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WellSpan family practice cares for five generations

May 06, 2021

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WellSpan family practice cares for five generations

Before Morgan Wolfgang was due to have her baby boy this April, she needed to ask her family doctor an important question.

Morgan, 24, who had been seeing Dr. Ridgley Salter, of WellSpan Family Medicine – Hayshire – since she was just four years-old, wanted to make sure baby Walker could also become a patient after he was born.

“I know how busy he is and that he isn’t accepting new patients, so I was nervous to ask,” Morgan said.

Along with being a practitioner in family medicine, Dr. Salter also serves as medical director for Quality and Innovation within the WellSpan Medical Group, where he works with medical directors and site directors from different specialties. In addition, he oversees the Wellbeing Council, whose work is focused on the wellbeing of physicians and other health professionals at WellSpan.

Despite these responsibilities, Dr. Salter responded to Morgan with a resounding “yes,” before she could even finish her question.

From the beginning

“After Dr. Salter agreed to see Walker, my dad texted him and brought to his attention that he was welcoming the fifth generation of our family to the practice,” Morgan said.

Dr. Salter, along with his partner, Dr. Mark Catterall and their WellSpan family practice, have not only treated Morgan and her siblings but both of her parents, both sets of grandparents and her great grandfather as well.

In 1999, the doctors joined the WellSpan practice of Hayshire Family Medicine after completing their family medicine residency at the WellSpan York Hospital Family Medicine Program that summer. Dr. Ted Lekawa was retiring so they began seeing patients in August.

Morgan’s great-grandfather, Robert Wolfgang Sr., was in his mid-90s and began coming to the Hayshire office for his care a few years before his death. Dr. Catterall became his doctor.

It’s been a family affair ever since.

Dr. Salter has since cared for the next several generations, including Robert Wolfgang II and his wife, Joyce, or as Morgan calls her grandparents, Oma and Opa.

In addition, not only are Morgan’s parents, Robert III and Erika patients, but Erika’s parents, Morgan’s maternal grandparents, Ron and Debi Walker – or Poppy and Mimi – were patients as well.

In 2001, Morgan and her younger brother Robby became the next Wolfgang family members to become patients. And when their sister Ronni was born that same year, she became Dr. Salter’s newest patient.

Morgan’s father and Dr. Salter were friends during their days at Lebanon Valley College. Her parents have since remained friends with the Salters and trust him as their doctor, she said. So, it was natural for Morgan and her siblings to transition to the same practice.

“A lot of the staff members have been the same over the years so they have been excited over time to see us come in and watch us grow,” she said, and added that as a child she wasn’t “excited” about going to the doctor, but Dr. Salter and the Hayshire staff always made her feel comfortable.

Fast forward five generations from Robert Sr’s days as a patient – born April 9 and weighing at 6 pounds, 10 ounces, Walker Aden became the next generation and Dr. Salter’s youngest patient. His first name was named after Morgan’s Poppy – Walker’s great-grandfather – who died in 2016. Aden, his middle name, was chosen after a close family friend, who died suddenly last December.

Born three weeks early, Walker’s growth and nursing ability caused some concern for the new mother. But after his second visit with Dr. Salter, Walker was back to his birth weight and nursing much better.

“Seeing newborns and young moms, like Morgan, is definitely a bright spot in my day,” Dr. Salter said.

Being a trusted partner

Dr. Salter and the Hayshire practice of WellSpan Family Medicine have since grown to eight trusted physicians. They believe in the concept of taking care of the whole family, and that is evident with multiple generations like the Wolfgang and Walker families.

“Any physician or health caregiver will tell you that one of the joys of medicine is the relationships that you are able to build with patients when caring for them over many years,” Dr. Salter said. “This is most commonly seen in primary care, but particularly in family medicine, where we have the unique opportunity to care for all ages, from ‘cradle to grave.’”

Equally valuable is the ability to care for “the whole family,” literally generations of family members, he added.

As her family’s doctor, Morgan said he knows about her family history and what’s happening in her family dynamic.

“When my poppy died - if any of us went in to talk to him about how we were feeling – with anxiety, shock or depression – he was aware of the whole situation and was able to help us,” she said.

Dr. Salter, who at first thought orthopedic medicine was his calling, sees his work in family medicine as fulfilling and a true blessing.

“We have the greatest chance of understanding and helping the patient when we can put their current symptoms in the setting of not only their family history, but also their family relationships, dynamics and current family issues,” he said. “Having this additional context is incredibly helpful for optimizing their care.”