Barry Snyder

Dr. Barry Snyder, who practiced family medicine from his Penn Highlands-affiliated office along Route 28 in Fairmount City, retired from his 37-year career on October 28.

NEW BETHLEHEM — After delivering some 1,500 babies and servicing thousands of area patients for nearly four decades, one local physician decided it was time to hang up the stethoscope.

Dr. Barry Snyder retired on October 28 following a 38-year career at his Brookville Hospital/Penn Highlands-affiliated office along Route 28/66 in Fairmount City.

Snyder and his wife, Connie, a registered nurse, are both 1972 graduates of Redbank Valley High School. Following graduation, Snyder attended Thiel College where he earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry.

After graduating from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1980, Snyder completed his family practice residency at St. Vincent Hospital in Erie. The couple returned to New Bethlehem in 1983, where Snyder has been practicing medicine ever since.

“It was always a question coming back and practicing in your hometown,” Snyder said of the prospects of returning to New Bethlehem, noting that Connie was always more interested in coming back home than he was. “She really pushed for coming back here, and it worked out alright.”

Snyder said that much of the transition was eased by his early connection with Dr. David Miller, another long-time area doctor. He said that, while the two never had a shared practice, his office was in Miller’s suite and they shared a waiting room.

“We were in downtown where the magistrate’s office is now,” Snyder said of his first six years in New Bethlehem. “We moved to the Miller Medical Center right before (Dr. Miller) retired.”

Snyder said that, while he enjoyed his life-long career immensely, being a doctor was not an early career choice.

“It wasn’t like I wanted to be a doctor forever,” he said. “I was interested in science in general so I majored in chemistry, not a pre-med or anything.”

Despite his interest in the subject, Snyder said that he could not see himself doing laboratory kind of science. It was, in fact, his soon-to-be-wife, Connie, and her career as an ICU nurse, who showed him that medicine was a way to have his love of science take a more personal approach.

“To be a physician and be able to do good care, you really need to be a scientist first,” he said. “There’s an art in medicine and doing your best for people and everything, but you have to be a scientist first.”

Snyder said that he and Connie not only share 47 years of marriage, but also a nearly 29-year business relationship.

“She was the office manager which is certainly a different thing than the ICU care she did before,” he said. “She basically ran the office and took care of a lot of business things, so I could concentrate on and take care of the patients.”

Reflecting on their working relationship, Snyder said that it worked very well.

Connie, who retired from her role in 2012, agreed.

“People would ask how we work with each other,” she said. “We enjoyed it.”

She noted that one contributing factor leading to their long working relationship was the very distinct roles they each played.

“A physician and a nurse have very concrete roles,” she said. “I’ve worked long enough in hospitals to know that if I don’t follow orders things get screwed up.”

The couple also attribute their success to their long-time staff.

“We were blessed with a really great staff. They’ve been incredibly dedicated,” Snyder said, noting that the core of the staff has been there 25 years or more.

The couple pointed out that Stacey Dinger and Barb Hibell started the day the practice opened. Pat Evans joined a few years after that, and LeeAnn Price has been there for nearly 25 years.

“There have been others in and out, but that’s incredible to have that kind of consistency,” Snyder said. “That’s been helpful.”

Other staple staff members have been the nurse practitioners such as Lana Smith who started around 1995, which was one year before one of the more memorable events in his career — the Flood of 1996.

“The place was basically wiped out,” he said. “We brought in little trailers and practiced out them in the parking lot for about three months while they put the whole place back together.”

He said he occupied one trailer while Smith occupied another.

According to Snyder, the office was essentially scattered over several locations during the rebuilding process. Some essential patients were initially seen at Snyder’s home, while later on, others were seen in a few rooms at Dr. Karls’ office.

Snyder pointed out that they were really fortunate during the rebuilding after the flood to become Highmark employees for a while.

“It just so happened that we were negotiating with Highmark to buy our practice whenever the flood occurred,” he said. “We were with them for nine or 10 years and went back into private practice again.”

Looking to the future, Snyder said that his number one priority will be “nurturing” grandkids.

“We’re really blessed that we have eight grandkids and they’re all within an hour’s drive of us,” he said. “A lot of people our age don’t have that because the kids are all over the place.”

Snyder said that, since retiring, he has already made a spontaneous trip to the North Hills to see three of the grandkids play in a piano recital.

“With the time constraints of medicine, especially when I was delivering babies and was on call a lot of the times, I didn’t get to be there all the time for my own kids growing up,” he said. “I tried to, but I want to do more of that for the grandkids.”

He also mentioned a possible trip out west by train, and said he hopes to complete a bike ride from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.

“We’ve done parts of it [so] that’s kind of the short-term bucket list,” he said. “It’s also time to get some decent sleep.”

All in all, Snyder says that he would characterize the past 37 years of his career as good.

“Thinking about it, I think this is where God planned for me to be,” he said. “That’s the nice thing about medicine, you feel like you can serve. As part of my Christian calling, this is where I needed to be.”

He said that he feels that many of the patients have become family over the years.

“We’ve been through a lot with a lot of patients,” Snyder said. “That’s kind of the neat thing to go through looking back on it.”

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