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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 22, 2011

Dr. Bob is a true giver

ALBANY –– Most doctors live lavishly, but Dr. Bob Paeglow does not. Practicing without a salary, his “paycheck” is seeing people do well, prospering in life.

Paeglow, 57, lived in Altamont from 1979 to 2001 before moving back to Albany to complete his vision of giving back to his old neighborhood. For 11 years, Dr. Paeglow, his wife, Leane, son, Robert, and many volunteers, have been caring for the underserved in West Hill, Albany’s poorest neighborhood.

“Money is not important; it’s a tool,” said Paeglow from inside his Koinonia Primary Care building on Clinton Ave. “Caring for people is more valuable than any salary. I’m going to keep doing it this way.”

West Hill was relatively quiet on Tuesday morning, but Paeglow said that a shooting had taken place across the street on Monday afternoon. Two years ago, a stray bullet killed Katina Thomas.

Personally, Paeglow feels safe, but he said some people are afraid. “Just look around at all the abandoned buildings,” he said. “There’s violence, but we’re here for the people who need help.”

On Dec. 14, members of the University at Albany football team volunteered at Paeglow’s annual Christmas Blessing Celebration, a festive event for the less fortunate. Paeglow played football as an undergraduate at UAlbany, part of the school’s only undefeated team in 1974.

“I was happy to see those young men come down here because kids need positive role models,” Paeglow said. “The ‘hood doesn’t have many role models. Young people need a positive influence.”

Head Coach Bob Ford was like a second father to Paeglow, teaching him the importance of hard work, discipline, and sacrifice. “He had a tremendous influence on my life,” said Paeglow. “He’s an icon and a great teacher.”

Paeglow said that he wasn’t interested in much besides playing football and drinking beer when he was earning a biology degree at UAlbany, so, when the time he decided at age 36 to apply for Albany Medical College, he didn’t exactly have the best grades. A series of miraculous events got Paeglow an interview.

Living in Altamont and working in Albany Medical Center’s quality-assurance and radiology department, Paeglow believes he found his way into medical school because he was teaching physics to residents.

He graduated at the top of his medical school class in 1994 while raising four children and working on the weekends. “I was incredibly tried and discouraged at times and I had to borrow all of this money,” said Paeglow. “But, it would have been a disaster if I didn’t complete it. I was totally committed. I didn’t have a choice.”

Paeglow knew he had a gift to help people. It was in his DNA. His late father, Charles, was a generous man who taught him how to give and take care of other people. “My father would always have people in our home who didn’t have anywhere to go,” Paeglow said. “If he saw something wrong or unjust, he’d do something about it.”

In 1969, Paeglow said that his sister’s friend couldn’t graduate from elementary school, being short $80. His father gave the girl the money so she could graduate. “That was a lot of money back then,” said Dr. Paeglow.

Nothing is written, but serving the less fortunate has been the Paeglow family legacy. When Dr. Paeglow found his vision for medical school, a thought occurred.

“Was the world no better if I was born or not?” said Paeglow. “I didn’t want my life to be meaningless.”

After Paeglow graduated from Albany Medical College, he started doing overseas missions in Africa and Haiti. However, it was a one-month mission in Mozambique during his fourth year of school that really changed his life’s vision forever.

With death and disease running rampant around him, Paeglow was responsible for 50,000 refugees, the only “doctor” in a 1,000-mile radius. Paeglow treated those people with what he says was limited knowledge at the time.

“It was horrible,” Paeglow said. “Children were starving to death and there were landmines on the ground. My pillow was wet because I cried so much. A month is all I could take, but it made me want to learn so much more.”

Koinonia is a health-care facility, but it goes way beyond that. Paeglow’s vision has helped people find food, clothes, medicine, and, most importantly, hope in tough times.

Paeglow told The Enterprise that problems and needs are greater than when Koinonia opened its doors 11 years ago. “Koinonia” is from the Greek for communion by intimate participation and is used frequently in the Bible’s New Testament.

Has Paeglow seen true accomplishment?

“Globally, we’re in worse shape, but we have to look at the individual levels,” he said. “We’ve seen success on the individual basis, people doing better in life. We just need to keep fighting the good fight as needs continue to increase.”

Paeglow’s own needs are minimal now. As he walked into the lobby on Tuesday, three people approached him with smiles, addressing him as “Dr. Bob.” They seemed like friends, not patients.

“Never give up, persevere,” Paeglow concluded. “Follow your destiny.”

— By Jordan J. Michael

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