Retiring Suffolk doctor cared for generations
Published 10:35 pm Thursday, July 25, 2019
A longtime Suffolk care provider is closing the book on more than 40 years of treating patients in the community.
Dr. Joseph Verdirame of Bayview Physicians Group in Suffolk will retire at the end of July. Verdirame has been practicing internal medicine at Lakeview Medical Center since he first came to Suffolk in 1977 at the age of 27.
This week, Verdirame turned 70 years old. He’s the oldest practicing physician in Suffolk, with 42 years of internal medicine practice as of Aug. 1. A New York City native, Verdirame believes he was also the youngest practicing physician when he first arrived at Lakeview Medical Center in 1977.
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He attended the University of Virginia for his pre-medical and medical studies. He met his wife, Nancy Verdirame, at U.Va., where she was enrolled in nursing school.
Verdirame said that he and his wife, who was originally from Smithfield, moved to Suffolk to be closer to family and to work with doctors he was already familiar with at Lakeview Medical Center. He was confident that it would be a good environment to practice medicine, and it seems his instincts were correct, given his long tenure in Suffolk.
But it was also far different place compared to the city that stands today. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated Suffolk’s population to be 91,185 as of July 2018, but when Verdirame started practicing medicine in 1977, the city’s population was just about 36,000.
“The biggest (difference) is probably the population, and the things that go along with that,” he said, such as when Chesapeake Square Mall opened in 1989, and the advent of North Suffolk’s Harbour View community in the 1990s.
Verdirame saw Suffolk transition over the course of four decades, with ever-changing developments in real estate, commercial business and health care availability. He arrived just one year after Eastern Virginia Medical School had graduated its charter MD class in September 1976, according to evms.edu.
He saw in real time how the technology advanced towards more non-invasive alternatives for surgery, part of the ongoing shift from inpatient to outpatient care, with short stays at the hospital.
Verdirame took the lead in setting up non-invasive cardiac services at Obici Hospital back in the 1980s, including EKG interpretations, echocardiograms and stress testing. He and another doctor were also involved in Obici Hospital’s first permanent pacemaker implantation in the early ’80s.
He said he remembered the lady that received that pacemaker well because she lived well past 90 — and her daughter is one of his patients now.
That’s just one of many examples in which Verdirame has treated multiple generations within the same family.
“I have a lot of patients where I’m on at least the third generation in their family,” he said.
He said that one of Suffolk’s benefits for doctors is that it’s not a transient community. Residents here have roots that go back many generations, which allows for tighter continuity of care and greater familiarity with his patients, adding up to better health care overall.
“That’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed,” Verdirame said. “I feel like I’m part of the community, experiencing the same things my patients are experiencing, as far as the schools and as far as things to do in the community.”
Verdirame’s impact on the Suffolk community extends outside the offices of Lakeview Medical Center.
He’s a former president of the medical staff at Obici Hospital and served on the Western Tidewater Free Clinic board for nine years. He was also on the board for Suffolk YMCA, as well as the Suffolk Youth Athletic Association.
He’s also a medical examiner, a position he’s held for 21 years and plans to continue after his retirement from clinical practice. He will also continue to serve on the boards for the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts and the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance.
Verdirame and his wife plan to keep making a difference in their city, whether it’s volunteering through Suffolk Sister Cities International or Keep Suffolk Beautiful cleanups. There will also be more time to spend with their three children and four grandchildren — ages 4, 3, 2 and 1.
If he could go back to his first day in 1977 and do it all over again, he said he would, but he also admitted that it’s time for a change.
“It’s been a good ride, but 42 years is a long time to be doing anything. It’s time to do something different,” he said.