BETH N. GRAY
Dr. Clemente Nunag's practice, which always has included his wife, a nurse, will grow with his two sons completing medical training.
SPRING HILL - Family practice carries a dual meaning at the offices of Clemente P. Nunag, M.D. Family practice is the specialty, and it's a family business.
Dr. Nunag's younger son Joel, 30, recently joined the medical practice. Nunag's wife, Beatrice, a registered nurse, manages the office. Next year, son Randy, 31, a resident at the University of Connecticut Hospital, is expected to join the practice.
"We work as a team," says Beatrice Nunag, 59, who continues to perform some nursing chores but primarily manages the office, which also employs two medical assistants.
A native of the Philippines, Clemente Nunag, 62, came to Hernando County from Pensacola 25 years ago. There weren't many local physicians around. At that time there was just one hospital, Lyke's Memorial, now Brooksville Regional, and a single pharmacy - an Eckerd's.Then as now, the whole family spent most of its time in and around the medical practice.
"We grew up in the office," said Joel, who recounted how his mother, then serving as nurse and office manager, arrived at work at 5 a.m. six days a week with her sons in tow. The boys did chores around the office until it was time to walk to kindergarten at nearby Westside elementary. They returned after classes.
"We helped put Band-aids on patients," Joel remembers. "We filed charts."
"I guess I decided when I was in third grade," he says of becoming a doctor. "That's been the master plan."
Mother Beatrice noted of Joel, "He was just focused since he was a little boy."
When he was in the third grade, Joel composed a science project, a replica of the digestive system. His father gave him a telephone cord and a piece of surgical tubing for intestines, and Joel used croutons to represent intestinal contents.
The prize-winning project may have cemented Joel's interest in internal medicine. After studying at the University of Florida Medical School, he transferred to the University of South Florida to complete the four-year program in three years. At Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Joel pursued a rarely offered combined program in family and internal medicine.
"Where in internal medicine you see only adults, in family medicine you see the whole family," Joel said. As the junior member of the practice, he's doing both."Infants to hospital with critical care ..., kids and teenagers, the whole family."
Clemente Nunag said he didn't encourage his sons to take up medicine "because it's tough."
"But that's the only profession they know," he said. "They grew up with it."
"He didn't put any pressure on us," Joel added.
As the boys grew, their father's practice blossomed. Joel remembers his father making daily rounds at Brooksville, Oak Hill and Bayonet Point hospitals seven days a week, then seeing 30 patients a day in his office.
The former Springstead High School track and field standout and wrestler had to ask himself some hard questions. "Do I want to do this?" he asked himself.
"Well, with two of us, it'll be better,"Joel decided. "Yeah, I want to do this."
While Joel practices internal and family medicine, Randy, a graduate of the University of Florida and Ross University in the Caribbean, likes general medicine, "taking care of all things, like us," Joel said.
With reinforcements from a younger generation,Clemente Nunag, said he will draw on his son's recent schooling for the latest techniques and practices. Joel said he'll tap into his father's experience in treating patients.
"It's nice to have somebody to talk to, to confer with," Joel said of making rounds with his father at Oak Hill Regional Hospital. Clemente Nunag is a founding officer of the hospital and a former vice chairman of the executive board.
Since his return home, Joel is again involved in local sports. He recently conducted physicals for school athletes and could see himself as a sports physician.
"I definitely want to do sports medicine," said Joel, the 1990 state champion pole vaulter.
His decision to return to Spring Hill to practice medicine was influenced by the boom in the numbers of young people who have moved there. When Joel was a kindergartener applying Band-aids, Spring Hill's population was around 10,000, and heavily dominated by retirees. Many of those senior citizens have beenClemente Nunag's patients for a long time.The practice's oldest patient died recently at age 99. One of the practice's nursing home patients lived to 104 years.
"Quite a few have been coming for 25 years," said Mrs. Nunag. "We think these are very special. We think of them as family."
Added Joel, "Hopefully, for the next 30 years we can keep taking care of the whole family, from the cradle to retirement and after."