Doctor Monroe practice general surgery at Littleton Hospital from November 11, 1967 to September 9, 1999. When Dr. Monroe started practicing in Littleton, he received questions such as, "Where were you a few months back?" Where were you when we really needed you?" These questions related to the Cog Railway incident that occurred on Sunday, September 17, 1967, when first responders took over 70 people in need of health care from Mount Washington to Littleton Hospital.
Richard Monroe was born on July 20, 1934, and grew up in the Baltimore, MD area. He was the son of an engineer and the grandson of a general medical doctor in Westminster, MD, a suburb of Baltimore. Dick's grandfather's office was at home, and was a self-contained medical practice. By today's standard, his practice was similar to an urgent care center. Spending time around his grandfather's office, Dick was curious about what he did within the walls of this house and he decided to pursue a career in medicine. He attended Haverford College followed by Johns Hopkins Medical School from 1956-1960. Subsequently, Dr. Monroe completed a one-year general internship followed by a four year general surgery residency - both at Allentown General Hospital in Allentown, PA.
At the end of his graduate medical education, Dr. Monroe began his two-year commitment to the military, which he began soon after completing his general surgery residency. He spent one year at McDonald Hospital at Fort Eustis, Virginia. He was then assigned to Viet Nam. Departing from a military airfield in El Paso, TX, Dick did not learn about the upcoming assignment until reaching flying altitude. The aircraft landed at an airfield in Vietnam under the cover of night. Dr. Monroe spent two years as director of a mobile surgical team. Once Dr. Monroe convinced his superiors that they were wasting precious time when using the mobile unit (helicopters were now used to transport the wounded), he began performing surgery at the 93rd Evacuation Hospital in Long Binh, which is near Saigon. The most common injuries requiring surgery were the result of gunshot wounds and roadside bombs.
When Dr. Monroe returned from Vietnam, he went to Fort Dix, NJ, as he still had to serve three months in the military. During this time, he began looking for a location to set up a general surgery practice. His passion for New Hampshire began as a young boy, having attended Camp Wallula on Little Lake Sunapee for 8 summers. While there, he experienced hikes atop Mount Washington and Cannon Mountain. The NH Medical Society encouraged Dick to contact Dr. Harry McDade, as Littleton Hospital was looking for a general surgeon. Dick wrote Harry a formal letter, which prompted Harry McDade to phone Dr. Monroe. Since Dr. McDade was the only surgeon (and a very busy one) at Littleton Hospital at the time, he was hoping to recruit another physician to set up an independent surgical practice, who would provide assistance during complex surgeries, and share in performing the increasing number of surgical cases at Littleton Hospital. Dr. Monroe spent a week shadowing Harry McDade. The two surgeons climbed Mt. Lafayette together, had dinner at the Greenleaf Hut, and observed a magnificent sunset on the hike down to the trailhead. The events of this week in the North Country solidified Dr. Monroe's determination to settle in the Littleton area. He began practicing in Littleton on November 11, 1967. His first office was in a home on Main St., Littleton, beside the Congregational Church. Once the hospital had office space at its Cottage St. location, Dr. Monroe moved his practice to the new location. He remained in practice until September of 1999.
When Littleton Hospital first had a designated Emergency Room, the medical and surgical physicians rotated taking call. Between the late 1960s and 1970s, the volume of patients coming to the Emergency Room increased considerably. Dr. Monroe mentioned that the existing "call" system was becoming burdensome to him and the other physicians, who were maintaining their office practices, visiting inpatients at the hospital, making home visits, and taking calls to the Emergency Room. The hospital began staffing the Emergency Room with a full time Emergency Room physician in November of 1976. This change alleviated this situation.
Dr. Monroe would like to be remembered as a physician with a good bedside manner. Patients appreciated his smile, and his kindness in making home visits to patients recovering from surgery. He was extremely dedicated to his patients, once spending three days in the hospital's new intensive care unit carefully caring for a teenage patient on a respirator. She was the only survivor of six people in a serious head-on collision on Route 93, which at the time was just a two lane road. Dr. Harry McDade and Dr. Monroe had performed 15 hours of trauma surgery to keep the young lady alive. She was on life support, and Dr. Monroe did not leave her side for three days. Once the young lady recovered, she asked her parents to bring her for a visit to Littleton so she could see this community and meet the people who saved her life. Years later, this woman's family invited Dr. Monroe and his wife, Sandy, to her wedding.
Doctor and Mrs. Monroe still live in Littleton. They raised their family here, and continue to be active members of the Littleton Community.