Duluth pediatricians Ray and Maria Kundel retireThis is what Drs. Ray and Maria Kundel have come to like about Duluth: “Duluth is a nice place to go and have your kids,” Maria Kundel said. “It’s a nice community. It’s small.”
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
This is what Drs. Ray and Maria Kundel have come to like about Duluth:
“Duluth is a nice place to go and have your kids,” Maria Kundel said. “It’s a nice community. It’s small.”
Here’s what they don’t like:
“The disadvantage is the grapevine,” she said.
Agreed Ray Kundel, 67: “People asked, ‘Are you going to quit?’ even before we decided. We had to struggle with our office personnel because they were hearing it from the grapevine before they heard it from us. We didn’t even know.”
The grapevine was right: After 36 years as Kundel Pediatric Associates, the Kundels retired on Monday. Their last day in the office was Wednesday.
It’s a decision Stacey Schemmer understands but regrets.
“I’m really sad that they’re leaving, because I trust them,” said Schemmer, who with her husband, Andrew, has four children, ages 8 months to 8 years. “They know our kids.”
Kim Miner, who lives in Duluth’s Kenwood neighborhood, has been through two sets of kids with the Kundels. Her children are grown, but she has three foster children, ages 12, 8 and 2, who have been the Kundels’ patients.
“I would have nobody else,” Miner said. “We’re going to miss them immensely.”
When Dr. Kevin Treacy and his wife moved to Duluth in 1988, they chose the Kundels as pediatricians for their young children. Maria Kundel, in particular, was a good role model for their older daughter Carolyn, said Treacy, who is an ophthalmologist. Carolyn, now 30, is in her residency for pediatrics and internal medicine.
“I always felt they were well-versed in developments in their field and stayed current with their knowledge,” Kevin Treacy said of the Kundels. “And they were very warm and caring people.”
The Kundels cite increasing regulations as the primary reason for their decision to retire. It’s difficult, Ray Kundel said, for an independent practice such as theirs to keep up with all the paperwork modern medicine requires.
Dr. Amanda Webb Rubin, the Kundels’ associate for the past two years, joined St. Luke’s Pediatric Associates as of today.
The Kundels came to Duluth in 1976, after they finished their residencies and at a time when retirements were creating an opportunity for them. One pediatrician had just retired and another was nearing retirement. Maria, a native of the Philippines, and Ray, who grew up in Minden, Iowa, were attracted to Duluth in part because his brother, Dr. Don Kundel, already was here.
Don Kundel, a pathologist, died Sept. 22 when the airplane he was piloting crashed in Wyoming. His death had nothing to do with their decision to retire, Ray and Maria Kundel said.
The practice of medicine was simpler when they began, the Kundels said. In addition to less paperwork, insurance companies played less of a role. Patients were less likely to be obese. Duluth has more doctors now; there’s less camaraderie among them and more competition.
“Everything is all compartmentalized,” Maria Kundel said. “We still belong to the old school where you go and attend your deliveries, you go and see your babies in the nursery. When they get hospitalized, you go and see them.”
The Kundels were at the hospital when the Schemmers’ first baby was born. “We kind of got grandfathered in,” Stacey Schemmer said. “We always tease them that they’ve got job security with us as parents.”
Each of their four children has had health issues, she said, although none has been life-threatening. In every situation, the Kundels have made themselves available to see the children.
“It’s never an inconvenience to them,” Schemmer said.
The Miners experienced the Kundels’ care particularly with their son Scott, who suffered from focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a life-threatening kidney disease. Although Scott Miner’s life ended tragically when he froze to death outside the Copasetic Lounge on Jan. 25, 2009, he had survived the disease with the help of the Kundels.
“She was there for us, whether it was night or day,” Miner said of Maria Kundel. “She was there for us whether it was a weekend or a weekday. … If she wasn’t available, then Ray always was. It was wonderful to have a team.”