Charles Crist, MD, Retires After Distinguished 55-Year Career
“I literally cared for thousands of patients through the years,” said Dr. Crist, who turned 84 on June 12. “I delivered 300-400 babies as a general practice physician. Back then we did a lot more because now medicine is very specialized. We delivered and provided pediatric care for the babies. I performed minor surgery and minor orthopedic procedures. And I made a lot of house calls and carried a huge bag because I had to take all of the medications with me when we visited patients.”
“Charles Crist has been an influential presence at St. Anthony’s Hospital and throughout the community,” said St. Anthony’s President Bill Ulbricht. “Dr. Crist has provided compassionate care to his patients but also has been a guiding force in the community through his work on various boards and committees. We can’t thank him enough for being a part of our family.”
In March, St. Anthony’s presented a special plaque to Dr. Crist for being the longest tenured physician at the hospital during its 85th Anniversary.
Dr. Crist was born in Altoona, Pa. After receiving a master’s degree in biochemistry from Pennsylvania State University in 1956 and his doctor of medicine degree in 1960 at Emory University, he and his wife Nancy came to St. Petersburg for a visit. “When we came down in 1960, we had no intention of staying,” he said. “I had a residency contract with the University of Pittsburgh and planned to return there.”
He quickly changed his mind. “I just remember going fishing and then telling Nancy that we weren’t going back,” he said. “I fell in love with Florida and I still am.”
Dr. Crist began his medical career in Florida with an internship at Mound Park Hospital, which is now Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. He worked at Mound Park but also served Mercy Hospital, which was the hospital for African Americans during segregation. He would spend the majority of his 55-year career affiliated with St. Anthony’s Hospital.
Although his medical career kept him busy, Dr. Crist did play an active role in the community. “I was young and had a lot of energy,” Dr. Crist quipped. “I wanted to be a part of and serve this community.” Dr. Crist was a member of several professional organizations and community boards including the Pinellas County School Board of which he served as chairman from 1975-77; the Pinellas County Medical Society; the American Academy of Family Practice; the Bank of Florida Board of Directors; the Pinellas County Board of Health; and the Department of Family Practice at St. Anthony’s, where he served as chief.
Through the years, Dr. Crist worked with many young physicians. In 2005, Jerry Bishop, MD, who specializes in family medicine, joined Dr. Crist’s practice. “I was moving to Florida and had interviews set with a few practices,” Dr. Bishop said. “Dr. Crist’s was the third that I interviewed with and I didn’t think it would be the right fit. But the minute I met him, we just hit it off. We realized we were just two Pennsylvania boys.”
Dr. Bishop said that he enjoyed being both a colleague and a friend of Dr. Crist. “He is the consummate gentleman,” he said. “If you were on call and needed someone to cover for you or see a patient, he was there.”
Dr. Crist and his wife Nancy are the parents of former Gov. Charli`e Crist, who is currently running for Congress; Elizabeth Crist Hyden, MD, a radiation oncologist; and Catherine Crist Kennedy, associate vice president for Academic Affairs and Partnerships at St. Petersburg College. Their eldest child, Margaret Crist Wood, passed away in 2015. They also have numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.If he had one piece of advice to give to young physicians just starting out, Dr. Crist said he would tell them to listen to their patients. “It was the same advice that one of my professors at Emory gave me as he was about to retire,” Dr. Crist said. “He told me that if you listen closely enough to your patients, they will eventually tell you exactly what’s wrong. Sometimes, just listening can be better than any test.”
About St. Anthony’s Hospital
St. Anthony’s Hospital is a 393-bed hospital founded in 1931 as a ministry of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany and was the first faith-based hospital in Pinellas County. For more information on St. Anthony’s, call (727) 953-6993.
About BayCare Health System
BayCare is a leading not-for-profit health care system that connects individuals and families to a wide range of services at 14 hospitals and hundreds of other convenient locations throughout the Tampa Bay and central Florida regions. Inpatient and outpatient services include acute care, primary care, imaging, laboratory, behavioral health, home care, and wellness. Our mission is to improve the health of all we serve through community-owned, health care services that set the standard for high-quality, compassionate care.