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Dr. Russell Dohner, 88, Retires; Charged Just $5 for Office Visit

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Monday, 04 Nov 2013 09:20 AM

By Alexandra Ward

Dr. Russell Dohner, the Illinois physician who made headlines for charging patients just $5 per office visit, retired Friday after serving his small town for nearly 60 years.

Dohner, 88, opened his clinic in Rushville, Ill., in 1955 and sought nothing more than to practice medicine modestly.

"I never went into medicine to make money," Dohner, known for his signature stethoscope and fedora, told a Chicago Tribune reporter last year. "I wanted to be a doctor, taking care of people."

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And that he did, for as little as $5 a day — a fee that hasn't changed since the '70s. He worked seven days a week, made house calls, cared for the poor and the uninsured (if a patient didn't have the $5, "we'd see them anyway," he once said), and delivered an estimated 4,000 babies (that's more than the entire population of Rushville, which is 3,200).

He never booked appointments. Instead, patients would line up outside the clinic and he would stay until the last one was seen, even if that meant working until 9 o'clock at night.

"He has dedicated his life to healing and medicine," Tim Ward, director of the foundation for Rushville's Culbertson Memorial Hospital, told the Tribune. "He's the closest thing we have to a saint."

One of seven children, Dohner served in World War II and then graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in 1953. He had ambitions of moving to the city and being a big-time cardiologist, but Rushville needed a doctor. So he stayed, and then never left.

Not one for recognition, he declined to comment on his retirement.

"He is not wanting to do any interviews. He doesn't want any kind of a reception. He just wants to retire," Molly Sorrell, a Culbertson Hospital spokeswoman, told NBC News.

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