Fall Out

The military turned Ron Falcon into an officer, a gentleman, and a doctor. When the brass discovered he was gay, they kicked him out and sent him the bill.

"Bottom line: Ron was honorably discharged because he was being honest," the SLDN's C. Dixon Osburn emphasizes. "They couldn't prove he was saying he was gay to get out of the military. If they could have, believe me, they would have. And when the discharge is honorable, a good case can be made that there's no grounds for recoupment."

It has been nearly a year since the Denver panel ruled, and no final decision has yet been rendered by the Pentagon in Falcon's case.

 

Carolyn Swiszcz

"It's been a diarrhea kind of night," Dr. Ron Falcon quips as he moves briskly between examination rooms at the HealthPartners Clinic and Family Medical Center in Woodbury. During this night's five-hour shift in urgent care, he will attend to 17 patients, including a kid who has been hit in the mouth with a golf ball, a desperate man begging for a painkiller prescription, and a father and son both suffering from stomach flu ("Man, you gotta love twofers!").

During his residency, Falcon, like most fledgling M.D.'s, has been moonlighting a couple of shifts each month, at $65 an hour. Besides paying the bills, Falcon says the action-packed shifts have prepared him for his first full-time job, at HealthPartners' Uptown clinic, where he began work as a family practitioner in August. The many colleagues who have worked with Falcon over the years have nothing but praise for him. He is perpetually upbeat, they say, always willing to take an extra minute to listen to patients' concerns. Traits, in short, that go a long way toward "unit cohesion" among medical staff.

Tonight Falcon looks like the man he was ten months ago in Denver, conservatively dressed in a pressed pair of khakis and sensible brown loafers. What's different about his appearance could easily pass without notice: a thin band on the ring finger of his left hand, a silver hoop in each ear, a rainbow sticker on his stethoscope. "Sometimes when I walk into the room, people do a double take," he chuckles.

Besides his job at the Uptown clinic, Falcon plans to work with at-risk kids in the St. Paul schools and make weekly visits to the HIV clinic at St. Paul's Regions Hospital. He says he'll also be the first openly gay doctor profiled on HealthPartners' Web site, which offers biographies of all their network physicians. "There's a real need in this city for gay doctors. Believe me, I ought to know," he says, rolling his eyes. "So I expect initially to have a predominantly gay clientele. But I don't want to deal exclusively with those issues. I love pediatrics and I'm really well versed in women's health issues." A few years down the line, he says, he also hopes to do further research on gay health matters. "I have had people ask me, 'So, if I'm having anal sex regularly, am I going to have to wear a diaper when I'm 70?'" Falcon says with signature frankness. "No one knows the answers to those questions. And hey--they're good questions."

No matter how the military ultimately rules in regard to the $84,000 the government claims he owes, or whether his attorney manages to win on appeal, Falcon accepts the possibility that he will never practice medicine as an officer again. Either way, there will be no more pretending, he says. His stethoscope hangs across his chest. His military uniform hangs in the closet.

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