Apostol was the third of the doctors from the Philippines to come to Monett. He came to the United States in 1965 under the Exchange Visitor Program as a physician and did an internship in Chicago, where his brother-in-law lived. Apostol did his general surgery residency at Mt. Carmel Mercy Hospital in Detroit, where he met fellow resident physician Dr. F.R. Esparrago.
Esparrago came to Monett in 1970, and his classmate, Dr. Sergio Cruz, arrived in Monett from St. Louis in 1971.
"Esparrago called me and said 'We need you,'" Apostol recalled. "We came down to help then and here we are."
Apostol said he had witnessed street crime while living in Chicago. He and his wife, Natividad, decided they would much rather live in a small town. Coming to Monett represented a major transition for the Apostols. After becoming acquainted with a number of families in town, notably professionals like William H. Pinnell and EL Monroe, Apostol said he and Nati became convinced this was the place to raise a family.
Apostol started his practice in the basement of the hospital. Now his office is the first doctor's office patients come to entering Cox Monett Hospital from the north parking lot.
Apostol, who will be 72 this year, had been an on-call surgeon in addition to his general medicine practice. In 2007, he retired from surgery. He said it was too physically demanding to do surgery in the middle of the night at his age and then get up and see a full load of patients in the office during the day.
"Now," Apostol said, "it's time to retire and see the grandchildren grow."
|All of the Apostols' five children have excelled professionally, and Apostol speaks about them with great pride.||His eldest, Dr. Joseph Apostol, is an interventional cardiologist at St. Vincent's Medical Center in Billings, Mont. John Apostol is the manager at St. Louis Country Club. Dr. Jonathan Apostol is principal at Monett Middle School. James Apostol is a molecular biologist with the Luminex Company, and his daughter, Jennifer, is a molecular biologist with the Becton Dickinson Company in St. Louis. The Apostols presently have six grandchildren.|
Apostol's best moments as a doctor are successes he has had with patients. The most memorable was a 5-year-old classmate of Apostol's son, Joe, who came in with swollen glands and a sore abdomen, leading the mother to think appendicitis.
A blood test showed a very high white count. Apostol sent the patient and slides of his blood to St. Jude's Hospital, where very early acute leukemia was confirmed. The boy underwent initial rounds of radiation and chemotherapy which got the disease in remission. He needed additional treatment and came back to Dr. Apostol for specific blood treatments two or three times a week for years.
"He would cry when he would see someone in a white coat," Apostol said. "The only people he trusted were me and my nurse."
The boy not only made it through the treatments but beat the odds and now has a family of his own today. St. Jude's has had him back as a celebrated success.
In another case, Apostol had a 7-year-old girl come in with what her mother thought was the flu. Apostol determined the girl's appendix had burst days earlier and rushed her into surgery. The girl was in the hospital for two months. Her recovery was so complete that she went on to become one of the best Monett High School basketball players on record.
A 15-year-old Pierce City boy came to the emergency room with a lacerated liver and ruptured spleen after the farm tractor he was driving rolled over onto him. Apostol conducted emergency surgery and provided follow-up care. The patient came to the hospital at 207 pounds and went home two months later at 115 pounds but made a full recovery.
"My philosophy is we physicians are here to heal," Apostol said. "We are not infallible. Medicine is an art and a science. It's not black and white. My advice to new doctors would be listen to your patients. If you don't listen, you can't treat them."
Apostol hastened to point out his success came as part of a team.
"They're all very important, from the cleaning crew on up to the nurses, you've got to thank them," Apostol said. "I've learned that without those people, you can't function. It's like doing surgery without nurses."
One thing that has changed over time is the paperwork. Apostol said that if he was starting a career today, he might not become a doctor. Having outside parties dictating to the doctor what treatments will be allowed did not fit Apostol's idea of how medicine ought to be practiced.
"I will most miss taking care of my patients and getting them well," Apostol said.
"My family and I would like to express our warmest appreciation and many thanks for the support of this great community and the surrounding community for many years," he added.