Fred A. Couts, D.O., '53
1999 Alumnus of the Year
Fred A. Couts, D.O., 53, has seen a lot of changes in the osteopathic profession since he went into family practice in St. Louis, Mo., 45 years ago. What hasn't changed over the years is his commitment to his patients and the College.
"There has been an unbelievable amount of change in medicine since I finished medical school," he said. "Much of what was in fashion then is no longer considered good medicine today."
His top priority is to always know what's in and what's out. "Every year, without fail, I attend as many CME (continuing osteopathic medical education) programs as I can," said Dr. Couts, who is a life member of the American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists and a member of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians.
"You'd better be learning every day, or you're out of business. There's something new almost every day in medicine, and patients expect more of physicians today than they did 30 or 40 years ago. They expect you to be more knowledgeable and they expect you to impart more knowledge to them."
Selected as the Alumnus of the Year for 1999 by the Kirksville Osteopathic Alumni Association (KOAA) Board of Directors, Dr. Couts enjoys sharing his knowledge with his patients. He has also enjoyed sharing his knowledge and his time with the College while a member of the ATSU Board of Trustees (1989-1998) and the KOAA Board of Directors (1982-1989).
"I'm very fond of the College," he said while explaining why he devoted so many years of service to the College. "It gave me the opportunity to help other people, an opportunity that I would not have had otherwise. I'm very pleased with my career and proud of our profession. I've always been proud to be an osteopathic physician."
He is also pleased with the changes he saw in Kirksville while he was on the KOAA Board and the ATSU Board. "I think there have been dramatic improvements in the educational programs and clinical opportunities that our young physicians have today," he said. "I think we are also blessed in that we have an outstanding group of new people coming into the profession."
He cited campus expansion, particularly the new Education Center, as an important change during his tenure on the KCOM Board. Opening the Arizona School of Health Sciences in Phoenix and consolidating the Kirksville Osteopathic Medical Center and Grim-Smith Hospital to create the Northeast Regional Medical Center were other positive changes while he was on the Board. "I am happy," he said, "to have had some small part in those changes."
Improving the College endowment was a major concern while he was a member of the KOAA Board. "One of the prime functions of the KOAA Board is to lead the College's fund-raising efforts, and we have improved the endowment," said Dr. Couts, who was the Board president in 1987-88.
"We were greatly in debt when I was on the KOAA Board and early on when I was on the ATSU Board (he was the secretary in 1997-98). There has been a tremendous improvement in the financial fortunes of the College in recent years, but there is room for a lot more improvement."
To further express his gratitude for the medical education he received in Kirksville, he created the Fred A. Couts, D.O., Scholarship Fund in 1988. The scholarships are awarded to first- or second-year students who have financial need and are from Missouri, particularly from the St. Louis area.
Dr. Couts, who grew up in Elkhart, Ind., attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., and graduated from Truman State University, knows about tough financial times; he helped finance his education by working on a family farm in the summers and as a nurse at Laughlin Hospital during the school year.
In addition to supporting the College, Dr. Couts has long been active in his community. He is a founder and a member of the board of directors of the Central West End Bank in St. Louis, a bank that encouraged development and made loans to area residents at a time when other banking institutions in the area were not willing to. He also was on the board of directors of the Caring Foundation for Children in St. Louis, a non-profit organization that provided health care for children without health insurance. Dr. Couts is also an active member of the Second Presbyterian Church and a member of the church's board of trustees.
Except for occasional long weekends to relax or time off to attend a CME program, Dr. Couts is in his office nearly every day seeing patients, some of whom were his patients 45 years ago. He has given no thought to retirement.
"I still see quite a few of my first patients," he said. "The oldest is 97. He's alive, well, and works 2 or 3 hours every day as a furniture finisher. I've also treated his wife and their children."
"There is nothing else I'd rather be doing. I like my patients and I like what I am doing. As long as my head works and my body gets me to my office, I don't plan to quit."
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