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Peter St. Onge: A Charlotte doctor used an NBA legend's story to inspire his patients. The legend came to say thank you

Peter St. Onge, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Op Eds

Elizabeth Kiser has a story to tell about Dr. Mark Parker.

Kiser's son, Webb, has been seeing Parker, a pediatric endocrinologist, for a few years now to keep an eye on some growth issues. On one visit last year, Parker was talking to Webb and his mom about growth trajectory when he stopped mid-sentence. "Come with me," he said, standing up.

If this seems a bit unusual, well, yes. As most any physician will tell you, doctors don't have much time for digressions these days. The health economy is demanding. Patient loads are heavy. Doctor's offices feel more like drive-thrus, with little time for warmth.

But not Dr. Parker's office.

"Mark is the kind of doctor that's rare these days," says Kiser. Parker, she says, spends a generous amount of time with his patients. He gets to know them and their interests, and he knows a lot about seemingly everything. If your kid loves Harry Potter, Parker will ask him obscure questions about the series. Same goes for sports, from football to gymnastics. "He'll know something about it," Kiser marvels.

On that visit last year, however, the doctor wanted Webb to learn something, so he took the Kisers down the hall to his office. There stood a 5-foot cardboard cutout of Muggsy Bogues, the former Charlotte Hornet. Parker told Webb the full story of Bogues, who was the shortest player ever in the NBA at 5-foot-3, and who did far more than anyone expected. "Muggsy was one of his heroes," Kiser says.

The sports lesson did its job. Webb went home and looked up some YouTube videos of Bogues. He also talked to his dad, a Charlotte native who has long thought Muggsy was The Man. All of which Elizabeth Kiser remembered a few months later when Parker let her know he was retiring this March after 40 years in medicine.

Kiser wanted to do something special for Parker, something more than a food treat he would give to his staff, anyway. Then she remembered this from last year's visit: "I asked if he had ever met Muggsy, and he laughed and said that he has seen him at big charity luncheons but, no, had never really met him. I said, 'So you have been using this guy as inspiration for your patients spanning decades and you have never talked to him? Nope."

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So on Wednesday morning, Mark Parker walked into Exam Room 6 to see his next patient. Among those waiting for him were Elizabeth Kiser with her son, Webb, and Muggsy Bogues. "Ohhh my goodness," Parker said. He shook hands with Bogues, then hugged him, then said "Oh my goodness" again. Then he said: "It's such an honor" and he took off his glasses to wipe a tear.

Kiser snapped photos. She had found Bogues through a friend of a friend and asked him if he could send a signed picture to Dr. Parker. Muggsy decided he could do better than that. Now he and Parker sat with Webb and talked about basketball and patients and inspiration. Bogues walked over to sign the cutout of himself, the one that Parker had been showing young patients since Muggsy's first year on the Hornets.

"God bless you, my man," he told Parker. Kiser nodded. A gift. A thank you. Something more than expected, for someone who knows just how much that means.

(c)2018 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)

Visit The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.) at www.charlotteobserver.com

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