NEWPORT - The winds were cold, but the prevailing feeling was warmth among the crowd as nearly 100 people came Tuesday to celebrate the opening of oncologist Dr. Leslie Lockridgeâ€™s new private practice.
Guests quickly filled the office building and, outside, lines were forming of those trying to get in. Lockridge emerged from inside to the delight of all those present. Many people were reaching out to embrace him or shake his hand.
All followed him to a grassy area behind the building.
His new practice is on Union Street in the building of Dr. Paul Julien, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and, throat doctor).
Lockridge addressed the crowd and talked about how grateful he is to have such support. â€śThis would only happen it the Kingdom,â€ť he said. He thanked everyone, including his assistant Danielle Wright, who left work at North Country Hospital to work with him at the new practice.
Lockridge lost his job at the hospital earlier this year and the surprise termination outraged many in the community, especially his patients.
The doctor asked that people understand that there may be some bumps in the road as they settle into the new business of private practice, but feedback is welcome, as well as any donations.
Lockridge also talked about how things are improving in the field of oncology. New treatments are emerging quickly and the list of diseases that can be treated without using chemotherapy first is growing, he explained.
â€śIt's never a good time to have cancer, but it is better now with the potential for a better quality of life.â€ť
â€śToday is one of the best days the Northeast Kingdom has had in a long time,â€ť said Sen. Robert Starr. Starr is a former patient of Lockridge.
Starr said that so many doctors pack up and leave the Kingdom, â€śBut not Dr. Lockridge. He stuck with it, and weâ€™ll stick with him.â€ť
Rep. Duncan Kilmartin used the phrase â€śLes is moreâ€ť throughout his speech. Patients have a choice for for an oncologist, Kilmartin said. He called Lockridge a good neighbor, saying that he could have opted to go to a new community for more money. â€śBy staying Les provides hope of overcoming the odds.â€ť