By David Fleet
It’s been more than three decades since Dr. Linda Loewenstein first came to Ortonville.
“I was a new whippersnapper doctor with Dr. Schoen—I walked up and down the street shaking hands,” recalls Loewenstein, who took over Schoen’s practice in 1987. “It’s hard getting someone to see the new doctor.”
Loewenstein’s diligence, professionalism and fondness for the community prevailed—ultimately providing thousands of area residents with quality and caring health care.
In December after more than 30 years of practice, Loewenstein retired from McLaren Oakland-Ortonville Family & Internal Medicine.
A Lansing native and Lansing Catholic Central class of 1972 graduate, the road to Loewenstein’s long stellar career as a physician took some unique roads.
“The career path was, I dropped out of high school,” laughed Loewenstein. “I’d had it with school at 17 years old. So, I made Affy Tapple apples for a while—basically my job was putting sticks in the (candy) apples.”
Loewenstein’s stint at the Lansing area apple business corrected her life direction.
“I looked around the apple company and said, ‘this job is not enough,’” she said. “I decided I was going to be a social worker. But, it was good for me to work there on the apple line—I talked to real people that are going to do that job for the rest of their lives.”
Loewenstein eventually went back and earned her high school diploma through home study. She moved on to nearby Lansing Community College.
“I loved science,” she said. “The only classes related to science available mid-semester at LCC were paramedic studies. However, all the paramedics was guys—they were also part of the local fire department. They told me even if I get a degree I can’t work at the fire department because you’re a woman. But, I loved the medicine part of the paramedic job, but hated dropping them (patients) off at the hospital, never knowing what happen to them when I left. After that my next step was to be a doctor.”
Lowenstein paid her way through Lansing Community College and eventually completed a degree in Microbiology at Michigan State University. She was admitted to the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Michigan State University in 1982. She graduated in 1985.
“It was close to 50/50 men to women in medical school that year,” she said. “I was the only female intern in my class at Pontiac Osteopathic Hospital where I went after MSU.”
In 1987, Loewenstein purchased long time Ortonville physician Dr. Paul Schoen’s medical practice. The office was located on Mill Street (next door to the Mill Street Market). Dr. Schoen, who died in 2008 had opened his local practice in 1955.
“I came up here and I fell in love with the place,” she said. “The first few months I was here I did not have any patients. He gave me creditability then people started seeing me.”
Three decades later Loewenstein reflected on her years of family medicine.
“Today people are much more involved in their health care,” she said. “They now read about it and look it up diagnosis on the internet. They come in to see me with some very good questions. It’s part of the challenge, while there is good information out there, there’s also some really bad information. For example the whole immunization thing, there’s so much not good information out there.”
There’s two sides to the information age, she added.
“If it challenges people to ask questions, that’s wonderful,” she said. “But if it puts kids at risk, then we’re not doing our job.”
Loewenstein said the explosion of medicines over the years to treat diabetes represents one of the most dramatic changes she’s witnessed.
“When I started medicine you were on insulin,” she said. “Now there’s a host choices that are oral—we’ve made tremendous advances in the treatment of diabetes. However, we have also seen an explosion of diabetes at much earlier ages. So the frequency has gone up.”
When Loewenstein started she would diagnose diabetes maybe three to four time per year.
“Now it’s two to four time per month,” she said. “We are just not eating right and exercising enough. The obesity problem is what’s driving diabetes down into kids.”
Prevention is key, she added.
“We are not doing a good job of taking care of ourselves,” she said. “We have robotic assisted surgery, we have a tremendous about of medication, we have access to the latest things happening all over the world. But, if I can’t get people to exercise more and eat healthier, and lose weight those medicine are like just putting a Band Aid on it. People need to slow down a little bit.”
Loewenstein learned from her patients.
“The body has an amazing ability of staying healthy, if we just don’t get in it’s way,” she said. “This is the most amazing job I can think of, people come in here at their most vulnerable time and are scared. I had the honor and privilege to have shared those moments with people—they never told anyone else in the world that information. That’s a privilege. I’ve also learned what amazing strength people have. I learned how deeply people care for one another. They way people can deal with adversity with dignity and pride. And still a heart open to help someone who may have it worse.”
“I do not know how to do this job without caring too much for people,” she said. “I regret not telling my staff more frequently and more definitely that I could not have done my job all these years without their support—their humor, their hard work, going above and beyond and their deep caring for our patients.”
Loewenstein plans on traveling, taking classes and work on several special causes during her retirement.