MASON CITY | Dr. Stephen Thorn has helped deliver more than 7,000 babies as an obstetrician and gynecologist.
But in roughly a half-hour interview with the Globe-Gazette, he made sure to credit the people he works with every day at Mercy Medical Center—North Iowa. That includes six other doctors, two advanced practice providers and multiple other nurses who help treat his patients with the utmost care.
“The positiveness in this hospital, there’s something you can’t put your finger on,” Thorn, 69, said. “That’s the way it, the kindness. Even people who follow me here from Minnesota … everybody was like ‘Wow, now I know why you’re here.’”
Thorn spent more than 20 years as a doctor in Albert Lea before Phil Lee, a physician at Mercy, finally convinced him to move to Mason City.
He’s been here since 2012 and has been amazed by the nurses and doctors from the day he started. Communication is key, Thorn said.
“That’s what I like about here,” he said. “We really talk to each other.”
Multiple times, Thorn stated that every doctor and nurse in his office is willing to help each other, creating a great environment for not only his colleagues but also all the patients.
He added his philosophy to being a doctor is knowing his patients as people, not just patients or numbers on a chart.
“You never wear a watch,” Thorn said about what he teaches students in medical residency. “Don’t wear a watch in the room, it’s not right … and know their name, know your patient.”
“Everybody’s in a rush now,” he added. “The young docs, they’re so smart, but sometimes I think they don’t realize why the patient’s there. They need help.”
Thorn grew up in Los Angeles, 2 miles from the iconic Hollywood sign. He studied biochemistry at St. Mary’s College of California in the late 1960s and was going to pursue dental school.
But a friend at the time suggested he attend a university in Guadalajara, Mexico, UAG, to further his medical career.
He flew on a plane to there and realized 50-60 percent of the class were from the United States. There was a catch: in order to get in, they had to pass a Spanish exam.
“That night, I took some medicine to keep me awake all night and I studied and by some way, I passed it the next day,” Thorn said. “I have no clue whether I know two words of Spanish, but I passed it.”
Thorn said his colleagues seemed hungrier to study and learn about the medical field, more so than his colleagues at the University of California-Davis, who tended to be scared under pressure.
After his studies at UC-Davis, he practiced in California for six years. But then his first wife died of breast cancer in her early 30 s. Raising three kids along with practicing was difficult, Thorn said.
“After about two or three years, the kids kept on saying, ‘We need a mom,’” he said. “So I met this incredible woman, and the kids just loved her.”
That woman’s name is Margie, and she has family in Minnesota, Thorn said. That spurred the move to Albert Lea, and eventually to Mason City.
Before the interview in his office, Thorn spent his time commending nurses and receptionists throughout Mercy’s OB/GYN clinic. Many returned the favor, noting Thorn’s care toward his patients.
His last day is May 18. He still has some work left — he’s going to deliver a baby to a couple May 12. The catch? He delivered both the mother and father more than 20 years ago.
There’s one feeling he’s miss most about being a full-time doctor.
“There’s nothing like taking care of a patient who would do anything for a baby,” Thorn said. “It’s a gift from gifts.”
“When you deliver that baby and that child’s put on your chest, it’s over,” he said. “It’s amazing, and I think that’s what I’m gonna miss the most. That’s why I’m not 100 percent sure I will fully retire. Because I cannot miss that feeling. It’s a feeling I can’t even comprehend.”