By Susan Petro
When Dr. Hector Asuncion first came to Poolesville in 1973 to practice family medicine, there were only about three hundred families living in town. When he stopped by the original Town Hall to inquire whether there were any doctors in town, he was told: “Oh yes, there are two doctors.” Asuncion had already scouted out the community and didn’t see any doctor’s offices, so he inquired about their location. When he discovered their office was located quite a few miles down the road in Dawsonville, Asuncion felt confident that Poolesville would be a nice place to begin a new practice.
Asuncion, who is originally from the Philippines, followed the paths of his brother and sister who both became doctors. He completed his medical degree at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, the oldest medical school in Asia, founded over four hundred years ago.
After finishing medical school, Asuncion completed his residency at Prince George’s Hospital. He taught dentistry students at Georgetown University Hospital, worked at Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., and then spent twelve years running the emergency room at Holy Cross Hospital before opening his practice in Poolesville.
The only problem, Asuncion said, was that the town didn’t have any office space to offer. Instead, Asuncion rented what was the oldest building in town, located next to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, and refurbished the building into an office. Asuncion noticed that his new office had a shorter door opening that was common in buildings built over a hundred years ago because people were generally shorter back then. Asuncion thought, “I can fit through these doors, but not everyone,” so he set about refitting the doorways to fit today’s taller patients. He added a stairway and new entryway to the back of the building.
Within the next few years, Asuncion moved his practice to a few other locations in town before settling in his current building located across the street from the high school at 17600 W. Willard Road. His office, a historic yellow house with white trim and a welcoming front porch, has a long history in the Town of Poolesville. Before Asuncion converted the building to a doctor’s office, the house was formerly used as a church and school, and before that, it was home to a family. The structure is visible on many of the historic maps of Poolesville.
Asuncion acquired the building in the early 1980s when a former pastor of Poolesville Baptist Church, a patient and friend of Dr. Asuncion, told him that he would like to build a church and wanted to sell the building they were currently using. Asuncion agreed to buy the converted home from the pastor, which in turn provided the congregation with funds to build the church located right next door. They share a connecting parking lot.
Asuncion painstakingly remodeled the building. Although the exterior still maintains its historic character, the interior has all the amenities of a modern office with a country feel. The waiting room walls are adorned with maps and photos from historic Poolesville. In the hallway, Asuncion has pictures of the building detailing the step-by-step process of his exterior remodeling efforts.
Asuncion works five days a week, splitting his time between his Poolesville office and another office in Germantown. His office in Germantown, which he also personally remodeled, is a 104-year-old former church, as well. Clearly, Asuncion has a passion for maintaining the historic character of his offices.
Two years ago, Asuncion merged with Adventist Medical Group and George Washington University Hospital. This agreement allows him to focus solely on seeing patients while Adventist Medical Group takes care of all of the administrative work and insurances claims. “All I have to do is see the patients,” Asuncion said. “I told them to leave me alone, don’t touch me, and I will make money for both of us.” This arrangement works well for him in light of the time and costs associated with running a physician’s office. Asuncion says it costs $50,000 just to purchase the necessary computer system which changes every few months.
When Asuncion merged his practice, some of his patients worried he might be thinking of retiring soon; however, he has no plans for that. “I enjoy it. I like seeing people, helping people,” said Asuncion. When his patients ask him about retiring, he points to his boots and says with a smile, “I like these boots, they make me a little taller.” He then reminds them of the famous General Custer who died with his boots on. “If the Lord takes me, I will go,” Asuncion said, “but I will be around until the Lord takes me home.”
After forty-two years in Poolesville, Asuncion said he and many of his patients have grown older together. Now that his children are grown and it’s just him and his wife left at home, his patients are like his family. When his time comes, he plans to go with his boots still on. His patients don’t have to worry, though, Asuncion doesn’t plan on going anywhere any time soon; he’s too busy doing what he loves best: taking care of his patients and spending time with his extended family.