Craig Recently named the winner of a prestigious state award, Dr. Larry Kipe has tossed around a few thoughts about what he might say if asked to give a speech.
But, winning the award hasn't quite sunk in yet, he said. Therefore, the right words are hard to come by right now.
"I'm in awe," said Kipe, 53, a longtime family physician at Moffat Family Clinic. "I know some of the people who have gotten that award.
"I think it'll seem a little more unreal as we get closer to the time."
On Tuesday, the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center's School of Medicine named Kipe recipient of the Gus Garcia Distinguished Physician High Plains Walking Stick Award.
"We recognize your outstanding contributions in rural family medicine since 1984 and in Craig : since 1989," the Department wrote to Kipe in a letter.
The annual award is presented to a family physician who has practiced in Colorado for 20 years or more, attained "positive role recognition" in the medical and local communities and "exemplifies the best in family medicine, teaching medical students and residents and community service."
"It's a very prestigious award," said Mary Jo Bush, of the school's Department of Family Medicine. "He's one of our star practitioners."
The award, symbolized by an Osage Orange walking stick, will be presented to Kipe on May 22 on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. He also will receive a plaque and $1,000 check.
The honor is another decoration in a long line of them for Kipe. He graduated with a medical degree from Southwestern Medical School in Dallas in 1981 and finished his residency in 1984 while stationed at U.S. Air Force Regional Hospital, on the Carswell Air Force Base in Forth Worth, Texas.
He also has practiced in Wyoming and Turkey and served as the vice president, president, legislative and executive committee member of the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians. He currently is the academy's board chairman.
The academy, an organization that includes about 1,900 members, is a group designed to work on behalf of "ensuring access to comprehensive and cost-effective health care for families across the state."
Kipe, who's long been an advocate for universal health care, said he's encouraged by recommendations from a blue ribbon state commission addressing shortfalls in health care coverage. Still, he said a solution isn't happening fast enough.
"I'm very impatient," he said. "I want a fix tomorrow."
Originally from Houston, Kipe said a family physician in his youth inspired him to become a doctor.
"I was looking for something I could make a decent living at and still help people," Kipe said. He added, "What I particularly like about family medicine is the variety - you see something different every day."
He said he "appreciates what a privilege it is to practice" medicine and plans to keep working for another 10 years.
Teaching the next generation of doctors, Kipe said, is another benefit of the profession. He tutors six to eight medical school students a year at the clinic for about a month each.
A shortage of family doctors is a "nationwide problem," Kipe said, and one that Craig and Moffat County soon could be facing. Several local doctors are on the cusp of retiring or moving out of the area, he said.
"We're actually going to be in crisis shortly," Kipe said. "We're trying like crazy (to recruit new doctors) and so is the hospital."
The Department of Family Medicine initiated the award in 1994.
The idea for using the walking stick originated with a retired medical school faculty member, F.A. "Gus" Garcia, who saw a "symbolism between the hardiness of the osage orange bush that grew in the Great Plains in the 1800s and the hardiness of the general family practitioner who practiced in rural areas," according to the award's history.
Garcia thought the bush had to be "tough and resilient to withstand the draught, Dust Bowl and other weather conditions," the document reports. "Likewise, a family physician has to be tough and hardy to survive in rural areas."