The changing lives of baby doctors

2014-03-23T00:00:00Z The changing lives of baby doctorsBy JAN FALSTAD jfalstad@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Jean Randall’s mother was Dr. Dan Molloy’s patient when he was a surgeon in Whitefish.

After he moved back to Billings about 30 years ago, Randall looked him up. The obstetrics and gynecology specialist delivered her two daughters and Logan, her first grandchild.

“I just thought he was personable. I thought he paid attention to detail and I liked it too that he also is a surgeon,” Randall said.

OB-GYN specialists like Molloy, who has cared for three generations of women, are getting rarer. Fewer younger doctors want to live a life of being on-call most of the time.

So in January, after 34 years working as an independent physician, Molloy sold his practice to St. Vincent Healthcare. His clinic will remain in the Yellowstone Medical Center, but he and his staff of 10 are now hospital employees.

“Except for practices like maybe a plastic surgeon or a dermatologist, I think we (independent practices) have to become aligned with a hospital,” he said. “And that’s happened here in Billings.”

St. Vincent also purchased the Montana Heart Institute, a cardiology practice also in the adjoining Yellowstone Medical Center.

For several years, Molloy tried to hire another OB-GYN to take over his practice. He hopes the hospital’s wider reach can accomplish that goal so he can retire in a few years.

“I sure hope so,” he said. “I can’t do this ’til I die. I’ve done it for 34 years. There will come a time when, no matter what, I’m going to have to lock the door, turn in my key and turn out the lights.”

The specialty’s demographics also are changing.

In 1980, women made up 8 percent of practicing OB-GYNs. That jumped to nearly 49 percent by 2010, the latest statistics available from the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists.

And by 2012, women made up nearly 83 percent of all residents in this specialty.

The majority of recent OB-GYN graduates work for hospitals or larger practices to get a regular paycheck, according to the ACOG. They can avoid the business risks of starting a practice and have more of a personal life while they are practicing medicine, Molloy said.

“Especially in obstetrics, residents are mostly women now and most of them have not had families,” he said.

Being owned by St. Vincent also means adhering to the institution’s religious values.

Molloy has never done abortions, but now he won’t be able to offer women sterilizations.

“I’m still learning about what we can use IUDs (intrauterine devices) for, but not for birth control,” he said.

But neither can two of the physicians at Billings OB-GYN Associates, an independent practice on the West End, who also are employed by St. Vincent, Molloy said.

And in a hospital practice, whatever doctor is on duty will deliver the baby rather than stay with the woman as he has, Molloy said.

“It’s just admittedly, sadly, a passing type of practice,” he said. “But I think it can change and accommodate to modern times or to the way things are going, especially obstetrics.”

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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