Called to serve
As a Christ-centered couple with a desire to serve others, Dr. David Blocker and his wife Tracey taught their three now-grown children to bloom where they are planted.
The way Tracey sees it, her husband, who serves as Hood County’s public health authority, led by example. David took root in Hood County not long before a global pandemic hit, and she believes the community has been blessed because of his knowledge and experience.
A retired flight surgeon, David has more than 20 years of public health experience and a master’s degree in that field.
Since the coronavirus pandemic hit with force in March, he has been coordinating with state officials to provide timely, accurate information to local elected leaders who have made tough decisions based on that information.
“Although they may not always like what I have to say, the fact is, they’re really respectful,” David said of the Coronavirus Task Force meetings, adding that they have reminded him of his time in the military. “If there’s a question about the facts, by all means, we discuss the facts.”
According to David’s most recent coronavirus update, which he emailed to the HCN Monday evening, no new cases had been reported for Hood County by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Three of the 22 county residents diagnosed with COVID-19 died, but one passed away from other causes.
Local elected officials have been targeted by vocal critics who feel that they should have defied Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders that shut down businesses and called for a phased reopening of the economy. Blocker somehow managed to fly under their radar except for a few frustrated phone calls.
“David just keeps pushing through this for the greater good,” Tracey said. “This county is truly blessed to have gotten David, or somebody like David, to know what he knows for so many years.”
Tracey and the couple’s kids – Brandon, Aaron and Julie – moved here in 2015 from Tampa, Florida to be near David’s parents, Roger and Linda Blocker. Linda was battling cancer. Roger is a retired Baptist minister.
David, 48, joined his family after retiring from the Air Force with the rank of colonel. He finished his career in San Antonio.
“I was commuting every weekend for two years,” he said.
Blocker’s military call sign was “Hoss.” Most of the younger men and women he served with had no idea that there was a connection between the names “Hoss” and “Blocker.”
David’s dad was third cousin to deceased actor and “gentle giant” Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on “Bonanza,” a popular TV western that aired on NBC from 1959 to 1973.
David had officially made Hood County his home when, in October 2018, then- County Judge Darrell Cockerham appointed him to be the county’s public health authority.
The gig was fairly uneventful until COVID-19 struck.
In April, as thousands of Americans were dying from the highly contagious disease, David suffered his own personal loss: his mother died at Lake Granbury Medical Center after spending 10 days in the Intensive Care Unit.
Although her cause of death was cancer and not COVID-19, the virus nevertheless impacted the family’s ability to grieve.
“We still have not had a funeral or a memorial service for her,” David said.
FOCUSED ON THE FUTURE
As phased reopenings occur in Texas and across much of the nation, Blocker is hoping to bring Hood County out of the pandemic with infrastructure that will put the community in better shape going forward.
He has recommended to county officials that they incorporate into the budget a public health nurse and an administrative assistant. He said that the nurse could attend various health-related meetings that already take place in Hood County.
Another possibility is for county officials to work with area counties to create a public health district. Each county would contribute toward funding the district.
Although Blocker feels it is unlikely that any such changes will happen in time for the 2020-2021 Fiscal Year budget, he feels that expanding the public health infrastructure would lead to a healthier community and ultimately save taxpayer dollars.
The Hood County Hospital District board, whose members include County Judge Ron Massingill and all four commissioners, last year began expressing concerns about rising indigent health care costs and the possibility that a hospital district tax may have to be imposed in the near future.
Blocker noted that more than 50% of students in the Granbury school district qualify for free and reduced lunch and said that there are “multi-generational issues” that could be hugely impacted through a strong public health effort.
“Anything we put toward public health in our community is going to reap huge benefits beyond the immediate cost,” he said.
Since the shutdown took effect two months ago, Blocker has attended emergency task force meetings and Commissioners Court meetings in between the three other jobs he holds. Though he is retired from the military, he is not actually retired in the literal sense. Just ask his wife, who thought he at least would be home more.“It’s like when we were on active duty,” she said of their life now.
Blocker works 30 hours a week at his Wound Care Center at Lake Granbury Medical Center (LGMC). He also serves as a senior medical examiner for the Federal Aviation Administration, performing pilot medical exams. In addition, he provides occupational medicine support for clinics in Dallas and Grand Prairie.
It’s been an incredible juggling act for me,” David said. “But we recognize that this is for a limited time. This is a public health crisis. This is a pandemic. We have to figure out what the new normal is.”
When David was provided an assistant to help him in his public health authority role, Tracey joked that the assistant saved their marriage.
The couple are now “empty nesters,” according to Tracey, who is a Realtor with Green Oaks Realty. Based in Arlington, the agency serves Hood and other rural counties.
The couple’s oldest son, Brandon, is now 21, married and living in San Angelo.
Aaron, 19, a graduate of Granbury High School, is in Air Force basic training.
Daughter Julie, 17, graduated early from GHS and is now a student at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is majoring in sustainability and architecture. She is frustrated, Tracey said, because of the impact COVID-19 is having on fall course offerings and teaching methods.
When asked about his children’s ages, David stumbles a bit.
“He loses touch,” Tracey said, referring to her husband’s military career and continued busy schedule. “He has missed a lot of family time.”
David said that he is “very thankful” to be in Hood County and to have an opportunity to make it a better place. He said that he turned down “a lot of job opportunities” because he wanted to be here.
“That’s all by choice,” he said. “God called us to serve here, and so that’s what we’re doing.”
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‘It’s been an incredible juggling act for me and the family, but we recognize that this is for a limited time.’
Dr. David Blocker