TAMPA — They called him the Snake Doctor.
"If you had a patient who had been bitten by a snake, there was no question that he was the person to call," said family practitioner David Lubin of Tampa.
In his career, Dr. Myron McEachern treated hundreds of snakebite victims, often for little pay. He also made house calls, drove a Mercury Cougar until it wore out and charged ridiculously low prices.
Dr. McEachern continued to make house calls into his 80s. In 2005, he moved to Alabama to an assisted living facility. He died Friday at age 92.
"He did what physicians are supposed to do — care for people," said Rose Ferlita, a Hillsborough County commissioner and former pharmacist, who often referred customers to Dr. McEachern.
Dr. McEachern spent his early years in Georgia. When he was 8, his father died in a car crash. He missed a year of school, the result of laissez-faire parenting by an uncle.
Another uncle, Dr. James McEachern of Tampa, took him in the following year. Myron entered the third grade in Gorrie Elementary School far behind other students. But by the end of the year he had surpassed them.
At Emory University, he leaped ahead of classmates, entering medical school two years early. He started his practice in downtown Tampa in 1943.
A turning point came in the 1940s at St. Joseph's Hospital.
A young man had been bitten by a rattlesnake. Dr. McEachern had given the recommended small dose of antivenin. Conventional medicine said too much would kill the patient.
Seeing that the situation was dire, Dr. McEachern tried a different strategy. He loaded the man with vial after vial of antivenin — nearly 30 times as much as the protocols recommended.
"Considering what had been done in the past, it was a massive dose," said his daughter, Dixie McEachern Bergquist, who holds a nursing degree.
The man recovered.
Dr. McEachern became the physician of choice in the area to handle snakebite injuries, often to impecunious patients who left gifts of flowers or food. One man even paid his bill with fish eggs.
"It's a funny thing," he told a reporter in 1988. "Snakes never bite people with money."
In the early 1950s, he built a yellow brick office on South Boulevard with a fireplace in the waiting room. Among the conversation pieces was a jar of formaldehyde, containing a snake that had bitten one of his patients.
When a diabetic man of modest means entered her pharmacy with a badly infected leg, an alarmed Ferlita sent the man to Dr. McEachern, with cash.
A week later, she received a note from Dr. McEachern.
"Rose, we took care of him," the note read. "It was a pleasure."
Enclosed was her money.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (813) 661-2431 or [email protected]