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After 36 Years of Family Practice, Dr. Ed Prince Hangs Up His Stethoscope

by on June 29, 2018 5:00 AM

One of our community’s longest-serving and most-respected doctors has come to the point of official retirement. In his 36 years as a family physician, Ed Prince has cared for thousands of State College area residents. And in his nine years of delivering babies, he welcomed 500 little cuties to Happy Valley. That’s quite a body of work on behalf of this community’s bodies.

So I sat down with Ed two weeks ago in the Corner Room, asking him to reflect on his career. Specifically, I asked him to tell me what has made him unique among the area’s family physicians.

“I don’t know that I am,” he said. “I’m a family doc, getting to know people and doing my best to take care of them.”

But don’t worry. I’m not falling for those words of humility. I know there’s more to this man who is now hanging up his stethoscope. (June 30 is the date of his official retirement from Geisinger Health System, but he’ll continue to work one weekend per month.) I met Ed way back in 1971, when we entered Acacia fraternity as pledge brothers. I’ve watched his career during many years that he cared for my aging mom, and I’ve also observed his care for me since I moved back to my hometown in 2013.  

This much I know: Ed Prince is not just another face in State College’s medical community.

Ed listens more to his patients than many physicians and honors their treatment preferences more than most. Ed is extremely approachable because he enjoys laughter, even at his own expense. And Ed takes his own “medicine” by doing the exercise that other physicians might just describe. This is a man who commutes by bicycle to the office and in the winter occasionally skis to work. Even at the tender age of 66, the retiring doctor still competes in sprint triathlons — swimming for 300 yards, biking for 15 miles and running for five kilometers (3.1 miles). And he also takes part in cross country ski races.


Prince enjoys cross country skiing and still competes in races.

NOT-SO-TIDY BACHELORS

Another State College resident, Bob Hershey, has known Ed Prince since those fraternity days of the early 1970s, and his family has been under Ed’s care since 1982. Let’s just say that Bob has seen it all — especially during the wacky year of 1974-75, when the two roomed together in Nittany Gardens.  

Back in that era, it was common for applicants to wait a year before gaining acceptance to med school. So before he headed off to Temple Medical School, Ed drove a bus for State College Area School District, took graduate courses at Penn State and hung out with Hershey on Waupelani Drive. They were like TV’s “Odd Couple,” but I think both bachelors had more in common with the sloppy Oscar Madison than the tidy Felix Unger. A pie in the face was their prank-of-choice. And dishes typically sat unwashed until they were needed, much to the delight of local roaches.

According to Bob’s perspective, Ed really needed the instruction in biology that he would soon receive at Temple. “He had been driving the bus one morning and came home for lunch, and then I got home later in the day. He’s sitting on our easy chair and he says, ‘I don’t feel very good. I think that Hamburger Helper is bad.’ So I went over to the refrigerator and opened it up. And it was rank. I said, ‘Yeah, Ed, it’s bad.’ “   

“He has a good sense of humor,” says Hershey. “He doesn’t take himself too seriously.” It’s a trait that has opened the door for Bob to tease Ed about politics for several decades. And sometimes the two become more serious with Hershey advocating for conservative policies and Prince speaking for liberal approaches. “We get a little intense sometimes,” says Hershey. “I probably get more intense than he does.”

Meanwhile, Mary Hershey also enjoys ribbing Ed, but not usually with a political emphasis. Her favorite story concerns the August 16, 1985 birth of the Hersheys’ third son, Matt, the only one of their kids to be delivered by Ed.

NEARLY LATE FOR THE BIRTH

“My water broke around 3 in the morning,” says Mary, “and we went into the hospital at about 6 a.m. I don’t know if they woke Ed up, but he got up, had breakfast, read the paper, took out the trash, and then he must have called the hospital to ask, ‘How’s she doing?’”

Given that Matt was the Hershey’s third child, things had moved along rapidly. And apparently the hospital nurse failed to communicate the situation to Ed. So when the good doctor showed up at 8 a.m., Mary offered him a greeting quite different from her typical hello.  

Recalls Ed, “The nurse had said, ‘She’s not really active yet.’ So I didn’t hustle right in. But then I hear back that she’s in raging labor, and within 10 or 15 minutes of when I got there, Matt was born. So she still loves to introduce me as the doctor who almost missed Matt’s birth. It’s become a staple of our interaction, but it’s fun; it’s good-natured.”  

Even though they love to tease their old friend, both Bob and Mary speak highly of his character. “He’s a jovial kind of guy — a kind, considerate person,” says Bob, a semi-retired hydrogeologist. “People would say he’s warm, kind, approachable, caring.”

Mary, a retired State High chemistry teacher, echoes her husband’s comments. “He’s a kind and gentle general practitioner. He’s honest and compassionate. And I don’t think I’ve ever been around Ed when he was down.”

CARING FOR THE PERSON

Visits to the doctor can put a person on edge, even when the doctor is a long-time acquaintance. But for me, a trip to Ed’s office in the Gray’s Woods Geisinger facility always felt positive. Although the Selinsgrove native might make me say “Ahhh,” poke me in the knee with a little hammer and talk about my cholesterol, I never left his office with any sense of annoyance or discouragement. Rather, I would leave with good information on my health and good memories of our interaction, usually revolving around his kids and mine.  

“He wants to have a personal relationship with the patient,” says Bob Hershey. “He wants to see beyond the medical part and look at the person. We’ve had quite a few laughs in his office.”

“I never felt he was in it for personal glory or for the money,” says Mary Hershey. “He wanted to take care of people, and you felt that. When we went to see him in his office we would always take time to catch up on kids and family. That was what was so appealing and fun about the family doc who was also your friend.”

A TRUE FAMILY PRACTICE

Ed and his sweetheart, the former Valerie Einig, were married on October 4, 1980. A registered nurse, she worked in the State College practice that Ed established in 1982, although her time availability varied greatly over the years according to the ages of the Prince children. (From that very beginning in 1982, Ed was associated with another family doctor, Leigh Wheeler, and the two joined Geisinger together in 1988.)  

“The patients kind of liked that,” notes Ed. “It gave the family practice an added dimension, a family feel. The patients would joke with her, and they would get to know our family. That was nothing but a plus.”

Over the years, Ed consistently involved other family members in his activities. He purchased a tandem bicycle so that he could enjoy riding around Centre County with Val. He also bought a bicycle trailer for his small children. And when he traveled overseas on medical missions trips, he would typically take one of the kids along. (Trevor Smith, then a State High student, also accompanied Prince on one of those trips about 15 years ago, and Ed is delighted to know that Dr. Smith will be caring for many of his former patients.)

Today, the Prince kids are all grown. Christie, married to Boston attorney Jonas Jacobson, has a master’s degree in mental health counseling, and she is expecting the couple’s second child. Danny, a graduate of Georgetown Law School, works for a law firm in Los Angeles. Laura is a professional instructor who teaches English as a second language to South Korean kids, and she will soon move to Spain to teach English. Anna, the youngest Prince, holds a master’s degree in social work from Boston College, and she lives and works near her oldest sister.


There’s nothing like a tandem bicycle to provide the Princes with exercise and extra time together. 

MEANINGFUL GOOD-BYES

So how does Dr. Ed Prince feel about his retirement? Of course, he’s glad for the free time, which will allow the Princes to visit their children and grandchildren. And he looks forward to doing his bicycling and skiing without feeling pressure to finish within certain time limits. He hopes to get more involved with his church (Grace Lutheran) take some courses through “OLLI” (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Penn State), and read some books he hasn’t had time to crack.

But for right now, he’s allowing himself some time to look back on a 36-year career. “I have enjoyed it,” says Ed. “I have enjoyed it immensely. As a family doc, you’re not the ultimate expert on almost anything but you know something about almost everything in medicine. So, to me, it was a good fit. And you really get to know people.

“People open up to their doctor in ways that they don’t open up to almost anyone else. That personal relationship and the trust they have in you — after you’ve known them for maybe 30 years — that comes out in your last visit with them. We’ve been able to reminisce about things we’ve gone through together.  Almost all of them have said, ‘Thank you for caring for me.’ And I say, ‘It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to be part of your life.’ ”



Bill Horlacher is a native of Happy Valley, a 1970 graduate of State College High School and a 1974 graduate of Penn State (journalism). He has spent his last 30 years in service to international students, helping them with personal, cultural and spiritual adjustments to America. After 39 years of living in California, Maryland and Texas, Bill returned to State College in 2013 along with his wife, Kathy.
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