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Article on Gary C. Richter, M.D.

Dr. Gary Richter dreamed of medical career
Philip Nutman
Contributing Writer
Atlanta Business Chronicle - July 29, 2002

Discussing a patient's symptoms and talking them through the steps of a procedure is one of the most rewarding aspects of Dr. Gary Richter's work.

"Talking to someone, explaining their condition, and reassuring them as to what can be done, communicating on a one-to-one level, is very satisfying," he said.

"I like to feel that when the patient walks out the door I've answered all their questions, and that they have a good understanding of their condition," he said.

Richter, 52, runs Consultative Gastroenterology with his partner, Dr. Luther Burse. He is the first African-American president of the Medical Association of Atlanta. Founded in 1854, the association is a professional organization dedicated to serving the changing needs of Atlanta's physicians, and Richter has served on the board of directors since 1995.

"Since I went into practice nearly 20 years ago, I've become passionate about organized medicine, and I believe to make your voice heard, you have to be active in your local societies," he said.

A former president of the Atlanta Medical Association, Richter said his goal as president of the Medical Association of Atlanta is to try to make a meaningful difference during the year he is in office.

"I think if you look back over the history of the MAA, you'd see that the relationship between the association and the African-American community hasn't always been rosy, but things are changing," he said.

Early influence
Growing up in a small coal mining town on the Pennsylvania/West Virginia border, Richter said his grandmother inspired him to become a doctor.

"She was a minister, and quite dynamic, and traveled a lot, which, considering where she was from -- Edenborn is basically little more than a village -- was quite remarkable and made a big impression on me," he said.

The son of a coal miner, Richter developed a passion for the sciences, particularly biology, at a young age, and his grandmother recognized his potential.

"She put the idea in my head that I could become a doctor, and from an early age that became my dream," he said. "I remember sitting in my high school classes and all I could think about was going to the University of Pennsylvania to study medicine."

Once he was accepted by the university, he never looked back, he said. "Medicine is all I've ever wanted to do," he said.

Before arriving at his office, Richter likes to walk his dogs and prepare for the day, which often starts around 7 a.m.

"I average eight to 10 procedures, and see between 20 to 25 patients a day, and don't usually finish work until pretty late," he said.

But at that point his working day doesn't end as he then devotes time to his responsibilities as the new president of the Medical Association of Atlanta, a position he accepted in June and which will keep him busy for the next year, he said.

"Along with the board of directors and its members, Doctor Richter ensures that it is essentially important that the profession continuously advocate for physicians' issues, provide valuable resources for education, community service, and legislative support," said Sylvia Thomas, the Medical Association of Atlanta's director of finance and membership support.

Personalized care
"I joined the board in my current position in 1998 when Doctor Richter was secretary, and what he said to me at the time has stuck with me ever since -- `Physicians must be dedicated to the patients, the practice of medicine and the community.' -- and he constantly proves this on a [daily basis] juggling his family life with four practice locations, including Crawford Long Hospital, Atlanta Medical Center, Piedmont Hospital and an endocopsy center," she said. Richter studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania from 1971-75, then served as a chief resident at Emory from 1975-79.

He opened his practice in 1983 and is looking forward to celebrating his 20th anniversary next year, he said.

Additionally, Richter has held several appointments: assistant professor of clinical medicine in the department of community medicine and family practice at The Morehouse School of Medicine; member of the board of trustees of Southwest Hospital & Medical Center; and chief of gastroenterology at Atlanta Medical Center.

To stay in shape and for relaxation, Richter works out at the gym three times a week. He also likes to swim and plays racquetball.

"And I love to fish," he said. "That's real relaxation. I've been to the Gulf several times, and I've been to Alaska, which is great."

Richter, who is married, has two daughters, Zeta, 30, and Jade, 20.

2002 American City Business Journals Inc.
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