There is no truth to the rumor that he once prescribed Coca-Cola as an over-the-counter medication. But he can confirm the fact that good health is the key to long life.
If you’re one of the few people in Lebanon who doesn’t know Doc Yocum, perhaps the best way to describe him is as the old country doctor in a small town.
He wears a lot of hats and works a lot of hours. He has a character-inspired bedside manner. And he genuinely cares about — and for — his neighbors.
Welcome to the world of Dr. Jeffrey Yocum, family physician and county coroner.
“That’s the old-fashioned idea of a doctor,” Yocum said. “You see kids come into the world. They get married and have kids, and you take care of them. I’m seeing three generations of families. I’m a family doctor, and my patients are family. When you’re not feeling well, it bothers me. Single family doctors, to me, are a dying breed. You’re part of the family, and the doctor cares about you. When someone passes away, you lose one of your own.”
Following in the footsteps of his father, Yocum has been practicing family medicine in Lebanon for the better part of the last 37 years — at the same Cumberland Street location where his dad did.
But all that practice has spurned other practices and roles for Yocum, such as Lebanon County’s coroner, the city of Lebanon’s health officer, the Cornwall-Lebanon school district’s team and school physician, a certification in osteopathic medicine and his work in addiction medicine.
And he still makes house calls — at least ten a week to regular patients who now have a hard time getting around.
“Yeah, it’s a lot,” said Yocum, a 1973 graduate of Lebanon High School who’s now in his mid 60s. “They’re people who can’t get out. How do you turn away patients just because they can’t come in? They’re comfortable in their environments, and they’re appreciative. It obviously takes extra time.”
On a typical day, Yocum leaves the house at 2:45 a.m. and doesn’t get home until 8 p.m.. All that adds up to over a hundred hours a week, and of course there’s the on-call hours necessitated by his coroner duties.
“I care about people, that’s why I’m here,” Yocum said. “That’s why I went into the field. That’s what keeps me going — keeping people healthy, seeing them get better and be well. That’s payment enough for me. If you don’t love what I do, then you can’t do what I do. That’s the key. I haven’t lost that drive yet.”
Because of all of his comings and goings, Yocum really has some stories to tell, which he often does. He’s quite a character, but first and foremost, he’s a people person.
“You can be the smartest doctor on earth, but if you can’t communicate, you’re not going to be a good doctor,” Yocum said. “Your patients have to feel that you care about them. It’s just my personality. You feel out the situation. When you go into the room, you know what you’re going into. You’ve got to be able to judge people and situations.”
Because it was instilled in him at a young age, Yocum takes the concept of family doctor quite literally. One of the things that keeps him going is the prospect of his son taking over the practice in the future, and carrying on both the Yocum name and tradition.
“My dad started here in ’42, and I came here in ’83,” said Yocum, of 940 Cumberland Street. “It’s always been here, and before that it used to be the rectory of a church. A lot of my patients got married in the waiting room. I knew I wanted to be a doctor in elementary school. There was no pressure from my dad, and don’t ask me how I knew.
“My son is in his third year of medical school, so he’s about three or four years away,” added Yocum. “It’ll be just like my dad did it. There’ll be a transition. When I first started, all the patients would say, ‘I don’t want the kid, I want the old man.’ I’ll be here until they start saying, ‘I want the kid.’”