In days of yore, doctors, nurses and midwives made house calls on foot, horseback and by carriage.
These days, house calls are a rarity, but Jody Hoppis of Bellingham is pedaling her skills as a nurse practitioner by bicycle.
Two years ago she started Mobile Medicine, visiting patients at their homes and workplaces using a specially designed bike trailer to tote her supplies.
"You learn so much about a person by being in their home," Hoppis said. "I love my job."
Hoppis says the service saves her patients the time, bother and expense of getting to a clinic, and they can contact her quickly by phone or e-mail. And by keeping her overhead low, Hoppis says she can spend up to an hour checking on and visiting with her patients, rather than the handful of minutes typically available in a busy medical office.
Hoppis, 39, grew up in Ferndale and earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in nursing at Seattle Pacific University. She lived for a while in Seattle, where she endured a commute from West Seattle to Bellevue and yearned for a better place to raise her kids.
She and her husband, Joe, a real estate agent, moved to Bellingham a decade ago. They have three children, ages 6, 8 and 10.
Hoppis bicycled while at Seattle Pacific and began bicycling more after they moved to Bellingham. She worked part time at a family practice clinic but wanted to find work that better fit her family's schedule and allowed a stronger connection with patients.
She knew of a doctor who made house calls, and the notion intrigued her. Then, at a Ski to Sea parade, she saw some Bellingham bicycle police officers roll by.
She thought, "I want a job where I ride my bike." The idea of Mobile Medicine was born.
Finding a suitable trailer wasn't easy, until she got her hands on the design for a lockable, waterproof model used by postal carriers in rainy Scotland. She pedals a German-made Kalkhoff bicycle that carries a small electric motor for extra oomph when needed.
As a nurse practitioner, she can perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses and chronic health problems, prescribe medications and physical and other therapies, order and interpret diagnostic tests and refer patients to specialists.
Sean Hall of Bellingham and his wife and children use her service, including the time his son crashed into a tree and cut open his lip.
"She biked over and saved us a trip to the ER," Hall recounted in an e-mail.
Nearly all of Hoppis' calls are by bike, but she drove one time when snow covered Bellingham's streets, and she drives to see patients in Lynden. Phama Woodyard, one of her Lynden clients, likes how Hoppis stays in ready contact with her patients, and likes her overall approach to medicine.
"Most doctors treat test results, they treat numbers," Woodyard said. "Jody treats symptoms."
Another patient, Dana Brandt of Bellingham, called Hoppis last February on Sunday Bowl Sunday. Brandt, he later learned, had herniated a disc in his back the day before when he and his fiancé kayaked to an island, where he proposed marriage. A short time later, he wrenched his back hauling his kayak onto a friend's sailboat for the trip home.
Brandt said he already knew Hoppis and her family, and managed to drive to her house for a medical assessment while Joe Hoppis watched the football game.
"I found myself in excruciating pain and needed someone on short notice," Brandt said. "It was a huge help to me."
To contact Jody Hoppis about Mobile Medicine, call 360-820-1778 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website is mymobilemedicine.com.