The family doctor — and Dr. Rex Ross fits the bill as one of the best of the genre — stands as the backbone of the medical profession.

Untold numbers of people, young and old and everyone in between, came under Dr. Ross’s scrutiny and found solace and cure in his skillful manipulation,

Now, Dr. Ross will be missed when he tucks away his stethoscope and settles into the fellowship of the retired, entering a new phase of his life, ostensibly one as rewarding as his many seasons as a physician who provided comprehensive services for individuals seeking succor,

Undoubtedly, his patients will bemoan his decision, remembering his soft-spoken bearing, his tact and his "bedside manner," and his skillful handling of diverse illnesses.

On the threshold of retirement, Dr. Ross faces the future, uncertain as it may be, with the kind of easy-going disposition he exhibited during his career as a partner with Dr. John Dobbs in his highly regarded practice in Conway.

Dr. Ross belonged to that respectable and notable body of professionals who put emphasis on the treatment of all medical problems experienced by the person and on coordination of care with referrals to requisite specialists as necessary.

He had been doing precisely that since 1977 when he arrived in Conway after a short stint at the White County Medical Center and established his clinic with Dr. Dobbs who was a schoolmate during his studies at the Arkansas College of Medicine. He began his internship at the St. Vincent Infirmary program in 1972. Dr. Dobbs was there too, and also when the medical sidekicks practiced for a short time in Searcy before arriving in Conway together.

The other day in his Prince Street office, Dr. Ross reflected on years gone by, speaking with a pensive air. "I’ve been on this corner with Dr. Dobbs since I started," he said. Dr. Dobbs and I went through medical school together, and we were close even then. I’m a native of Fayetteville, but Conway is where I grew up. I had several relatives in Conway. I attended Conway High School."

To the inevitable question about his future plans, Dr. Ross chuckled, "I guess I’ve been asked that question no telling how many times. I’ve been working for about 40 years, and I feel it is time to do other things like being with the kids more, do a little traveling and things like that. I want a little freedom, but I realize I may be back at it (practicing medicine) at some time. I realize that some people have done that. So, I’m going to keep my license paid up, just in case."

"I feel a little guilty at times about leaving my patients, but they won’t have trouble finding treatment. Conway has many good doctors."

His patients have given him a "hard time," Dr. Ross says in reflection. "I can’t count the number of cards and messages I’ve received from them. You know, I’ve seen some of those people for more than 35 years. Many have come to visit and to say goodbye." He agreed that it is a traumatic time for many of them. "And for them trying to find another doctor," he said woefully.

The depth of his concern for his patients was reflected in his judgment that many primary care doctors are available here. "I went through a list not too long ago, and I considered the fact that I wouldn’t hesitate to send my patients to any one of them," he said.

Family doctors seem to be predisposed to liking people which, he suggested, is a fundamental requisite for that discipline.

And he says with conviction that excellent care is the byword of the medical community in Conway. "There is no need to go anyplace else for top-drawer medical help," he suggests, adding that the Conway Regional Medical Center has grown into a first-rate medical institution.

It’s been said that Mrs. Ross (Martha Scott) concurs wholeheartedly with her husband’s retirement plans and so do their three children and their 9 grandchildren. They wait with keen anticipation for the celebration in the classroom at the Women’s Center at the Conway Regional Medical Center, where Dr. Ross will be feted and be given a bon voyage. The festivities will run from 4-6 p.m. on April 4.

His interviewer asked about a possible significance of the date. He laughed and said, "Naw, just the end of the pay period."