Hard to Heal

Fred Rottnek, doctor to the downtrodden, tried his luck playing the boardroom politics of one of the city's most prestigious charities, Grace Hill. He lost. So did the homeless of St. Louis.

"When you work with the poor," he says, "you have to really side with them and understand what is going on with them to do a good job. If you really understand that, then what we do is never going to be enough."

On this final December night at Harbor Light, Rottnek sees his last homeless patient. He slings his black duffel bag over his shoulder and walks across the shelter's parking lot one last time.

"Bye, Doc!"

Jennifer Silverberg
Dr. Fred Rottnek: "I don't necessarily love medicine. I just love what I can do with medicine."
Jennifer Silverberg
Dr. Fred Rottnek: "I don't necessarily love medicine. I just love what I can do with medicine."

It is a faceless voice in the dark.

Instead of his customary "See you later," Rottnek answers with something that sounds more final, something harder and more fatal.

"Goodbye."

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