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Pediatrician retiring from blessed career

Michael A. Cicero thankful for opportunity to work in Franklin

FRANKLIN

Children may or may not immediately pick up on the absence, but there’ll certainly be plenty of parents in Franklin who will miss Dr. Michael A. Cicero’s after March 31. That’s when the pediatrician’s retirement after 50 years of medicine becomes effective.

“I’m 75 years old. It’s time to turn it over to the younger generation, I guess,” the doctor said via a recent phone interview of his reason for putting down his stethoscope.

Becoming a children’s doctor was not his initial choice.

“My original plan was psychiatry, but I gave that up pretty quickly after a couple of rotations,” Cicero recalled. “When I had my first rotation in my training, I had my pediatric rounds and I just fell in love with the kids. It was happy group of folks. It kind of keeps you young to deal with young families. It seemed like a perfect fit. So I decided [on pediatrics]. No question about it. It was a good choice.”

Growing up in Washington, D.C., and other parts of the East Coast, he did undergraduate work at the University of Texas in Austin, and then to the Medical College of Wisconsin for training. The residency was at the Oakland Children’s Hospital in California.

“My first practice in Hawaii was for almost 2-1/2 years, then Castor Valley near Oakland — 11 years there. Then Franklin; it’s been almost 33 years,” he said.

The idea to come here in Western Tidewater happened on recommendation by someone described as a “head hunter” who hired to find Cicero a place to work and live.

“Franklin was not one of places picked.” The doctor remembered the man saying, “‘There’s this little town you might want to stop in.’ We drove down and spent no more than eight hours in the town and just fell in love. God was leading us to come here.”

By ‘we’, Cicero meant his wife, Ann, herself a Registered Nurse that he met in the pediatric ICU at Oakland. That encounter was obviously fortuitous for both.

“I knew she was the one,” he said. The first time the doctor asked her on a date was for May 1, 1973. When he asked her seven days later to marry him, Ann waited and a day before saying, ‘OK.’

“It’s been a blessed marriage,” said Cicero, adding that that includes their children, Dawn, Joshua, Joanna and Joseph — no, not one followed in their parents footsteps career-wise.

Asked what he thought of TV shows that feature doctors and nurses, he said, “They vary. Some are better than others.

He added that one factor they have in common is the number of dramatic situations, which occur on a weekly basis. In real life, Cicero added, a doctor would “maybe see once in a decade. They’re kind of fun to watch and second-guess them.”

During such a lengthy and fulfilling career, many changes developed.

“When I first started in medicine, there was not much in the way of preventative medicine, not even regular check-ups,” said the doctor. “People just showed up when they were sick. Several years later, there’s a wellness trend.”

He continued to say that the other trend has been insurance. Decades ago that wasn’t really a requirement like it is now because people “paid out of pocket.” Managed care programs being became interested in health insurance, which led to the changes.

• “Immunizations have dramatically improved pediatrics. Most diseases we saw were pretty well conquered.

• “There was no such as thing then as a neonatologist — a doctor for preemies (premature births). Now, of course, that’s cutting-edge medicine in pediatrics.”

• The reluctance to vaccinations has been observed. “I give them the data and say, ‘There’s never a good reason to let fear make a decision.’”

As for his short-term and long-term retirement plans, they are about the same.

“I want to spend time with my family. I have 16 grandchildren, mostly local, and one great-grandchild,” he said. “I also have a 50-year-old ‘honey-do’ list. My wife has been most gracious.”

Cicero concluded, “In my life there have been many blessings. The greatest are coming to know Jesus as my savior, and the love and great relationships with my wife, children and grandchildren. Following close behind, though, is my time and experience as a pediatrician here in Franklin. So many of the people and experiences of that time have been woven into the fabric of my life. No matter where I go I will carry them with me till my end of days. They have become an integral part of who I am.

I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to work here. It has been a labor of love.”