By Matt Desjardins
“People are aware here and educated in ways that most people elsewhere are not. Antiochians are more conscientious of their needs and in many ways, more realistic,” said Antioch College campus physician, Dr. Donald Gronbeck ’02.
Dr. Gronbeck came on as the campus physician in fall of 2015. The small student population was experiencing growing healthcare needs on Antioch’s campus, and former campus nurse, Elise Miller, approached him. Students were asking for more access to routine care and information about treating and preventing sexually transmitted infections. A nurse could meet many needs, but a doctor was needed to oversee tests and treatment. He now sees student patients on Monday nights and Wednesday mornings.
Gronbeck has always had a keen ability to identify a void and then step in to fill it. It started in 2000 when, as a third-year transfer student from the University of Minnesota, he decided to transfer to Antioch College. He knew he no longer wanted to major in political science. U of M wasn’t working for him and neither were the Golden Gophers. He knew he didn’t want to go to law school, but an educational void unfurled before him. Then, a friend from high school mentioned Antioch. They road tripped to Yellow Springs. Later, he attended Prospective Student Day. He never looked back.
“I have always loved the dynamic intellectual nature of Antioch students,” he said. “I feel like the world as a whole lacks intellectual thinkers. Antioch is a bastion of thinkers. I see that coming through even in healthcare interviews.”
Gronbeck graduated from Antioch in 2002 and pursued a medical degree at Wright State University. He started with a general surgery residency, but then switched to family medicine at Grant Medical Center in Columbus. When his medical training wrapped up, Yellow Springs was on his mind. The year was 2014 and the Affordable Care Act was in full effect. A large percentage of the local population received insurance nearly overnight. Demand for healthcare was higher than ever. Dr. Gronbeck stepped in to help fill that void by establishing Yellow Springs Primary Care in the former Creative Memories building in May of 2014. He now attends to the needs of many Yellow Springs residents of all ages, and the practice is busy. He’s even looking to hire another physician.
Gronbeck has seen a steady stream of patients at Antioch, and feels like he is quickly learning more about the health needs of campus. Looking at the growing student population, he thought sexually transmitted infection testing would be in high demand as some previous polling indicated, but most students come in with musculoskeletal complaints such as sports-related injuries, or strep throat and sinus issues. He and the new campus nurse, Pan Reich, offered flu shots this winter, though he says that he would like to see more students take advantage of the service for the overall public health of campus.
Returning to Antioch, he feels inspired by Antioch students. In his estimation, they are refreshingly in-tune with their health. He believes that they are more conscious of their overall well-being—they are more active and eat healthier than the average college student—but he has only seen a relatively small selection of population. Gronbeck knows Antioch is also a unique place. A common question he asks is, “So where have you been recently?” Antiochians travel, whether to their hometowns or for co-op. It’s important because some of the illnesses he diagnoses are not native to Southwest Ohio.
He loves the pace of his work at Anitoch too: “My reimbursement is not based on how fast I can move people through here, but instead allows me to spend more time if people are struggling with whatever concern, diagnosis or ailment they may have.”
One or two students have approached him about wanting to go to medical school. He’s more than happy to speak with students, go to lunch, or grab coffee. Says Gronbeck, “Antioch students would be, and many are great doctors, but are often bad medical students. They ask lots of questions, which typically goes against the grain of how medical school professors teach.”
But, he’s quick to add that the Antioch College that encouraged him to ask more questions ultimately made him a better medical student and doctor. He’s a better listener and more willing to go against the status quo treatment if it’s not getting results. These skills come from the Antioch classroom, but also from his co-op experiences—he provided eldercare in Springfield, served as an EMT with Miami Valley Fire-Rescue, and the penultimate experience—he conducted pharmaceutical studies with Eli Lilly and Company in Bad Homburg, Germany. It was a co-op arranged through an alumni contact.
To students he says, “Whatever you want to do, put it out there, because there is probably an alumni doing it. And most are willing to help you, including me.”