ENID, Oklahoma— About a month ago, Dr. Barry Pollard left St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center feeling a little emotional.
The local doctor had just performed his last surgery before retiring, after 40 years as a neurosurgeon in Enid.
“Went out this last day with a pair of shoes and lots of memories,” Pollard said.
Pollard and Regina Kraus, a registered nurse who worked as Pollard’s nurse for all four decades, announced their retirement in April and saw their last patient last week.
A native of Hennessey, Pollard, who graduated from high school in 1969, went to Oklahoma State University with the intention of becoming a veterinarian, but eventually changed his mind and decided to become a doctor instead.
Pollard then graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in 1977 and chose neurosurgery as his specialty, saying the “challenge of the field” appealed to him.
“Something that drew me to (neurosurgery) was the challenge and the opportunity to do the kind of surgeries that neurosurgeons do,” he said Thursday. “I decided neurosurgery was definitely where I wanted to be, and I’ve never regretted that decision.”
During his residency, Pollard met Kraus, an Oklahoma City native who was the head nurse for the neurosurgery unit at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Oklahoma City.
Pollard, wanting to serve community members closer to his hometown, asked Kraus if she wanted to accompany him as a nurse to establish a practice in Enid because he admired the work she was doing in St. Anthony’s.
Kraus, looking for a new challenge, said “Yes” and has been Pollard’s nurse ever since, saying the mutual trust between them was key to why she worked with him for so long.
“I trust (Pollard) with everything,” Kraus said. “I trust him the way he practiced medicine and the way he practiced surgeries, and he is honest beyond belief. I always knew he had my back, and he always knew I had his.
Start a practice
In 1982, the two established the practice in Enid, which was busy from the start.
“We had so much work to do,” Kraus said. “Every minute had to be used.”
Pollard said he felt like he was under “intense observation” as he performed surgeries that had never been performed in Enid at that time, such as craniotomies, carotid endarterectomies and spinal fusions.
Workload and trying not to make mistakes were among the biggest challenges Pollard and Kraus faced throughout their four decades of practice.
Many spine surgeries lasted up to four hours, and the longest surgery performed by Pollard was split into two 12-hour operations.
But helping people all those years was worth it, they said.
The most rewarding part for Pollard was the satisfaction of being involved in the medical care of many people and helping them get on with their lives.
“Receiving this privilege and being able to, for the most part, successfully help the vast majority of people was very satisfying,” Pollard said. “Walking down the street and seeing so many people I’ve operated on and seeing them doing well, … it’s a very rewarding feeling.”
“Being able to help someone – that’s the best thing you can hope for in life,” Kraus added.
Pollard said when Kraus, who had a 45-minute commute to and from work, told him around September that it would be his last year, he immediately knew it would also be his last.
Pollard and Kraus both have families they want to spend more time with, and they each have other areas of interest they want to pursue more.
“My time will easily be taken up with other things I do – from P&K Equipment to farming,” he said. “There’s the Angus ranch that I have, and over the years I’ve done a lot with Oklahoma State University. I’m a board member of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and… the treasurer of the American Angus Association. Between these things in my life, my grandchildren and my family, I think everything will be fulfilled.
“Being Dr. Pollard’s nurse was a wonderful experience – probably one of the best experiences of my life, doing all of this,” Kraus said, “but I think it’s time now for me to give back to society. without pay – volunteering and helping people.”
The past 40 years have passed, Pollard and Kraus said, and the duo thanked the community for supporting them.
Kraus also thanked her husband, other family members and good friends for all their support, as well as the nurses, doctors and staff she worked with at St. Mary’s over the years, and Pollard said. said he was grateful for the support of family, including his wife, Roxanne, his mother, Patsy, and his children and their families.
Although Pollard and Kraus are eagerly awaiting the sequel, both felt bittersweet about retiring.
“I’m a little homesick for (the office),” Kraus said.
“To have accomplished that – having a successful practice and caring for as many people as possible, as a team – it’s remarkable.”
Patients can still come to the practice, 102 S. Van Buren, for pain management.