Healthcare Award spotlights three decades of community service

Dr. Bill Kirby to be honored at State of the Community Dinner
By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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A physician and community leader who’s been making a difference in Auburn for more than three decades is this year’s Healthcare Award honoree. Dr. Bill Kirby’s association with Auburn began when he was “recruited” by a couple of well-known residents. “I was working at the VA hospital in Martinez, taking care of Lloyd Beggs, former editor of the Journal who took the Auburn Little League team to the World Series,” Kirby said Monday. “Frank Olrich, who was a doctor in town and is now deceased, called me and liked the way I took care of Beggs. So he said, ‘We don’t have a urologist in town, so why don’t you come here?’ So I did.” The medical profession was a natural choice for Kirby. His grandfather and two uncles were physicians. His father had a Ph.D. in chemistry and his mother had a master’s degree in microbiology. There’s also a long history of community service. “My grandfather was president of the school board for many years,” Kirby said. “My father was president of the Little League in Austin, Texas, and president of the swimming team for many years.” Kirby happily carries on that tradition. That’s what made him stand out, said Mitch Hanna, Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital chief administrative officer. “We basically try to identify someone (for the Healthcare Award) who exemplifies community service in the health care area. Certainly Dr. Kirby is one of those people. We don’t just look at health care, we look at the whole picture. “He’s been very active here on the medical staff. He’s been a past chief of staff and past chairman of the surgery department. He currently does not take emergency call coverage — after so many years, you don’t have to. But when he’s in town, he is always available to the emergency room. … Above and beyond that, he, without compensation, does sports physicals for Placer High School. He serves as the team physician for the Placer football team, which occupies his Friday nights much of the time in the fall. He’s got his hands in so many other community organizations — city councilman, on the Auburn Recreation District board for a number of years and chairman for a year or two. “He’s very active in Auburn Rotary Club and is present at almost every Rotary Club event, often cooking behind the grill when a barbecue is involved. He has served as president of Auburn Little League for four years and coached Little League for many more years. In my mind, he‘s a fine example of an all -around good community citizen.” For Kirby, being a Rotary Club member has been an enjoyable and strong way to give back to the community. “I realized these people are the leaders and shakers and they do so much,” he said. “… Not only Rotary, but also the Lions, Soroptimists (and other service clubs). So many people who can reach out and help.” He enjoys assisting Placer’s sports program, and he relishes being involved in politics, too. He ran for Congress. But he’s particularly fond of politics on the local level. “Local politics is the best politics, because our constituents can reach any of the five of us (on city council),” he said. “They have easy access to us. The higher up you go, the more distant you get from direct constituent involvement.” Kirby’s community activities are a natural extension of his basic work philosophy. The field of urology was a perfect choice because it gives him the time to get to know his patients. People get better by having a good relationship with their physician, he said. “Everyone has a story,” he said. “I have a patient who sunk the biggest battleship ever built — The Yamato in World War II. “ Another flew with Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz for Japan’s surrender in Tokyo Bay. Another was a guy who did all the drawings at the Brown Derby in Hollywood. Kirby’s office walls are covered with pictures of things his patients have accomplished and stories about them, he said. “I sit down and I listen to people,” he said. “Sometimes they only need a few seconds and they get the information and don’t need anything more. Othertimes they talk and I get to learn about their activities and their life.” Outside the office, he likes to golf — “It’s not about the game, it’s about the camaraderie,” he said. A past hobby was antique gun restoration, which he took up during medical school. “I’ve always been handy,”he said. “I’d get 100- or 200-year-old muskets, restore them and sell them.” During his time as a resident, he learned to fly and got his pilot’s license. He’s been a member of Flying Doctors for many years. “One of the most gratifying events is to fly down to Oasis in the Coachella Valley and take care of migrant farmers,” he said. Another source of pride is his children. His daughter, Sarah Kirby Gonzalez, teaches fifth-grade in Rancho Cordova. “She’s been Teacher of the Year for two years in a row,” he said. Son James Kirby just graduated from Loyola Marymount “with a double major — political science and history, and is preparing to take the law exam,” he said. Kirby will receive the Health Care Award at the State of the Community Dinner on May 7. Gloria Young can be reached at