History intersects with new approach to health care at Walk with a Doc event

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One of several restored structures from the 1830s-1870s located at the Forks of the Wabash on the edge of Huntington, Ind.

I’d driven by the Historic Forks of the Wabash many times over the years, on my way through Huntington to Wabash or Peru or West Lafayette, without ever once stopping to see what was there.

On Saturday, with a weekend off from the 5K Challenge, I decided to check out a “Walk With A Doc” program for an upcoming column. I wound up not only meeting some interesting people – potentially including my new doctor – but also discovered that our meeting spot was the site of several treaty signings in the 1830s and where, in 1846, 346 Native Americans were loaded onto canal boats for a forced uprooting to Kansas.

Several historic structures, including Miami Chief Jean Baptiste Richardville’s 1834 Council House, have been restored on the grounds, which include 1.5 miles of paved trails. As a group of about 15 of us walked along the Wabash, down and back both ways, we watched a crew building a bridge that will connect this trail to another one that leads to an island across the way. (I didn’t catch its name; that will have to wait until a return visit).

Our host for this walk was Dr. Janelle Maxwell, who runs Cardinal Family Medicine with her husband, Dr. Matt Pflieger, who was out of town on a “running vacation” with friends. They got involved with the Walk With a Doc program while practicing medicine in Denver for 10 years before returning to Dr. Matt’s hometown to set up a direct primary care practice.

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Dr. Janelle and her son Eli, 7, who found a painted rock left along the trail as part of the “Huntington Rocks” project on Facebook.

She was funny and friendly and led a brief discussion on the health benefits of gardening before starting the walk. Anyone who answered a question or made a comment got to choose a packet of seeds.

I imagined a Walk with a Doc would draw mostly hypochondriacs brimming with medical concerns real and imagined. But several people I talked to said they were here in support of their doctors, who have a much more personal approach than most. When was the last time your doctor responded to your text, for instance? Or better yet, texted you, just to check in to see how you were doing with a current health issue?

“They do a lot of things to help us lose weight and be healthy,” said Pam Pranger, who attends a weight loss class run by Dr. Janelle. “I’ve lost 10 pounds, and I’m going to lose another 10.”

I’d never heard of director primary care, but apparently it involves paying a fixed monthly fee that covers most services the doctors provide. You can learn more about how that works here. I haven’t really looked into it yet, but the people I spoke to at the walk were big fans of the program.

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Eli escorted Pam Pranger on the final leg of the walk. It was her first walk, but she said her goal was to “be able to keep up by the end of the summer.” After that, she wants to work up to joining her cousins on walking marathons. 

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