Source: The News-Enterprise
In the office of Hardin Memorial Health doctor Paul Gerard, you’ll find a fish tank full of native fish of Kentucky, along with posters containing information on native reptiles and amphibians in the region. Kentucky wildlife is a love of Gerard’s, so it’s no wonder he has installed reminders of this love in his work space.
Gerard is a family care physician and a herpetology enthusiast. He said his interest in both of these fields were inspired by his grandfather who was a biology professor at Western Kentucky University.
“His students would bring him snakes and we’d release the snakes in the woods,” he said.
Because he was close to his grandparents growing up, Gerard said he was interested in studying geriatrics when attending medical school.
A Bowling Green native, Gerrard earned his Doctor of Medicine from The University of Louisville in 1974 and finished his family practice residency there. Following his residency, Gerard pursued a fellowship at University College London in England.
Once he completed his fellowship, Gerard moved back to Kentucky and began a family practice in Elizabethtown. He has practiced family medicine in Elizabethtown for 40 years. He said practicing in the community for this long has helped him forge many relationships over the years.
“I get to know people,” he said. “A lot of the people I’m taking care of I’ve taken care of for 30 years and often I’ve taken care of their parents and sometimes their grandparents.”
As a family medicine physician, Gerard said he has delivered more than 1,000 babies throughout his career. He now serves as director of palliative care at HMH.
Gerard said he commutes to work on a bicycle every day.
Although he said there’s many reasons why he does this, he said one reason is to set an example for his patients. He said preventative care is a major aspect of his job.
“I’m getting a little bit of exercise like I tell people to do so I’m not so much of a hypocrite,” he said, laughing.
Regardless of the weather, you can find Gerard outdoors every weekend on the trails or on his Hart County property where he plants trees to restore farm land.
While outdoors, Gerard often scouts for reptiles and amphibians. He has a collection of these reptiles and amphibians in his home that are natives of Kentucky. Gerard said he always is amazed by the variety of wildlife in Kentucky.
“This area is so interesting,” he said. “We have so much diversity right where we are.”
Gerard often brings along his collection of wildlife to libraries and schools to present classes on reptiles and amphibians. One of the most intriguing parts of his collection is an alligator snapping turtle, an reptile that has been known to weigh more than 200 pounds.
To engage with students, Gerard often will start his presentations by walking in the room with a blue-tailed skink hanging from his earlobe as he pretends to not know where the lizard is.
“You can have a lot of fun with reptiles and amphibians,” he said.
Gerard also is known for hosting the annual Turtle Talk and Walk, an event sponsored by Greenspace. It takes place at the Buffalo Lake Trailhead and includes a presentation on Kentucky turtles. This year’s event is June 10.
Greenspace Vice President Aaron Rucker said the event has become a major part of Greenspace’s programming.
“He knows how to engage an audience and answer questions,” he said. “I learn something new every time I’m out there.”
After 40 years of working in central Kentucky and enjoying its wildlife, Gerard said the area has taken care of him just as much as he’s taken care of his patients.
“It’s just a nice, supportive community,” he said.