Those of us who were privileged to know Dr. Joe Baum as both a friend and doctor and the many others he served and helped over his long and distinguished career were seized by sadness and loss this week to learn of his death at his home in Raleigh, NC.
Joe, who died at age 82, seemed ageless and he continued to serve as our doctor in Floyd for so many years after accomplishing so much here and elsewhere.
He started the first Tri-Area Health Clinic in the 1980s to serve needy patients after moving to Southwestern Virginia after serving as the only doctor in a 100-bed hospital in West Africa. He was quick to criticise the high cost of health care in America and wondered why this nation did not provide such care as a right of citizenship.
He served as a flight surgeon in the Air Force, was board-certified in both Family Medicine and Emergency Services, taught at five different medical schools and practiced medicine in six states before moving to our area in 1982.
He helped so many in so many ways. Those who did not have medical insurance found him providing free medical service or often paid so they could get valuable needed treatment. Those in financial distress received loans that were often forgiven. The MacBook Air that I used daily in my media work was a gift from him. So was an orthopedic seat that helped Amy drive her car.
Amy and I were honored to be guests at his home many times and he became our family doctor until his retirement from Carilion at the end of 2018. He helped greatly with my recovery from the motorcycle accident that almost killed me in 2012 and helped Amy during her struggles to recover from back injury and surgery.
Joe helped us in more ways than we could count and when I tried to repay him, he dismissed it and said “you owe me nothing but your friendship.”
In 2020, The Virginia Academy of Family Physicians honored him as Family Physician of The Year — a long-overdue honor. When I sent him an email of congratulations, he responded with “why don’t they honor those who deserve free medical care in this country.”
Joe Baum was a friend I didn’t deserve. He was a good man a great lover of humanity and a friend we cherished. At his request, no memorial or funeral service was held as his family privately honored his life in death. He would not have wanted us to write about his accomplishments but he deserves so much more.
Thank you Dr. Baum. We’re honored to have known you as a friend and a valued member of our community.