By the age of 24, Michael Reeh already had a few years’ experience as an EMT, but he knew he wanted to be a doctor.
“I could see I was helping people,” he said. “I knew if I didn’t try to become a doctor, I’d be kicking myself the rest of my life.”
The Denver-area native has been practicing medicine in Hillsboro since 1994, and said it’s a benefit having a rapport with patients.
“It’s good for the practice of medicine to know a patient over a long period of time because it’s easier to pick up on ailments when you have an established relationship,” he said.
While trained for family practice, Reeh prefers specializing in geriatric work.
“More and more people who were sick and had medical problems were older people,” he said. “I still do family practice, but I want to specialize in geriatrics.”
Reeh finds the process rewarding because of the challenges.
“It’s challenging because it’s complex,” he said. “Patients who are older become more diverse in their problems.”
One important skill as a geriatric specialist is the ability to use intuition because there is less available research on the topic, Reeh said.
“Medicine is a fascinating fusion of science and intuition,” he said. “Many of the decisions that would be position-made are intuitively felt, rather than precisely reasoned. Intuition is like jumping ahead and knowing the answer because you’ve gone through these things before.”
While Reeh prefers not using antibiotics in every situation, he is likely to prescribe them more quickly for seniors.
“That’s where geriatrics is a little different,” he said. “You have to be careful because they’re fragile.”
When it comes to fragility and life-threatening circumstances, Reeh has his own experiences.
Reeh said he had Hodgkin’s’ disease as a three-year-old, which necessitated the removal of his lymph glands, and instilled an early wariness of dying.
“I had an incurable cancer but I was cured of it,” he said. “I was always kind of scared of death, and medicine was a big thing in my life.”
The change from being afraid of dying to becoming an EMT came in high school. Reeh said he started seeing TV shows spotlighting emergency responders, and his father had a heart attack around the same time.
“I was 16, and that’s what made me interested in emergency work,” he said.