Aroostook Health Center marks 50th anniversary

12 years ago

    MARS HILL, Maine — A celebration marking the first half-century of a Mars Hill health care facility drew more than 50 community members and individuals instrumental to its development over the years, and featured remarks by a beloved community physician who has been a key figure through all five decades.
The Aroostook Medical Center hosted the 50th anniversary celebration for the Aroostook Health Center (AHC) Nov. 9. The key speaker at the event, Dr. Eric Nicholas, was among the first doctors to serve at AHC. Five decades later, he still serves as medical director.
“I practice medicine because it makes a difference in the lives of patients. It feels good being able to use my skills to help people,” said Nicholas. “I have greatly enjoyed serving the people of Mars Hill for all these years. I have done it the way I thought it should be done. Medicine has changed over the years, but I’ve tried to never lose the power of observation and examination.”
AHC, located on Highland Avenue in Mars Hill, was the first facility north of Bangor to offer extended care. It opened its doors in 1962, first as a nursing home, for more than two decades as a hospital, and now as an intermediate care facility and skilled nursing facility that is part of TAMC.
Nicholas, a Nova Scotia native, began his career in 1962 at Community General Hospital in Fort Fairfield. In September 1963, less than a year after AHC opened, he came to work at the Mars Hill facility, and over five decades has become the community’s most well-known and beloved health care provider.
Nicholas, who retired from his private practice in September 2007, continues to serve as medical director at AHC and to see patients at the Maine Veteran’s Home in Caribou and Presque Isle Nursing Home. He also continues to serve as the school physician for SAD 42 in Mars Hill, a position he has held since 1964. He additionally served as a medical examiner for more than 40 years.
Among those paying tribute to Nicholas was Lynn Lombard, chair of TAMC’s board of trustees and a Mars Hill native who recalled fondly her many interactions with Dr. Nicholas and his wife, Georgia, over the years, including having babysat the Nicholas children as a teenager.
Also speaking was Connie Durost, who works in activities at AHC. Durost’s mother worked alongside Dr. Nicholas for most of his five decades as a physician. In honor of the close relationship with her family, Durost read aloud a poem she wrote about him.
Kelly Lundeen, who serves as AHC’s current facility administrator, presented Nicholas with an engraved watch from TAMC and her staff in honor of his reaching his 50-year milestone in medicine.
“Through all but the very first year of AHC’s existence, this facility and the people of Mars Hill have both been blessed to be faithfully served and well taken care of by one physician. Although others have come and made their mark, Dr. Eric Nicholas stands apart in a league all his own,” said Lundeen. “At a time when having a town doctor that cares for pretty much all of the citizens of the community and even makes house calls is all but non-existent, we here are fortunate to have Dr. Nicholas. Through all of the changes, he has been one constant.”
The ceremony was held in the Grant Building, which is connected to AHC and was constructed in 1981, the year the center consolidated with neighboring A.R. Gould Memorial Hospital to the north to form TAMC. Speaking on behalf of TAMC, Joy Barresi Saucier, vice president of knowledge services, underscored the importance of the facility and the role it has played to date and will play in the future for the health care organization.
“We are currently looking at plans for enhancing the services we offer here at AHC in the near future,” said Barresi Saucier. “Although we are not far along enough in the planning to make an announcement here today, I can tell you that the start of the next 50 years of AHC will be exciting times.”
The AHC 50th anniversary celebration comes at the same time TAMC is celebrating 100 years since Presque Isle’s first public hospital began to serve residents in central Aroostook County in 1912.