Healthcare in Rochester with Doctor Siffring Before Crittenton Hospital

Dr. Loren Siffring Remembers Small-Town Medicine

Later this summer marks the 50th anniversary of the day that Crittenton Hospital opened its doors to its very first patient. Today, area residents have a wide array of state-of-the-art healthcare facilities and practitioners available nearby. The situation was very different, however, when Dr. Loren W. Siffring first came to town.

A friendship forged in the Air Force brought Dr. Siffring to Rochester. He was a native of Colorado, where he graduated from medical school in 1956. Having been deferred from military service while in college and medical school, he entered the U.S. Air Force as a captain and served his tour of duty as a medical officer.

Dr. Siffring was stationed at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma when he met a fellow Air Force physician, Dr. Richard C. Dayton. The two men hit it off and became friends, then decided to open a practice together after they completed their military service. They considered several possible locations for their practice, but ultimately chose Rochester, where Dr. Dayton had family ties.

Dr. Loren Siffring

Dr. Loren Siffring

Dr. Siffring came to Rochester in the summer of 1959. The two physicians needed a place for their medical office and were advised to consult with Red Knapp about available properties. Knapp told them about a former residence on the north side of University Drive that could be remodeled into office space. By the fall of that year, the building was ready for the new doctors to hang out a shingle and welcome patients.

The economics of a medical practice were much different in those days. “We charged $4 for an office visit,” Dr. Siffring told Rochester Media in a recent interview. “For a home visit, it was 25 percent more – we charged $5 for that.” It was not unusual for the partners to make house calls; the service was especially helpful to elderly patients with limited mobility. However, Dr. Siffring notes that the physician also benefited from the visits by gaining a better understanding of the patient’s home situation. “Sometimes we could learn a lot more from one home visit than from several office calls,” he said.

Two years after opening their practice, Drs. Dayton and Siffring bought a lot at 427 W. University and built a brand new building. It was the first non-residential structure in that block of University Drive, so the partners purposefully chose a design that would blend harmoniously with the surrounding houses.

Meanwhile, their practice on the front lines of local medical care was busy and growing. The nearest hospitals were in Pontiac at that time, so the family practice office was the de facto emergency room for its patients outside of regular office hours. It was not uncommon for the doctors to open their office on evenings or weekends to set a fracture or stitch a wound. With no specialized practices in town, Drs. Siffring and Dayton were called upon to do a little bit of everything.

Having a team practice helped to make the workload manageable. Each man had one weekday off – Dr. Siffring on Wednesday and Dr. Dayton on Thursday. Each took one of the weekend days as an “on call” day for emergency cases. His family learned to work around that schedule, Dr. Siffring said.

There was one type of call that could not be scheduled. Rochester had no OB/GYN practice in the early 1960s, so the family physicians handled obstetric cases as well. Dr. Siffring remembers that if a patient went into labor on a Wednesday or Thursday – when one of the doctors was alone in the office – the patients in the office would have to wait while the doctor drove to Pontiac to deliver a baby at St. Joseph’s. Such was the nature of small town medicine in the days before Crittenton Hospital opened.

After 20 years in medical practice in Rochester, Dr. Siffring felt called to make a change in his life. At the time, he had a full-time medical practice and was involved in a full-time ministry that had grown out of a home Bible-study group. He and his wife were rearing a busy family of five children as well. “Something had to give,” he recalls. In 1979, he decided to leave the medical practice to devote more of his time to the pastoral ministry – caring for the spiritual needs of his neighbors rather than the physical ones.

He continues that work today, serving as a minister and mentor through the Master’s Christian Ministries, an organization that focuses on guiding and encouraging men in their spiritual walk. Dr. Siffring also writes, paints, and teaches and mentors young artists.

READ: Dr. Loren Siffring’s Art on Display at Rochester Hills Public Library in 2013

Several of his children and grandchildren have followed Loren Siffring into the medical field. The Siffrings’ oldest son, Cory, is a trauma surgeon, and youngest son, David, is a radiologist. “It’s funny,” Dr. Siffring commented. “When they were growing up, people would often ask the boys if they wanted to be doctors like their Dad. They always said ‘no way!’ But things didn’t work out like that.”

About Deborah J. Larsen

Deborah J. Larsen recently retired after 34 years as local history librarian at Mount Clemens Public Library. She currently serves as the research chairperson for the Rochester-Avon Historical Society, and writes on a wide range of local history topics.

Comments

  1. Ms. Larsen,
    Thank you so much for this concise and precise article on our beloved friend and mentor Dr. Siffring.
    There is much to be said about my adopted daddy, and you mentioned few things I did not yet know.
    Marco

  2. Sharon Potere says:

    Thanks so much for the interesting article about Dr. Siffring. I was the lone nurse in that office for Drs. Dayton and Siffring in the 1960s and how well I remember being the “emergency room” for Rochester. We have missed your Rochester History articles that usually appear on the first of each month and Bob and I wondered if you were well. We certainly hope so.

    • Deborah Larsen says:

      You probably gave me a few of the dreaded childhood vaccinations at that office, Sharon!
      I’m glad you liked the story, and I’m doing just fine. The only problem is too many projects and not enough time.

  3. Dennis Brandt says:

    I remember those two. Made some house calls to us when I was a young boy.

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