First Impressions:

A Modern Day “Marcus Welby, M.D.”


By Sue Cunningham

In November, 1990, when my dad gained his first 24/7 client, he hired an overnight operator to handle calls for Dr. Gordon Van Otteren.

More than a quarter century later, Cindy Hutchinson is still answering calls on the third shift for Dr. Van Otteren, who prides himself as a “modern day Marcus Welby” being available to his patients around the clock.

Dr. Van Otteren is now age 80 and has been a physician for 55 years, the last 15 years as a solo practitioner.

Our answering service has enabled Dr. Van Otteren to practice the way he wants to care for his patients, making house calls, visiting patients in nursing homes and seeing patients in his office.

“They have been very efficient in taking my calls over the years because I have been aggressively forthright in telling the operators that I consider them to be an employee of mine and to behave as if they were my own secretary,” Dr. Van Otteren said.

When Dr. Van Otteren visited our office recently, I had to laugh at myself and tell him how terrified I was to relay his messages when I worked part time as an operator during college.

He was so straightforward on the phone back then and I wanted to make sure I communicated exactly what he needed to know. To see him now as a kind and gentle man, with a dapper bow tie and an easygoing manner, I can’t believe the mental image I had of him so many years ago.

Cindy Hutchinson recalls applying for her job because somebody told her she had a “pleasant voice on the phone.” She has always approached her job with the idea that “if someone is calling at 3 a.m. it is because they are having a problem and I let them know that I am there to help.”

“Dr. Van Otteren always wanted us to call him at home if the patient wanted to speak with him. We would let him know what the situation was, and he would ask us to patch through the call directly to him.”

I am so honored that our clients such as Dr. Van Otteren, who knew my dad, still rely on Cunningham Communications for their around the clock answering service needs.