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A change of heart: Cardiologist Jim Price has retired

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Dr. Jim Price will now be playing golf twice a week instead of twice a month. Last Friday, his first day as a retired cardiologist, he sipped coffee on the patio at Peet’s talking not about trips, time off and tee times, but about how much he will miss his patients.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have worked in such a wonderful place. So many nice patients and a wonderful staff, it was fun to go to work every day,” said Price, 73. “It’s been sad leaving.”

An open house was held at his Sonoma medical office on his last day and he was touched that more than 200 patients and former patients came by to say goodbye and wish him well. “Medicine is an opportunity to meet so many people and realize how many nice people there are in the world. It’s such a privilege to have had those relationships.”

Price and his wife Peggy, who ran his medical office for most of his career, moved to Tucson last Saturday. They sold their homes in Santa Rosa and Gray Eagle and are building a home there “five minutes from the golf course.” They’d planned on staying here a while longer, but were surprised when both their homes sold as soon as they went on the market. “Right now we are just trying to get settled,” he said.

Price has practiced cardiology for 43 years, originally in Santa Rosa and for the past 18 years in Sonoma. “I wish I had spent the whole time in Sonoma,” he said. “It’s a healthy city. I have many patients 90 and older who are still healthy and active.”

Two cardiologists from Marin Cardiologist Group will begin practicing in Sonoma part time and cardiologist Thomas Dunlap, a Sonoma native, will soon be opening an office on First Street East.

“You get older and like in any profession you want to leave while you are still happy with what you are doing,” he said. He made plans to retire a few years ago, but ultimately decided he just wasn’t ready. They had sold the family home in Santa Rosa and moved to Oakmont, then realized it wasn’t for them. They left and bought a home on a cul de sac in a family-oriented neighborhood a few miles away and have delighted in getting to know all the kids playing outside on the block. Price frequently brings boxes of cookies from Scandia Bakery and the neighbor kids would be waiting. He says he’s going to miss them.

The Prices have two sons and four grandchildren. Katie, 16, and Ellie, 13, live in Santa Rosa and Paige, 20, and Parker, 15, live in Portland. They will miss them but, “We might see them more in Tucson,” he laughed. They are very busy with school, sports, dance and FFA, and they look forward to seeing them for longer spurts when they come and visit.

Price is an Oregon native and went to undergraduate and medical school at the University of Oregon. When he and Peggy came to UC Davis for his residency they fell in love with California. “It was supposed to be one year and we noticed it is sunny every day here and never moved back to Oregon.”

Two of Peggy’s brothers have homes in Tucson, and the Prices have been going there frequently for years. Besides golf they both play tennis and pickle ball and already have made friends there so they think it will be the perfect place.

As he leaves medicine, Price is pleased to have seen so much progress in caring for heart disease. “It used to be if you had a heart attack you spent a month in the hospital. Now they put a stent in and you’re out in two days. The technology is incredible.” He estimates that when he was first practicing in Santa Rosa they were doing about 400 open heart surgeries there a year, and now he said it is probably about 50.

He said that while there are still many people with heart disease advances in medications and technology keep most from ever having a heart attack. “People have become much more conscious of the importance of diet and exercise. And the biggest change is now most people don’t smoke. Smoking is an incredible risk factor.”

Price was a runner most of his life and went to undergrad school on a track scholarship. From early on he’s known the joy and benefits of sports and exercise, and that hasn’t changed. Sitting in his khaki shorts and pale orange polo, his whole face smiling, he looks like a man with nothing but good times ahead.

It is still sunny every day for Dr. Price and Peggy.