice for 11 years in Glenwood, Eicher got a job at Valley View Hospital in Eagle, where he worked for three years.
Then, he opened up a practice in New Castle above the diner in the City Market Plaza, and has been there ever since.
Some of his patients have known him for 35 years or more, which makes it difficult to day goodbye.
“A lot of them followed me all over the place,” Eicher said. “They’re my friends.”
Eicher knows leaving will be tough, but he’s up for that challenge.
“Medicine has kept my brain going, so now I need something else to do that.”
What it takes
The greatest attribute for a family physician is people skills, according to Eicher.
Trying to convince patients to take a drug, or change a habit, can be a difficult task, but for Eicher, any change in habit, any attempt to drop a few pounds or exercise more, is a win.
“A lot of it’s bargaining. You’re trying to get somebody to do something they may or may not want to do,” Eicher said.
Bargaining may not be the first word that comes to mind when someone thinks about health. From a doctor’s perspective, Eicher says convincing people to do something beneficial that they don’t want to do is the best way to help.
“There is a lot of compromise in it. You can say ‘it’s my way or the highway,’ but you’re not helping anybody by doing that,” he said.
Take smoking. Of course, no tobacco use is healthy, but convincing people to cut back, exercise more, and lose a few pounds if overweight, are steps in the right direction – even if they don’t want to quit.
Colorado is statistically one of the fittest states in the country, but Eicher still sees obesity as the No. 1 health problem.
“It’s not just this Valley, it’s not just this country. The whole world is getting fatter,” Eicher said.
The principal reason? Calories are cheap.
For about $5, someone can get a 1,500 calorie meal. Do that twice a day, and a body’s strict calorie needs may be met, but people still eat dinners.
“You can’t lose weight if you’re eating out all the time,” Eicher said.
The good news in Eicher’s advice is that he doesn’t limit the kinds of foods someone eats, as long as it’s in moderation.
“As far as I’m concerned, there are no forbidden foods. It’s all about frequency, quantity and moderation,” Eicher said.
At Eicher’s practice, which is now part of the Glenwood Medical Association, Dr. Jennifer Copeland will take over for now.
After he retires, Eicher says he’s looking to spend a lot more time on the slopes.
He also still rides dirt bikes on the Flat Tops and elsewhere, and has BMW road bikes for other trips.
This year, he has plans to do a 100,000 foot-ride – where a group of bikers take on as many mountain passes as necessary until they hit 100,000 feet total elevation gain. He also wants to do another motorcycle tour of Europe.
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