116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — As he reflects on a decadeslong medical career, the biggest lesson Dr. Scott Nau has learned is that every patient deserves to be treated with dignity.
But whenever possible, the Cedar Rapids-based pediatrician always makes a point to inject fun into every appointment, exchanging jokes and high-fives and fist bumps with his young patients.
“I think our job as pediatricians is to make the lives of our children and families better,” he said.
In recent weeks, Nau has begun to say goodbye to those moments as he prepares to officially retire as a pediatrician at Mercy Pediatric Clinic in Cedar Rapids on March 15, bookending a nearly 41-year-long career caring for some of the most complex and critical cases among local children.
Nau, who is 69 years old, started his medical career in 1981 after attending medical school at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and completing a pediatrics residency program at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.
He started practicing in Cedar Rapids at an independent medical group, which went on to be acquired by various entities, including UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids.
Nau and other providers at his group eventually joined Mercy Medical Center in 2014.
Much of Nau’s career took place within pediatric intensive care, handling the care of the most severely ill or injured children in Cedar Rapids. For the first 30-plus years of practice, Nau said he was on call 24/7 caring for any pediatric patients who came to the hospitals until they went home.
"There was an incident here, an incident there that made me really like those moments where you stepped in and made a huge difference in that moment in time,“ Nau said.
As a result, he collected a large number of kids on his patient list that had multiple issues and conditions, including former preemie babies and kids that had been severely damaged in an accident, by an infection or by abuse. These patients have stuck with Nau throughout the years because he knows the ins and outs of their complex health conditions.
“They could never really have a relationship with someone else that they had with me, who potentially has taken care of them since they were born and became sick,” he said. “The parents knew that I was going to know more about them than anyone else.”
His role as a longtime practitioner has enabled him to care for generations of patients. Many children that Nau cared for years ago are now bringing their own children to the Mercy Pediatric Clinic. Nau said he even has a few patients whose grandparents were his patients as well.
But caring for critically ill patients isn’t without its tragedies. For three years in a row, some of Nau’s young patients died on Christmas Eve.
“There’s been no one in the history of modern medicine in Cedar Rapids that has been with more children when their heart stopped than me,” he said.
Nau has continued to care for some special needs patients beyond childhood — some as far as into their 30s or 40s. He said it’s his belief that children with special needs should be afforded personal dignity and deserve all the same considerations as other children.
Throughout his career, he’s also seen how innovation in medicine has changed his practice. Thanks to immunizations, he no longer sees children die of bacterial infections, he said.
Nau recalled seeing classmates from Washington High School die of meningitis during high school and shortly after graduation, and seeing another friend lose a daughter within hours to the same infection.
“In today’s world, all of those illnesses would not have occurred,” he said. “Myth and misinformation drive current vaccine resistance. It is incredibly frustrating for me.”
Nau also noted a change in patient needs since he first started practicing. In recent years, he has seen more children with anxiety and obesity than he ever has. He points to the increased use of electronics, and said he often recommends parents limit screen time and encourage children to play outside as often as possible.
Nau said he will continue to see some of his more long-standing patients in his retirement, and will step in on evenings and weekends to help fill in. Otherwise, Nau said he’s looking forward to spending more time with his five grandchildren, traveling with his wife, playing tennis and gardening.
Mercy is hosting a retirement celebration for Nau on Thursday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Hallagan Education Center within the hospital, which is located at 701 10th St. SE in Cedar Rapids.
Community members also are planning a send-off for Nau at the end of his last shift. It will take place on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. outside Mercy’s Lundy Pavilion on 10th Street SE.
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