Dr. Angus Graham Jr. was only months into his first medical practice as a pediatrician when he learned an important lesson, one he has taken to heart during six decades as a physician.
One that has earned the spry 83-year-old Manatee Diagnostic Center medical director the prestigious Sen. Edgar H. Price Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Manatee County Rural Health Services Foundation.
"Ed Price spent his life working to get the less fortunate good medical care," said Graham, who will be honored at Wednesday's dinner at the Bradenton Area Convention Center for his work with medical imaging technology. "That's what I'm trying to do, too."
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Long before becoming a radiologist, the young Miami native started a pediatrics practice in 1960 above the old Touchton's Drugs at 812 12th St. W., which burned down in 1967.
"I looked out in the reception room and saw a little boy and his mother," Graham said. "I told the nurse,
I don't think they paid their last bill, would you check? They hadn't. Well, I said to tell them I can't see them unless they pay something on their bill. They left."
Awhile later, Graham got a phone call from Dr. Albert Knowles, a longtime Bradenton physician now deceased.
"He said, 'Angus, I'll tell you something about how we practice medicine in this county," Graham said. "'You remember that little kid and his mother who couldn't pay on their last bill? They came down to see me. He had an earache. I gave him a shot of penicillin plus some to take home. He'll be all right. I've got some advice for you. Next time that little boy comes in, you see him.' Right up front, I learned how you take care of people. Everybody who walks into the office isn't going to be able to pay you."
Providing medical care for those who can't afford it remained Graham's credo while working 10- to 12-hour days at the MDC, which he has owned for 25 years.
"Dr. Graham always takes care of every patient who walks into our facilities," said Kobee Masiello, practice administrator. "I've seen him personally wheel patients in a wheelchair to the hospital who had a significant finding. He wanted to make personally sure they were taken care of right away. I've also seen him take time to pull out jumper cables to assist a patient with a dead car battery. He is a hands-in radiologist."
It's not unusual to find Graham still seated at a viewing work station scrutinizing mammograms long after his staff has gone home.
"I do it because this is a lifesaving procedure," he said. "The woman's breast does produce more cancers than any other organ in the body except maybe the skin. If you can find it early -- less than 14 millimeters in diameter -- you have a chance of a cure and almost certainly give her 25 more years of life."
Helping people's quality of life and medical care has been Graham's mission from Vanderbilt University's medical school to his internship at the University of Michigan to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, practicing medicine overseas in Saudi Arabia and all his years in Bradenton.
Retirement? You'll never hear the word from him, said his wife of 57 years.
"He just enjoys what he's doing," Wylene Graham said. "With medicine, the more you do it the better you are."
His oldest child, Dr. Angus "Sonny" Graham III, can only hope to come near his father's longevity and service.
"His efforts and achievements humble me and make me proud he's my dad," said the Brevard, N.C., orthopedic surgeon. "He inspires me to keep going."
It also speaks to the love and respect Graham receives around town.
Take it from longtime acquaintances, who are prominent in their own right.
"He's an outstanding person in every respect and remains that way for lots of folks in this community," said Ken Barnebey, former Tropicana chief executive officer.
"He's one of the pillars of the community," said retired attorney George Harrison.
All five of the Graham's children are involved with the medical field by practice or through marriage.
So his legacy is fulfilling and ongoing.
"I'll keep doing it, though they might find me here not moving," Graham joked. "As long as your faculties are good, you're all right."
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix.