Celebrating Dr. Rick Richards

On His 70th Birthday

Introduction by Alan Blum, M.D.

Richards GER Picture

My first interaction with Rick was at the 1979 National Conference of Family Practice Residents in Kansas City. I was the Mississippi delegate, being the chief resident in the only program in the state. It was my first experience at this conference (or any other national meeting), and I was pretty overwhelmed. I looked in on a lunch session that had a couple of wild speakers, namely Rick and Alan Blum, and got hooked on DOC. I spent a fair amount of time at the meeting with these guys and went home inspired to carry on the work back home.

My next meeting with Rick was the 1980 American Academy of Family Physicians’ scientific assembly in New Orleans, close enough to drive. That was, I think, the first AAFP scientific session that featured DOC, and the exhibit was mobbed. We were all swamped with the member interest, and I recall Rick being like a showman at a carnival, having a great time.

Over the next few years, we continued to meet mostly at NCFPR or the annual AAFP assembly, except the ‘82-‘84 period when Alan and Rick were out of the country, and I was working DOC solo. On to my move to Rome, Georgia, Rick came by our house a couple of times after his return–very nice visits.

Then in 1985, in Anaheim, when my wife Cheryn was with us at an AAFP assembly for the first time, and staffed the DOC booth for a couple of hours without any of us around, and viewed a looping video of vasectomy being shown across the aisle. Rick thought that was a great introduction to medicine for her.

Cheryn and I were later invited to play at Nan and Rick’s wedding–my trumpet, her flute. Great time there–massive church, great organist, and we felt honored to have been a part of it all.

One of the AAFP meetings I missed was 1988, when we were all awarded the Surgeon General’s Medallion. That would have been a great moment to share together in person, but our son Stephen had been born the week before, and I was reluctant to leave.

My recollections of Rick are of a dedicated, driven, funny, inspiring guy who was quite the entrepreneur. Everything he did seemed to turn out well, and his imagination for things like the mail-order pharmacy (well ahead of its time) was outstanding.

Tom Houston, M.D.

Right from the start, you could see that Alan Blum, M.D., was a madman. Disheveled hair, tie akimbo, New-York-talking-way-too-fast, a droll sense of humor, and that certain gleam in the eye. He had a mission — counter the cunning propaganda tobacco companies used to entice child smokers– and zealotry was hardly adequate to do the job. On the other hand, Rick Richards, M.D., was the good cop to Alan’s bad cop. A slight southern twang in his voice, measured tones rather than a torrent of speech, and the appearance of being calmer and more laid back. But this charm was only to disarm you, for his humor was as sharp as it was encompassing, and his commitment for radical attacks on the big profits of selling death and bad habits was just as intense. Together they were a brilliant and effective team and attracted many talented family physicians (and others) to join in having fun and laughs while literally battling for the minds and health of their patients and the public.

I first met Alan when, as a University of Miami Family Medicine resident, he gave a very early version of a “DOC talk” at a Florida Academy of Family Physicians weekend meeting, which I attended as a 2nd-year resident in 1978. As the family medicine residents in Florida began to organize into a formal group and elect officers who would be voting members of the Board of Directors of the FAFP, the DOC counter-propaganda program’s adoption was a terrific organizing focus. I found a few 5th-grade classrooms in Gainesville to go and dehypnotize, armed with Alan’s tools. That summer, my first National Conference of Family Practice Residents meeting enabled me to meet Rick and see Alan again.

At the time, Rick had a beard as large as the city limits of Charleston, S.C. Good friendships and collaborations developed over the next few years; the reminiscence brings a big smile. Just so you know, the 2nd time I saw Rick, cleanshaven and nearly unrecognizable, I had to ask, as one beard-bearer to a former cohort, “What happened?” “Oh,” he said, “last summer a bunch of us rented a beach house, and one morning I got up early and shaved it all off. No one noticed until the following day.”

Dennis Saver, M.D.