As the world shut down and people retreated into their homes, Dr. Albert Tawil put on a tie and suspenders and went to the office each day.
Or the ER. Or the hospital. Or the nursing homes.
Medicine changed drastically over the course of his career, from house calls to electronic medical records. Dr. Tawil did not change. The 83-year-old wasn’t ready to retire or to leave his patients in the care of doctors on computer screens. That was his job.
“You have to believe in what you do,” he told the Tampa Tribune in 2005, “believe you’re here to save people, and you’re here to basically serve. You need to take care of your patients.”
Dr. Tawil died of natural causes Aug. 19.
Growing up in Scranton, Penn., Dr. Tawil’s merchant father told him that intelligent men become doctors. He and his brother did just that.
Dr. Tawil earned a full scholarship to the University of Scranton, and his wife dropped out of Barnard College to put him through Jefferson Medical School. What he learned there guided his practice for the rest of his life.
Look at the whole person, not just the sore toe or tweaked shoulder.
And for goodness sake, do not pull out any distracting devices.
Dr. Tawil adapted to technology but refused to surrender the doctor-patient relationship.
He had a record for catching problems early.
When a young patient broke her hip, he ordered tests to look at her blood count. She had leukemia. At a wedding, he saw a spot on his daughter’s shoulder and insisted she visit his brother, a dermatologist. It was precancerous. He stopped a woman on a Disney cruise and said, “I know this sounds crazy, but there’s a spot on your back that you need to get checked out.” It was melanoma.
“He would think of things that no one else does,” said Dr. Geoffrey Kwitko, who saw Dr. Tawil as his own doctor. The two worked together for 30 years.
Dr. Tawil’s skills came from experience, continuing study and how attuned he was to the people around him. He always gave out his card, which included his cell phone number. Call, he’d say to strangers he’d helped.
“Let me know how you’re doing.”
He kept seeing patients even when they couldn’t pay their bills, said Lisa Tawil, Dr. Tawil’s daughter.
“My mother used to say when we were kids that we got paid in chickens.”
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When Dr. Stephen Kreitzer pulled up to the hospital in the middle of the night, often the only other car he saw was Dr. Tawil’s.
He loved his patients, Kreitzer said, and his patients loved him.
The two worked together for 43 years.
After referring patients to Kreitzer and filling him in on their details, Dr. Tawil always ended the calls with this:
“By the way, Steve, these are good people.”
Dr. Tawil loved his patients, but he adored his wife.
When the two started dating, he’d take her out to fancy restaurants. She asked him once why he always wore the same jacket.
It was his only one, he told her.
How could he afford the fancy dinner? she followed up.
“I’ve been eating soup the rest of the time.”
Dr. Tawil and Judy Berger Tawil were married for 60 years, had two children, Lee and Lisa, and four grandchildren. She ran his office, even after breaking her hip and ending up in the hospital in March.
Dr. Tawil sat by her side for 13 days, until she had a heart attack and died.
They buried her on a Saturday. He went back to work that Monday.
“Your mother was not one to lay around,” he told his daughter, “and we’re not going to.”
When his peers started shutting their doors and turning to telemedicine after the pandemic hit, her father said “absolutely not,” Lisa Tawil remembers.
“These people are old, and they can’t all do technology,” he told her, “and I’m gonna be there.”