Though Docs Who Care was established in 1995, the genesis of DWC really began much earlier. After completing residency in 1984, Gary Morsch, M.D. founded an innovative family practice group in a suburb of Kansas City. The group he founded was built on the premise that doctors should have plenty of time off for family, church involvement, community service and other volunteer activities, both at home and worldwide.
Dr. Morsch took advantage of his own group’s flexibility, and was soon donating several weeks a year to volunteer activities in mission hospitals and refugee camps around the world. Out of his international experiences grew a desire to motivate and mobilize others to serve, so in 1992 he founded Heart to Heart International. Heart to Heart is a medical relief organization that stages airlifts of medicines and medical supplies to needy countries, responds to disasters, and organizes volunteer medical teams who work throughout the world.
By 1995, Dr. Morsch decided to give up his private practice in order to devote more time to leading Heart to Heart. Thus, Docs Who Care was established!
The concept for Docs Who Care really came about by accident. Here is what happened in Dr. Morsch’s own words:
I was looking for a way to work as many hours as possible in as short a time as possible, which would give me time off to lead Heart to Heart. I tried moonlighting in the ED but had a difficult time getting all my shifts in during just one week of the month. Although I enjoyed the excitement of the ED, I missed the continuity of care I’d had in my private practice. Then I tried locum tenens. Working one week each month was great! But I was always moving around and felt a lack of stability. Again, there was little continuity of care, since I was working here and there.
As I worked in rural Kansas hospitals, I noticed that many of these communities had trouble either recruiting or retaining physicians. A hospital would recruit a great doctor, but in a year or two that doctor would burn out and move on. Why? Doctors burned out because of one main thing—they were required to cover the emergency department. The ED’s in these hospitals weren’t busy enough to warrant paid in-house ED coverage, so the few doctors who were on staff were required to cover the ED. It was an endless cycle – doctors moving to town, burning out, and moving on. I named this the ‘revolving door syndrome.’ I saw that there were too many hospitals dealing with the same problem – something obviously needed to be done.
I came up with a solution – Docs Who Care. We started our first group in Larned, Kansas, in 1995. I put together a group of 4 doctors, who worked one week each month. We established a family practice clinic and saw patients by appointment during the day, covered the ED 24 hours a day, and admitted patients to the hospital. One of us was always there, so the town doctors never had to cover the ED again. They were finally able to practice medicine like most doctors, and not have to take on the extra burden of covering the ED.
Word spread, and soon other hospitals were calling and asking me to set up groups in their communities. The rest is history, as they say!
Docs Who Care has worked in rural communities in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Hawaii and Utah. We’ve adapted to meet the full scope of primary care needs in the communities we serve. Our services have changed remarkably over the years, but our commitment to the rural hospital remains.
Docs Who Care is an expanding group of motivated, high-quality providers. We have never lost sight of our founding goals – to match high quality physicians and midlevels to community hospitals, and to give providers an opportunity to work on a job-sharing basis, allowing them the time and flexibility to make a difference in the world through volunteer service.