What’s Up Doc? Retirement, that’s what

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Dr. Scott Bateman hangs up his stethoscope after nearly a half-century practicing in Malibu. Photo courtesy UCLA Health.

Dr. Scott Bateman hangs up his stethoscope after nearly a half-century practicing in Malibu

It’s been a distinguished and incredible career for Dr. Scott Bateman who is hanging up his stethoscope after an astonishing 47 years of practicing medicine. With nearly a half-century practice solely in Malibu, the beloved caregiver has announced his retirement.

Born in Florida, raised in New Jersey, Bateman received his medical training at Tufts University in Boston. In 1974, he settled in Pacific Palisades, halfway between Santa Monica Hospital and his Malibu office that had various locations, including in a jewelry store, until eventually joining UCLA Health. The family physician of five-decades will no longer be seeing patients but may consider occasional work for a UCLA clinic or malpractice medical chart reviews. He’s keeping his options open. 

Still, the 78-year-old clarified, “I have no direct plans of starting another practice.We’re going to do some traveling and I’m going to get back in shape, having not done anything for the last decade.”  

The once competitive horseback rider may not be at Sycamore Farms as often as he used to though.

“It’s farther to the ground than it used to be,” he quipped. However, he has taken up pickleball: “It’s killing me. I’m going to have to go slowly.”

The grandfather of six and his wife Serena, a retired RN, have two children, Adam and Ashley Bateman. Ashley is also a physician at UCLA Health Malibu. 

In five decades he said he couldn’t surmise just how many patients he has seen. 

“I couldn’t even guess that,” he said. “On the average when I was full-time I’d see 100 to 125 patients a week. Normally a family medicine physician will handle about 1,500 to 2,000 families.”

Decades of making house calls in Malibu, with its frequent natural disasters was challenging too. “I’ve been through fires, floods, the Big Rock slide, everything,” Bateman recounted, including during one fire when his office struggled to stay open. His staff hung a sign outside offering free showers for firemen. 

“We had a slew of fireman coming in.” He recalled. “I’ve made house calls to some of the rich and famous. I’ve made house calls to the most common people. I’ve made house calls in the Valley and up Topanga in the mountains to a recluse hermit. I’ve seen a lot. I made a heck of a lot of house calls. It’s a pleasure to do that because you get the chance to see your patients in their environment, not in yours. It makes a big difference.”

And he’s told a few jokes along the way to ease some of the more uncomfortable parts of a physical such as a male digital exam. 

“Your prostate is fine,” he’s known to say, adding, “your tonsils seem okay too.” 

The easy-going practitioner explained the chestnut: “All doctors develop a little spiel. Doctors by and large are teachers. So, what we have to do is teach our patients. You develop all sorts of things that if they work they stick with you. If they don’t work you find something else.”

Bateman’s love for Malibu residents is reciprocal. He was honored mid-career in 1992 with a Dolphin Award for his service to the community. 

“I’ve loved all of it,” he said. “Malibu feels like my extended family. I still have patients who I saw as kids. It’s an ambivalent time for me. I am ready to retire, but I’m sure going to miss a lot of the things I’ve done.

“I’ve got a small collection of AA chits (sobriety coins) that people give me, two-year, six-year, eight-year chits marking how long people have been in AA. They give them to me and often say, ‘The only reason I’m here today is because of you and I want you to have this as a memory.’ It’s things like that that make me feel that I’ve been an integral part of the community.”

Another achievement Bateman is proud of is bringing the first hospice program into Malibu. 

“My wife working for the visiting nurse association helped develop it,” he said, noting that he is still involved in palliative care. “It’s a very integral part of family medicine. In family medicine we see newborns and we see the end of life and pretty much everything in between.”

That includes what the doctor acknowledged accounts for close to 30 percent of what a family physician sees; emotional or psychological issues. 

“Dealing with alcoholism, opiate addictions that cause family problems, adolescent depression. We do a lot of mental health care and I think that we do it pretty well,” Bateman said.

Bateman will be sorely missed. Since announcing his retirement, the good doctor said he’s been receiving a lot of hugs from appreciative patients. He’ll be at UCLA through the end of December.