Resident Golf Outing a labor of love for Dr. Roth

Residents work hard. They work long hours, and they deserve a relaxing day outside the hospital when they can mingle with their colleagues and supervisors.

Those are a few reasons why Dr. Harold Roth has gladly organized the annual Resident Golf Outing since 1993.

Dr. Roth, who has been affiliated since 1981 with what is now McLaren Greater Lansing, enjoyed taking part in an annual golf event put on by Lansing General Hospital from 1980-92. But when he learned there were no plans to hold it in 1993, his first reaction was to ask if he could organize it.

“He’s just so altruistic,” his wife, Sherrie Roth, said of his request that has led to him putting in countless volunteer hours through the years. “He felt like the interns should be appreciated. When he heard the outing was not going to continue, he said, ‘No! These guys deserve to be recognized. They need to understand how appreciated they are.’ “

Thirty golfers participated in the first outing under Dr. Roth’s direction, but that number had grown to 109 by 1997, and 120 – the maximum allowed – took part last year. Another full house is expected for this year’s event, which will receive funding from attending physicians’ annual dues and golfer gifts from the McLaren Greater Lansing Foundation, and be held at Brookshire Inn and Golf Club on July 18.

Dr. Michael Soos, a third-year resident in the Internal Medicine Program, describes the outing as an “all-inclusive” event. One that “allows you to decompress and get to know people at another level.”

Dr. Jessica Henderson, a fourth-year resident in the General Surgery Program, said it is “nice to have some dedicated time to having fun,” and she enjoys interacting with attending doctors in an “environment in which we usually don’t see each other.”

Dr. Roth’s affinity for resident golf outings goes back to the summer of 1980, when he was an intern at Saginaw Orthopedic Hospital. One Friday, he and his fellow interns were informed of a “mandatory” meeting at the hospital at 6:30 a.m. the next day.

Dr. Roth was not happy because he expected to work until 2 in the morning Saturday, followed by a shift later in the day. But when he arrived at the hospital for the meeting, he noticed several attending physicians milling about in shorts and wide-brimmed hats. Some were also carrying fishing gear, and two chartered buses were parked nearby.

Less than an hour later, Dr. Roth was reclining on the deck of a boat on Lake Huron. With a beer in one hand, his feet propped up, and the warmth of the sun on his face, he recalled thinking, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Although he caught few fish that day, he recalls how good the fried chicken tasted, as well as the camaraderie he felt with his fellow interns, attending physicians, office staff, and various members of their families.

“That was just such a nice break,” he said. “And it meant so much to me and left such an indelible mark on me as far as my memory of my internship goes, that I thought, ‘Maybe we could do something special for our residents here because their hours are long and hard.’ “

Dr. Roth spent his childhood in Alaska and Minnesota before moving to Florida as a high school junior. He described himself as a good – but not great – student who did so well on a college assessment test during his senior year at Tarpon Springs High that he would be accepted into any four-year school in Florida to which he applied.

His mom was happy for his success, but promptly told him, “Harold, you can go to any school in the state. But if you want me to pay for your schooling, there’s a nice college down the road called Saint Leo.”

After earning his undergraduate degree at what is now Saint Leo University, Dr. Roth entered Michigan State University in the fall of 1969. He would earn a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in the Department of Anatomy at MSU before being awarded a medical degree from the College of Osteopathic Medicine and serving a one-year internship at Saginaw Orthopedic Hospital.

He jokes he decided to attend graduate school in Michigan because he was “tired of all the sunshine” in Florida, and laughs about not seeing the sun during his first three weeks in East Lansing.

The importance that football held on campus quickly became apparent to him, although he chose to study at the library rather than attend that year’s Michigan-Michigan State game. He missed a notable contest in the series as the host Spartans, who would finish ninth in the Big Ten Conference standings, handed Michigan its only conference loss of the season in Bo Schembechler’s first year as head coach of the Wolverines.

Nearly 50 years later, Dr. Roth is a fixture in the Greater Lansing medical community and one of his patients is retired professor Clifford Welsch, who had a distinguished 30-year career at MSU teaching classes and conducting research related to breast cancer.

Dr. Welsch said he could tell right away that Dr. Roth wasn’t going to dedicate his career to research, but to caring for people through medicine.

He said as a general practitioner, Dr. Roth serves the community in a “very, very special way” and what he is doing is “basic medicine.” He adds there is nothing glamorous about what Dr. Roth does. But he “does it in a way that can be understood. He found his niche in life and he’s very good at it.”

Sherrie Roth, who has been married to Harold for 48 years, said his warmth was one of the things that attracted her to him when she was a nurse aide and he was an orderly at a small hospital in New Port Richey, Florida.

“He looked like Buddy Holly,” she said. “He had dark, curly hair, and horn-rimmed glasses. He was so well loved by everyone.”

Dr. Henderson, the third-year resident in the General Surgery Program, said Dr. Roth is a “really warm person” whom she enjoys interacting with at the outing.

“He’s definitely one of the reasons why I enjoy it,” she said. “He makes it fun.”

Dr. Roth also tries to make it interesting. One year, the winning team took a limousine from the course to the Nuthouse Sports Grill, where they ate dinner before being chauffeured back to the course. Another year, Dr. Keith Aplegren won the men’s division of a best dressed contest and four women tied for first in the ladies division.

Dr. Roth hopes to have “Wandering Minstrels” on the course this year with the duo playing a banjo and a guitar.

He said some participants might also have the opportunity to “skip a hole and get rich.”

This occurs when the course starter, in an effort to keep play moving at a desired pace, will offer members of slower-moving foursomes a $2 bill and a lottery ticket if they will skip a hole.

“It’s all about having fun and getting the residents and the attending doctors together,” Dr. Roth said. “It’s about getting them together outside and away from the hospital.”

To learn more about the residency programs at McLaren Greater Lansing, please call (517) 975-7875 or visit mclaren.org/lansing/gme-residency.aspx.

If you would like to make a gift to support the Resident Golf Outing, residency programs, or another program, department, or unit at the hospital, please contact the McLaren Greater Lansing Foundation at (517) 975-7100 or mglfoundation@mclaren.org, or visit mclaren.org/lansingfoundation.