A Page From North Quabbin History: Doctors in the family

Carla Charter pf Phillpston.

Carla Charter pf Phillpston. Paul Franz

Athol Hospital

Athol Hospital FILE PHOTO

Published: 03-17-2024 5:01 PM

By Carla Charter

The Dufault family has had three generations of doctors, all of whom have been graduates from Tufts University. This family of doctors had their beginnings in Athol.

Dr. Paul F. Dufault of Worcester, an internist, said his grandfather, Dr. Francis X. Dufault, moved to Athol from Gardner in 1928, living on School Street and having his office in his home. Dr. Francis X. Dufault was a general practitioner for all ages, as well as obstetrics. He graduated from Boston College and then from Tufts University Medical School in 1924 and was a doctor from 1930-1963, according to Paul.

In the 1950s, recognizing that Athol was starting to grow a bit and that it didn’t have a hospital, according to Paul, he and several other physicians decided the town needed one and helped found Athol Hospital.

His obituary, published in the Jan. 29, 1963, Athol Daily News states “The fact that he was a member of the active staff of Memorial Hospital and first chief of the hospital’s obstetric service is only a part of the story of his service to that institution. He was also one of those who played a major role in its founding.”

Prior to Athol Hospital, residents from Athol and the surrounding towns used Gardner Hospital. ”

“Athol is lucky to still have a community hospital. As opposed to Worcester, where most community hospitals have closed and there is just one big medical center,” Paul said.

“His son, my uncle, was Francis X. Dufault Jr.,” said Paul. Francis Dufault Jr. was raised in Athol, the oldest of five boys. They went to public school and were then all sent to Assumption Prep in Worcester for high school. Assumption Prep was a boarding high school. Paul’s uncle then attended Assumption College, and like his father graduated from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston in 1952, becoming an internal medicine physician. He joined the military, serving as an Air Force physician, then lived in Worcester, working at as a doctor and hospital administrator at Hahnemann Hospital in Worcester from 1961-2003.

Paul, like his uncle, became an internal medicine physician and graduated from Holy Cross, then like his grandfather and uncle before him, graduated from Tufts University School of Medicine in 1982. He grew up in Worcester and currently has a practice there.

“They inspired me to become a doctor, no doubt,” he said. “My uncle and grandfather were well respected.”

Many changes have come to the medical field since his grandfather and uncle practiced.

“The technology today, including MRIs and CAT Scans, provide medical options for treatments and conditions which have changed things for the better,” Paul said.

“The internet has changed a lot. Patients seen by my uncle and grandfather had limited or no knowledge about what they had. My patients have a lot more knowledge about their conditions,” he continued.

Paul said that both his grandfather and uncle did house calls.

“I did house calls for maybe five years and then stopped,” he said. “House calls are a good way to get to see and know people in their own environment—that’s changed.”

“A lot of times,” he said “my grandfather and uncle took care of people with various conditions themselves. Now, most patients have a specialist for every condition.”

Carla Charter is a freelance writer from Phillipston. Her writing focuses on the history of the North Quabbin area. Contact her at cjfreelancewriter@earthlink.net.