Over more than three decades, a Franklin doctor learned having a tab at a local pharmacy was a necessity.
A couple of years ago, on a Friday afternoon, Dr. William Province II saw an elderly man who was having trouble breathing and knew he needed an antibiotic. But the man was not going to have the money to buy it before the weekend, so Province picked up the phone and called the local pharmacy.
He had the cost of the medicine billed to him, and the man went home with the antibiotic he needed to get better.
Province’s staff said the gesture is not uncommon for the doctor. For years, Province has leaned over to kiss the forehead of numerous 80-plus-year-old women. He’s made jokes with patients to ease tense situations. He’s cried with others after receiving bad news and held their hands as they prayed together.
“I feel my patients are like family,” Province said. “When they feel pain, I feel the pain. When they lose a dear one, a little bit of my heart breaks also. I try to treat my patients like I would my own family.”
After 33 years as a doctor specializing in internal medicine, Province will retire March 28.
The Province practice will come to an end after 146 years in Johnson County, 108 years at its current location at 100 N. Main St. in downtown Franklin. Thousands of patients have walked through the doors of the Province practice, believed to be one of the oldest in the state.
The Tudor-Gothic revival chalet-style building was the only hospital in Johnson County until World War II.
Province is going on a two-year mission trip to Central America with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where he will serve as a medical adviser for seven countries.
His patients, some who have seen him for more than 30 years, will need to find a new doctor.
Province’s great-grandfather, William M. Province, started the practice in 1867 in Union Village, which is now Providence. His grandfather, Clarence Province, took over and in 1906 bought the property where the practice currently sits on Main Street.
The site used to be owned by a blacksmith. His father, William, was the next to take over the practice. Province’s son is finishing his residency at Johns Hopkins University but does not plan to return to Indiana.
Province fondly recalls running errands with his father as a child, but he always knew the trips weren’t going to be quick. Too many people would stop to say hello or offer thanks for medicines to cure digestive issues or breathing difficulties.
Those trips planted the seeds for his future. He wanted to become a doctor and the fourth generation leading the Province family practice.
“I wanted a piece of that love and respect,” Province said.
Province started working with his father in the practice in 1981, helping with new patients before taking over the practice.
“I tried to emulate my dad,” Province said. “He was definitely my mentor. As a father and son, we definitely had differences in opinion. But as far as medicine goes, we never had any problems practicing together. We worked together for the best of our patients.”
While he is always quick with a joke, Province cares about his patients and took interests in medical issues that had to be handled by other specialists, said Cathy Williams, a nurse who has worked with him for 25 years. Williams recalled a patient who was amazed when Province called about test results before the specialist who had ordered them.
The tradition and history of the Province practice is hard to miss. In the back room, Province sits down to write a prescription at a large, old walnut desk that was owned by his grandfather.
The desk even came with proof people have always been upset with the cost of health care. An old receipt was kept detailing the costs for a four-day stay at Johnson Memorial Hospital, which included medicines and X-rays.
“The bill was from 1947, and it cost them $125,” Province said. “On the back of the bill was a scathing note that it cost too much. You can’t even go sign in at the emergency room now for that amount.”
A display case sits in the corner of that room, with a large leather saddle bag perched on top that was used by his great-grandfather. Medical instruments given to his grandfather in 1906 and numerous medicine bottles fill the display case, proudly showing the family’s legacy.
Province enjoys opening the display case to show its wares, with a bottle used to treat stomach problems being one of his favorites. The medicine contained iron, quinine and strychnine.
“Strychnine is obviously a poison,” Province said. “The medicine was used to slow down diarrhea; but if you took too much, it would slow down more than that.”
The display case will soon sit in the parlor of Province’s home to recall the memories of more than a century of treating people in Johnson County. Soon, he will be able to add mementos from helping people in other countries.
After visiting his seven grandchildren for a few months, Province will travel to Salt Lake City for a month of training. He will work as a medical adviser in Central America. Regulations in some countries will not allow him to treat patients, but he can advise doctors in those countries.
“It’s payback time,” Province said. “The people in Johnson County have been very kind to me, but I know there are people elsewhere in the world that need help.”