Dr. Stephen Erlandson used to make house calls.
“Those were the days, like when milk was delivered. Doctors were able to have a family connection with their patients. Times have changed. It’s now no longer business-like to see patients that way. Insurance companies don’t like it anymore either,” said Dr. Erlandson.
“Look here,” he said during an interview inside his medical office pointing to an item that regulations will not be able to take away. “Let me show you something about our future. Now I don’t have much here. I keep a very small office. I give it all for my patients, but what I do have is something special.”
Reaching for his desk drawer, Dr. Erlandson pulls out a series of pictures, thank you notes, and drawings he says makes much of the difference on why he continues to practice medicine at Foothills Family Practice in Elkin.
“A little girl gave me this picture. She came in here and at first I gave a look wondering why it was for me. It touched my heart. It may not seem like much to the average, but I keep everything in my office and these types of moments are special to me,” said the doctor.
According to Dr. Erlandson, gone are those days when medical practices could showcase pictures of patients who’ve been seen by a doctor. Or even discuss with you the name of a patient who designed the drawing. That was kept confidential.
“It’s now a violation of one’s privacy,” said Dr. Erlandson sadly while looking at the drawing. He placed it back into the drawer.
Stephen Erlandson grew up as a Texan.
“Yes sir, I was born in Austin, Texas and moved to San Antonio,” disclosed the doctor. “I didn’t quite remember the very early years, but I do have a connection with Texas. I did live near a hospital that treated burn patients, so I got fascinated with medicine from that. I recall reading about organ transplants in the newspaper. When I was in the sixth grade, my friend and I did an organ transplant with two frogs. It lived a day.”
“I moved to Charlotte in 1961. I went to Independence High School and met my high school sweetheart, Linda, who became my wife,” said Dr. Erlandson.
Doctor Erlandson said he was interested in science back then, and not so much into girls. It was always Linda. If he could make comparisons to today, he was the nerdy-looking type at a time when actually being a geek was valued.
“The cold war, the space race, I had dreams on being an astronaut,” he said, “But I learned that I was color blind, so out the window went being an astronaut because you have to fly to get there. It was OK because being smart was considered cool. So I moved on.”
Afterward, Erlandson studied at Davidson College and medicine at the University of North Carolina. Steve and Linda married in 1971. His daughter Blythe was born in 1976. He moved his family to Elkin in 1979 and quickly embarked on opening Foothills Family Practice. His second child, Benjamin, was born in 1979.
“Elkin was probably considered the hopping economic location for manufacturing in west North Carolina” said Dr. Erlandson. “We could not find a house. We had to live in a little shack out in the country.
“I remember going down to the local bank and walking in and getting $100,000 with just a signature to build a home,” he said. “Now a new physician coming in with a new practice, unless they have plenty of money down, they get nothing.”
As his practice continued to develop, the Erlandsons dedicated a portion of life to steer their kids through it. They were educated in Elkin schools.
Later in life, Blythe would earn a degree in school psychology. She now lives in Buffalo. Benjamin would get his PhD in educational technology. He’s since moved to San Francisco.
As with anyone, even Dr. Erlandson has experienced ups and downs struggling with maintaining a practice and helping Linda raise the family. In writing about prior events, he references a wreck in Charlotte in March of 1984 to Linda and the two children. He discloses that his old house on Colony Lane burned in 1992. The Erlandsons rebuilt a year later.
Regardless of tribulations, Dr. Erlandson said he and Linda were content on staying in Elkin.
Dr. Erlandson tried to make differences locally, as well. He served on the Elkin Board of Commissioners from 1993 to 2003. He was appointed to the Elkin Planning Board in 2008. Dr. Erlandson is a founder and medical director for Grace Clinic of Elkin, a clinic that provides free medical services to those in need.
Despite diplomas and certifications and accreditations, Dr. Erlandson says he’s human and does things no differently than anyone else.
“I have a taste for Fig Newtons at night,” he said. “But sometimes too often.”
The doctor may be found at the Elkin First United Methodist Church. He has also been singing for the Elkin Community Chorus since 1979. Fly fishing for cold water fish is the doctor’s most desired hobby, and he also enjoys bicycling, swimming, and digital photography.
He misses running too.
“I can’t do it anymore. If I continue, I might need to see a doctor.”
Yet being a doctor is what Dr. Erlandson feels he does best. The medical practice of Foothills Family Practice is seeking a collaborative effort with other doctors and might expand.
Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 336-835-1513 or email at email@example.com.