Sailing into Oxford one beautiful fall day, Dr. Nick Flagler and Dr. Justin P. Callahan became medical partners with a handshake and a beer onboard their sailboat, “Sweet Alice.” Upon honorable discharge from the United States Navy, Commander Flagler and his family moved to the Eastern Shore in July 1971 to join the obstetrical and gynecological practice of Dr. Callahan, who had started the practice in 1969.
Mid-Shore Women’s Health began to grow in 1979 when Dr. Ronald Sweet joined the practice. During this time, the rising cost of malpractice insurance for obstetricians almost shut down obstetrical services on the Shore. To address this issue, Memorial Hospital at Easton, later Shore Heath System, gathered all the local obstetricians under one umbrella called Easton Obstetrics. In the 1990s, Easton Obstetrics joined Mid-Shore Women’s Health.
The practice grew to include five doctors and five midwives. Mary Mullikin Adams, LPN, who joined the practice in 1978, comments, “The physicians were respectful and caring to the patients and because of that, the loyalty of our patients made the practice special. We built relationships with our patients. After one of our patients died, her husband brought us flowers on Valentine’s Day. Others would bring us the bounty from their farms. That says it all.”
Dr. Ronald Sweet adds, “We retained good staff by training them and they became a real asset to the practice and many stayed a long time like Mary. She developed special relationships with the patients, many even called her at home and still do.”
Diane Flagler, Dr. Flagler’s wife, who also served as the office manager for a time, commented, “At Nick’s retirement in June 2000, he was privileged to have delivered over 3,000 babies, many of whom were the children of women he had delivered. His gynecological practice spanned generations of women and their families. It was not unusual for him to treat a patient, all her sisters, aunts, nieces, and still have something in common with the husband as well. He stayed involved in the medical community assisting in surgery even after retirement until he died in 2006.”
The practice continued, adding several physicians over the years. At the end of 2020, when the practice closed, only Dr. Sharon Liu remained from the original practice.
“I hit the jackpot on my first shot joining the practice,” commented Dr. Liu, who had been with the Mid-Shore Women’s Health for 17 years.
“The practice was built on a solid foundation and as medicine changed, we were able to evolve with the changes as they occurred. We welcomed such innovations as minimally invasive surgery, new approaches to menopause, electronic medical records, and most recently, telemedicine. But, through it all, we were still able to keep our practice personal and patient-focused.”
“The specialty of obstetrics and gynecology is unique as it combines the relationships with patients, surgery, and medicine in its practice,” commented Dr. Ronald Sweet who was a resident when laparoscopy and ultrasound were being introduced and trained other doctors in laparoscopy procedures. Laparoscopic procedures began with gynecology and then spread to other surgical specialties.”
“This was the golden era in the science of medicine and it had great impact on our practice,” he added.
Since 1995, Dr. Fouad Abbas, a gynecological oncologist from Sinai Hospital in Baltimore came to the practice every third Friday of the month to see patients requiring more complicated surgeries for endometrial cancer, vaginal prolapses, and large pelvic masses.
“I have seen as many as 30 patients a day in Easton during our busiest times,” comments Dr. Abbas.
“I loved working with the physicians in the practice assisting them in surgery at Shore Health System in Easton and also collaborating with the local oncologists. The surgeons were very easy to work with and eager to learn and gain additional expertise so they could keep patients in Easton. I also helped physicians with the surgical robot program when it started on the Shore.”
Dr. James Gieske, a general surgeon with Shore Health System recalls his surgical interactions with Dr. Flagler in particular. “Nick and I enjoyed working together. He made my work easy because not only was he an unusually “intuitive” surgeon, but he was left-handed and therefore the perfect teammate on the other side of the table. His natural intuition made him the perfect helper.”
Dr. Gieske’s wife, Dr. Judi Gieske, worked with the physicians of Mid-Shore Women’s Health for years as a pediatrician.
“My favorite story, which would not happen today, involved me going to a premature birth of twins. It was about 4 p.m. on a Saturday in 1974. I was in Safeway with a cartload of food. Our third son, a nine-month-old, was in my arms when my beeper went off. The woman behind me took my child and told me she would meet me in the lobby of the hospital. The checkout lady told me to go, and hurry. She would bag and save my order. I made it in time. Mom and babies did fine and I went back to my baby and my life. This was the practice in the old days,” Dr. Judi Gieske reflects.
She adds, “The skills of all the physicians in the practice were inspirational. All the doctors were a model for all of us who worked with the practice – they never tired or complained and were always caring for their patients in a very special way.”
Dr. Liu reflects, “Our practice had a great foundation built by talented physicians and staff who wanted to improve the quality of life for the women who lived here. I am proud to have been part of this family for 17 years and appreciate the relationships that developed. It is a special community.”