On May 18, Charles Milch, Physician Assistant, one of our most beloved providers is retiring! To say we will miss him is an understatement. Our scribe Ara remembers: At first, I felt so worried because he looked so strict and quiet but as I got to know him, I realized that he is very warm, appreciative, approachable, enthusiastic and you can just talk to him about anything. That is Charles. He is approachable and kind. He took time to talk to us about how he came to medicine and AFP.
AFP: What made you choose medicine as your career? Was there anything else you wanted to be “when you grew up”?
Charles: I came from a poor family–eight siblings. My Dad was a male RN, one of the only male RNs anywhere. When I was in 10th grade, and one of his RNs called in sick, I’d go to work with him. He worked on a ward with paraplegics and quadraplegics. So I would do that and I actually liked it. I wasn’t a great student. Having nine kids in a 3-bedroom house, it wasn’t easy to do schoolwork. My Mom asked me one day,”What do you want be?” I said a doctor and she said, “We can’t afford it.” So I decided to be an engineer. I went to a community college and got my 2-year degree in electrical engineering. I got a job in nuclear power and they trained me. Then I went to Northeastern to become a nuclear stress engineer. You know, you can be good at things but just not care for them. And that’s how it was with engineering. So then I got an MBA in Information Systems and became a Business Systems Analyst. I didn’t like the city,so I moved to Vermont.
By this time I was married with four kids in Lyndonville, Vermont. Once I got there, I taught at the state college. We were raising sheep, chickens…I thought maybe I wanted to be a vet. But nah…so I went to talk to some doctor friends of mine about becoming a doctor. They said, “Are you nuts? Be a Physician Assistant!” I didn’t even know what that was. How do you do that? Nancy, my wife, wasn’t sure. So we came up with a plan. I took the classes to see how it went and then decide. I was going to work in an ambulance. I applied to schools. Then suddenly I got interviews; I did ok in the ambulance. I liked it. So I interviewed with Northeastern in their first PA program and they said “You’re in!” The moral of the story is Go for your dreams! There will be some way to do it! And now one of my daughters is a PA and my son is studying to become a doctor!
AFP: How has the journey of your medical career changed from what you first thought it would be all those years ago? What brought you to AFP?
Charles: Well, a couple of things: first, I did not expect to teach. I worked at Riverbend, now Trinity Health and I was supervising students there. And the program director asked me to teach. So I took that job back in 2001. I kept teaching for 20 years! Then I became the chair of the department for 12 years. I worked in occupational therapy; I worked in the ER. Then Kate called me about Family Medicine. We talked and I came on board in 2013. I came in one day a week and then kept teaching. I loved Family Medicine. And I love getting to know and talk to my patients. In the ER, you can’t follow patients after they leave.
Then I started in addiction medicine in 2010. I advocated for scribes and that was one of the best things I did. It allows doctors to have more time and better documentation. AFP is such a great practice for a family. And the teamwork is wonderful. You know, I think other than Linda, I might have been there the longest.
AFP: What exciting things do you have planned for your retirement?
Charles: Well, you know we have four grandchildren. Three are in Germany so on May 23, we are going to Frankfurt for a month to spend time with the grandkids. Then we will meet up from friends to do a bike ride from Austria to Munich–7 days; about 32 miles each day. We also bought a travel trailer. We plan a trip or two in that. My son is in the army, so we will go visit him. We will be spending the summer in Northern Vermont–and do a fishing trip in Canada. That will be fun. In the fall, we are going camping in Acadia. Then I take care of a relative in Florida, so we will head down there so I can take care of her.
My wife an I are in an orchestra too. The Fiddle Orchestra of Western Massachusetts. We have a lot coming up with that. I play the mandolin and my wife plays the fiddle. We have concerts coming up and we may go to Germany again at Christmas. In Spring 2023 we plan on taking the trailer to Moab and mountain biking there!
Pete Wood, who works with Charles as leader of the Wednesday night Coop group said about Charles: It has truly been a pleasure to walk beside Charles these past years. He has a contagious love of learning, everlasting compassion and an unparalleled commitment to being as helpful as possible to everyone around him. The trust and respect he has engendered in his patients is evident in all interactions. I am grateful to have collaborated with him and honored to consider him a friend.
AFP: Are there any other comments you would like to leave with your patients and colleagues at AFP?
Charles: To the AFP team: I have loved working with everyone. I will miss everybody and will be transitioning slowly away from those I love so much. It will be hard. I also want to say it is important to live each day like it is the only day. Because it is. There are three things helps stave off old age: 1) good nutrition; 2) exercise; and 3) social interaction. I really believe that.
To my patients: You all have taught me so much. I hope I have helped you. I will miss you all.
We will miss you Charles!!! Enjoy your well-deserved retirement!