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The life and times of the country doctor


A photo essay from 1948 captures the life of a small town country doctor in vivid detail.

Our cover story, “A century of primary care transformation,” focuses in large part on what the daily life of a physician was in the days before insurance, computers and other tools we take for granted today. In fact, it was a time when many physicians still went to patients in home visits, rather than having the patients come to the office or hospital.

What was it actually like, to be a small-town country doctor? Thankfully, a landmark photo series published in Life Magazine in 1948 captured that life in stark and vivid detail.

Shot on assignment by acclaimed photographer W. Eugene Smith to shine a light on the physician shortage in rural communities, the photographs depict the life of Ernest Guy Ceriani, M.D., a general practitioner in a remote town called Kremmling, Colorado., where he was responsible for caring for the entire town, at any hour of the day, no matter what.

Click through the following slides to step back into the world of the country doctor. All images courtesy of The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith.