Question: How is fly fishing like delivering a baby?
“They're both catch-and-release,” Dr. Bruce Herman of KVH Family Medicine answers with an easy grin. He should know.
After all, Herman, a popular obstetrician who also delights in fly fishing, has delivered some 3,000 babies over the course of his career, the majority of them in Ellensburg.
Raised in Missouri, he's a Stanford grad who went on to medical school at Washington University in St. Louis. Of the 120 students in his class, most planned careers in research or as specialists. Only three, including Herman, were intent on family medicine, a choice that prompted the dean of the medical school to urge each of them to reconsider.
“I don't think they felt it was prestigious enough,” Herman says. “But I wanted to do it all – have an office practice, do surgery, deliver babies. I wanted to do everything.”
In his first year of residency in Denver, he encountered an attractive brunette named Elise who was finishing a pediatric residency. He was leaving Children's Hospital on the last day of his rotation there when he suddenly turned around, went back inside, and asked her out.
Not long after that first date, she moved to Gallup, N.M. to work for the Indian Health Service. In 1989, his residency finished, he got an OB fellowship there. “I did 15 hour shifts and delivered lots and lots of babies,” he recalls. “It was primarily high-risk pregnancies and learning C-sections because, again, I wanted to do OB.”
In 1990, the couple began looking for a place where both could establish practices. Location and lifestyle were key. Ellensburg was the first of 11 sites they visited – and they were smitten. “We visited all the other places and came back,” he says. A hike with a local couple on the Manastash sealed the deal.
“We said, 'This is it.' The people were nice. The community was welcoming and we'd found a place that needed us both,” says Herman, who joined The Valley Clinic, now known as KVH Family Medicine - Ellensburg. Elise “hung out a shingle” and started a practice that has evolved into what is now Ellensburg Pediatrics.
Family practice proved to be everything he'd imagined. “It was all encompassing and crazy but I loved it,” Herman says. Ten years ago, with the demand for obstetric services increasing, Herman stepped away from general medicine and began focusing on OB.
“It's happy medicine, just a lot of fun,” he says. “I feel like it's a privilege to be involved with a family when they're having one of their most special moments. You're part of that – and it never gets old.”
Twenty four years after coming to Ellensburg, Herman has no regrets. The couple's two daughters, now grown, prospered in a good school system and friendly community. So did he. A trumpet player since childhood, he helped organize the Ellensburg Big Band three years ago, a group that recently traveled to Sanda City, Japan. He plays tennis regularly, fly fishes often and has been part of a local poker group since he arrived. A former member of the board of Jazz in the Valley, he also spent a decade on the board of Valley Musical Theatre, played trumpet for two of their productions and has been on stage in four of them.
When he came, “it was clear that this community had a top-notch medical facility and physicians,” he says. “The hospital has been in the black every year that I've been here and continues to improve services and technology and stay up-to-date. I don't know how many people realize what they've got here compared to other rural areas.”
It's not uncommon for people from outside the area who end up getting care at KVH to express surprise at the quality of care they've received, he says.
“In terms of personal care it's hard to beat.”
Want to know more? See Dr. Herman's medical education and clinic information here.