Dr. Dan McDougal

Internist worked with addicts and fought insurance companies that wouldn't provide coverage

May 12, 2010|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

Dr. Dan McDougal, an internist who treated the addicted and "lashed out" at insurance companies he felt compromised patient care, died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, May 10 at his Williamsport home. The former Towson resident was 64.

Born in Bethesda and raised in Manhattan Beach, Calif., he earned a bachelor's degree from Stanford University and was a 1971 graduate of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center of Pennsylvania State University.

He then spent two years in the Air Force working at a drug and alcohol detoxification center in Grandview, Mo., where he treated many Vietnam War veterans. In a 2009 interview published in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail, he said, "It's a little-known fact, but the Viet Cong didn't beat us, drugs did."

Dr. McDougal moved to Baltimore in 1973 and completed a residency at the University of Maryland Medical Center and spent two years as a rheumatology fellow at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

"I was taught at Hopkins how to take care of people, how to practice medicine properly," he said in the interview. "And I've never let go, but in fact, I've lashed out at insurance companies and administrators who try to compromise care."

Dr. McDougal established a private practice at Good Samaritan Hospital and practiced internal medicine and rheumatology. He also joined Greater Baltimore Medical Center and treated those addicted to alcohol and drugs.

"He was a big, fit, smart, humorous individual who was loved by the docs he worked with," said Dr. Stanley Platman, a Baltimore psychiatrist. "He was always telling us about his latest battles with the insurance companies. He was the doc who all of us would like to be."

For many years, he was a member of the Maryland Physician Health Committee. He assisted physicians who had abused alcohol or chemical substances or had psychiatric or cognitive impairment.

"He was one of the most respected members of the committee," said Chae Kwak, the program's director.

The committee's client services manager, Michael Llufrio, recalled his colleague as a physician "who could be direct but was also someone who had a keen understanding of the nuances of life."

He said that Dr. McDougal looked at his patients' "total picture" and would act as a detective in making a diagnosis or medical consideration.

In 1998, he moved to Washington County and became medical director for Antietam Health Services, the for-profit arm of Washington County Health System. He was also the volunteer medical director of the Community Free Clinic, which assists Washington County residents who don't have insurance.

Dr. McDougal saw patients and also recruited other physicians for the clinic. He developed a relationship with Hopkins Hospital surgeons and specialists to treat those without insurance.

"He was gutsy. He wasn't afraid to ask for help," said his wife, the former Penny Matkins. "He bullied his way to get coverage when an insurer would say, 'We're not going to cover a procedure.' "

Dr. McDougal was the Hagerstown newspaper's 2009 Person of the Year and the recipient of a 2009 People's Choice Award from the Community Foundation of Washington County.

"He had an incisive mind and often had a different opinion about things," said Dr. Gail Miller, a semiretired internist who lives in Baltimore. "He chose carefully what he wanted to do, and when he did it, he gave it 100 percent."

Dr. McDougal was diagnosed last year with the incurable neuromuscular disease that weakened his body and forced him to leave the clinic and Antietam Health Services.

In the 2009 newspaper interview, Dr. McDougal said two of his "proudest accomplishments" were getting insurance companies to comply with a Maryland law that requires patients with mental ailments to receive the same coverage as those with physical ones, and getting insurance companies to cover medical-imaging tests without requiring individual approvals.

In his free time, Dr. McDougal enjoyed sailing the Chesapeake Bay and along the Inter-Coastal Waterway.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. May 22 at the Unitarian Congregation of Frederick, 4880 Elmer Derr Road.

In addition to his wife of 41 years, survivors include a son, Colin Ruel McDougal of Williamsport; a daughter, Elizabeth Hutchens of Leesburg, Va.; a brother, Marvin Davis of Arlington, Va.; a sister, Kathy Khan of Chapel Hill, N.C.; and four grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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