As a general practitioner serving a rural population, Dr. Hisham Osman’s speciality was hearing what his patients didn’t say, a quality his friends called “compassionate listening.”
These days, nearly three weeks after his death, his circles of influence in the Spring Green area still are being measured.
In Osman, the area Amish had a doctor they could trust, who listened, and whose services were affordable.
Patty Ramsden, a nurse, had a boss she stuck with through thick and thin.
Bob Bond had not only a doctor but also a medal-winning badminton partner.
Others had a doctor who would come to their homes to check on their sick children, who would provide medical guidance to the emergency medical service, a hospice program, a nursing home and two area hospitals.
What they had was a friend, and that was what led them to persuade Osman to turn down a job offer in Minnesota three years ago and start a clinic in Spring Green.
Osman, 45, died March 3, about six weeks after feeling ill with abdominal pains, then being surprised with the news he had pancreatic cancer and was going to die soon, leaving a wife and two children.
“It was unbelievably fast. It tore our hearts out,” said Ramsden, who had known Osman since he came to Spring Green for a job interview 14 years ago, fresh off of his residency.
“It has been hard for his patients; it’s still really hard for them. They can’t believe it,” she said.
Those patients and other community members were influential in getting Osman, a native of Egypt, to open his unaffiliated clinic in Spring Green three years ago, competing with two other clinics that are part of health care networks.
“He opened the clinic because there were so many things he believed in for patient care,” said Ramsden.
Business was a challenge
And like some of his patients, he couldn’t afford health insurance. Osman didn’t get health insurance until this year.
“Just like opening a business for anybody, it was tough — really, really tough,” Ramsden said of challenges such as waiting for insurance payments to arrive.
It will be a challenge to recruit a replacement for Osman, said Phyllis Fritsch, administrator at Upland Hills Health. The Dodgeville-based company, for which Osman had been an on-call doctor, purchased the clinic Jan. 1, just before Osman fell ill.
“He had been an important part of our active medical staff for the past three years, an incredible individual, so personable and quiet. The patients in the community (thought) the world of him,” she said.
“He would go out of his way to make sure that, whatever situation you were in, that if there was some help he could provide, he would do it, not only for his patients, but to anyone he met,” Fritsch said.
‘He had the gift of listening’
Bond, president of Cardinal Solar Glass, became Osman’s friend first and patient second.
“He came to town after leaving the University of Minnesota, and I invited him over to meet the industry people” at his business, Bond said.
“We just kind of hit it off,” he said of Osman, who would become his confidante and his doubles partner in badminton. They built a squash and badminton court in an airplane hangar to work out.
“He had the gift of listening — he was a compassionate listener — and hearing what people didn’t want to or couldn’t say,” he said.
“He treated a lot of people, and probably didn’t get paid much,” Bond said.
“I think that in opening his own clinic, he really wanted to be a businessman, and he had seen a lot of things in health care where he thought he could offer a service at a lower price and run his own show. It was tough sledding.”
“Everybody in this community knows how costly it was for him to start that clinic,” said Bond.
That is why in Spring Green this weekend there is a benefit for Osman’s family: wife Moshira, daughter Ingie, and son Karim.
When Osman died, word spread quickly, but no one really knew what to do, and many were not even aware he was gravely ill. The benefit, which has been described as a way to give back, is also a way to give thanks.
IF YOU GO | BENEFIT FOR OSMAN FAMILY
A 5K run/walk and cancer benefit for the family of Dr. Hisham Osman will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday starting and finishing at Arthur's Supper Club, E4885 Highway 14-23, Spring Green. The entry fee is $20, and the benefit includes door prizes, raffles, donations, live music and food. Also, an account has been set up at People's Community Bank, Spring Green, 608-588-9940.