Gary the Groundhog Saved My Column

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By Jenny Powell

It all started when I moved my medical office into the second story of a professional building with giant windows facing Highway 54. I would stare out the window at the small wooded area there whilst contemplating a befuddling set of symptoms, seeking diagnosis. That was where I first saw Gary.

The large groundhog waddled purposefully through his/her yard as I called out to my nurse, Kirsten, who promptly scrambled to my side. Kirsten’s second (probably) most important responsibility in our office was to give a name to everything that flew or crawled on the ground about our office building. As our woodland creature had the title of Gary pronounced upon him (her?), a personal relationship was established. A Gary sighting was met from then on with two or three of us rushing to the window to groundhog watch.

One day a group of trucks parked in the grass of the wooded area. Then, sadly, surveyors were out, the trees came down, the grass removed, the land flattened. Gary could be seen now and then, standing on his hind legs, staring at his/her old playground, as things progressed. About that time, I became the president of a national physician’s organization. Other than running board meetings, the only other real responsibility of the office was to write a column for the organization’s journal. How hard could that be? I researched past president’s columns. Wait – footnotes? I am a clinical family physician, not a researcher! I have zero experience or interest in writing research articles for a medical journal. How was I to write a column that didn’t sound something like, “Dear Diary”?

My first column was something of a cheat. When I was handed the gavel by the Immediate Past President (though figuratively, as we’re really not sure what happened to the real gavel), I gave the customary acceptance speech. And let me tell you, it was a great speech. It was stirring. It was a rally-cry to action. And it ended the three day annual meeting, which meant some folks were already packed up and ready to make for the airport. Not to mention that only about half of those still in attendance had headed to the hallway to chance encounter some really big names in independent medicine at the time. Yes, I was marginalized by the likes of Dr. Robert Malone and the core of the FLCCC (First Line COVID-19 Critical Care alliance) in the fall of 2021. If they hadn’t videotaped my speech it would be hard to prove I had actually presented it.

Back to the first column – I totally used my largely-ignored speech for that one. I assumed for my second column I would have plenty to talk about once my presidency was a quarter of the way through. But, no. Our organization was still buzzing about the FLCCC and our own home treatment guidelines. I had a deadline looming for Column Number Two.

I stared out the window during a rare break between patients. My gaze fell upon the large, flat, newly-poured-and-smoothed concrete where the wooded area had once stood not so long before. I realized I had not seen Gary the Groundhog for some time. I pondered how once something is gone – whether it is a wooded yard where a groundhog can find lunch and a home, or the freedom to practice medicine with autonomy – it affects the entire environment. From thence came column number two: “Justice for Gary,” which became my most popular of the four columns. Sometimes, God provides inspiration in the most unpredictable manner.


Jenny Powell MD is a family physician, thanks to a call from the Holy Spirit, with a unique practice style and two busy offices, available to her patients 24/7. When not writing prescriptions, she works on her unpublished manuscripts, reads a lot of novels, and supports ACFW writers. Visit Jenny on her website and Instagram @jpowellmdauthor.

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