For two generations of Gainesville children and their families, he was just “Dr. Mike.”
Dr. James Michael Hosford, one of the area’s best-known pediatricians, died Thursday at the age of 65.
“He had an incredible rapport with people. He knew all the parents by their first names,” said Dr. Susan Traxler, one of his colleagues at Sherwood Park Pediatrics.
Hosford founded the practice 30 years ago. Though he was at a point in his career when many physicians would have retired, he didn’t even consider the possibility.
“He loved his job. He loved the kids,” said Traxler. “We called him the ‘Energizer bunny.’ He was so full of energy, he never sat down.”
Hosford’s apparent vitality belied his grave condition. Many people had no idea he’d been battling metastatic cancer since 2005.
“He kept working almost a full schedule even after major surgery and chemotherapy,” said Traxler. “It was only about three weeks ago that he finally went on medical leave. But he was fighting it up until the end. He was determined to beat it.”
Hosford’s will to live was so strong that he made others believe he could somehow overcome his illness. Traxler said Friday it was difficult to talk about him in the past tense.
“Most of the staff in this office have been here for many years,” she said. “Everybody loved working with him. We’re a family.”
Dr. Eugene Cindea, now a pediatrician with the Longstreet Clinic, said Hosford was the reason he came to Gainesville from Cincinnati in 1990.
“Mike hired me, and I practiced with him for six years,” he said.
They remained friends, and Cindea visited Hosford late Thursday night, just before he died.
“I told him, ‘Medical training teaches you how to be a physician. You taught me how to be a doctor,’” Cindea said. “He taught me how to listen, how to interact with (pediatric) patients, and more important, with their parents.”
Tracy Vardeman, vice president of strategic planning at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, called Hosford “a great communicator.”
“He was always upbeat and had a gift for humor,” she said. “He was a master at alleviating children’s fears.”
Despite his busy practice, Hosford found time to serve on a number of committees at the hospital.
“He was respected by his peers,” said Vardeman. “He held a variety of positions among the medical staff.”
Cindea said Hosford wanted to speak up on behalf of his fellow doctors and make sure their needs were met.
“He loved the job, but he also thought the profession was important,” Cindea said. “He was our local representative to the American Academy of Pediatrics for several years.”
Yet there was more to Hosford’s life than work. He was an active member at First Presbyterian Church and sang in the choir for three decades.
And he had a playful side.
“He laughed last night when I told him I was going to wear shorts to the office today,” said Cindea.
“Mike always wore shorts to work on Fridays. He said that was ‘casual day.’”
Cindea said he once asked Hosford if he was building up a “nest egg” for retirement.
“And he said, ‘What for? This is my life’s calling,’” Cindea said. “As far as he was concerned, his retirement would come on the day he got called up to heaven.”
Hosford is survived by his wife of 42 years, Susan Smith Hosford, as well as three children and seven grandchildren.
His funeral service is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at First Presbyterian. Mason & Ward Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.
Hosford’s family has asked that people remember him “through an act of service to others.”