The shelves of old medical books lining one wall of Dr. William Kober’s family practice office in Stonington at first seem odd for a modern physician equipped with the latest computerized records, but Dr. Kober is proud to explain:
“Most of those books were my grandfather’s,” he says. “He was a doctor, too, although it’s somewhat of a sad story.”
Kober’s grandfather grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and made his family proud when he attended Yale University Medical School. After graduating, he trained in obstetrics in New York City and then returned to practice in Little Rock. But after a very short time in practice, he joined the Army Medical Corps during World War II.
“He ended up deep on the front lines as a squadron leader,” Dr. Kober says. “He was kind of a dynamic guy and a leader in many ways. I never met him, because he was killed in France in a Red Cross ambulance, going out to rescue a couple of men who were wounded in the field. His ambulance was struck, and he was killed instantly by enemy fire.”
Dr. Kober’s grandfather was decorated with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
“And I’m his namesake,” Dr. Kober says. “He really only practiced for nine months before he joined the military. I’ve been practicing for 26 years, so it’s kind of interesting when I look up at his books and realize that he was a real pathfinder. There’s a feeling of a continuation, even though his own story didn’t continue.”
Dr. Kober, who practices at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital’s Stonington medical office, says his grandfather’s books connect him to the past even as he happily practices medicine in the modern world.
“I try to be the doctor I thought my grandfather would have been,” he says. “From all I hear, he was a real humanitarian type of guy. He cared for his patients and they really cared for him in the short timeframe he was able to practice.”
Dr. Kober has been at L+M’s Stonington office for about two years, and he has steadily attracted new patients with his expertise, a down-to-earth style and a good sense of humor.
“I enjoy working here, and I think our patients have really responded to us here,” he says. “And I really love our staff. I think we have a very good camaraderie and spirit to the group, which is important.”
Dr. Kober grew up in Wilbraham, MA, which he notes is the home of Friendly’s restaurants. If you come from Wilbraham “we’re all supposed to be friendly and enjoy ice cream,” he says.
Kober played soccer and baseball in high school (his father was the athletic director, so he had to work extra hard), but he knew early on that he wanted to be a doctor.
“I was interested in biology, but I didn’t want to be in a laboratory,” he recalls. “I wanted to be out with people and, hopefully, to help people.”
He attended the University of Massachusetts as an undergraduate and went on to medical school at Boston University. His residency in family medicine was at UConn and St. Francis Hospital, and then began practicing in Hebron, CT, where he was affiliated with Windham Hospital for about eight years.
Dr. Kober returned to Massachusetts for nearly 18 years, working at a small hospital in the North Berkshires area, but one day, he and his wife realized that a change was in order.
“Our young grandchildren were living in southeastern Connecticut,” he says, “and my wife and I were traveling six hours back and forth every other weekend visiting them. One day, my wife and I just looked at each other and said, ‘What are we doing?’”
Shortly thereafter, Kober was searching online for possible jobs when he saw L+M recruiting for a new primary care physician for its new Stonington location.
“Everything seemed to fall into place, and now we are close to our kids, which brings us tremendous joy,” he says.
Dr. Kober bought to southeastern Connecticut his years of experience – and his sense of humor.
“Sharing a laugh can be a good way of generating rapport with patients, especially as they try to cope with all the things they’re going through,” he says. “Some patients come into my office and feel they have to act a certain way, and it can really create a distance between the physician and the patient. Sometimes, a little humor can bridge that gap so that we can establish a trusting relationship, and humor may also help some patients cope with difficult illnesses and medical conditions.”
Aside from books, Dr. Kober’s also has many photographs on his office walls, including one of him with Boston Red Sox legend, the late Johnny Pesky.
“I’ve been to the Red Sox ‘Fantasy Camp’ three times, where you go to Florida in February and play hardball with the old-timers,” he says. “And, in the summer, we have a game at Fenway Park when the team is on the road. I had a pretty good hit at Fenway once. It was fun.”
From old medical books to Fenway Park – and from his grandfather to his grand-children – Dr. Kober’s varied interests help him connect with patients.
“When we look at the buzzwords in healthcare today – ‘quality’ and ‘cost’ and ‘doing better for less money’ – those ideas have been at the heart of family medicine and primary care all along,” he says.
“Family doctors may not be doing the big procedures, but we’re connecting with people and helping people get answers. We’re helping people take care of themselves. We try to help each patient improve the quality of their life.”
To learn more about Dr. Kober, click here.