BELOIT, Wis. — During his 50-plus years of caring for patients in Beloit, Dr. Ken Gold has felt his strengths have been in the one-on-one relationships he has developed with patients.

Now, there has been a dramatic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that doesn't allow him to care for patients in the way that has made him such an in-demand health professional. So, he recently decided to retire at age 83, even though he will miss his patients and the other health professionals he has worked with over the years.

Gold saw his last patient at his office at the Beloit Clinic on March 12. After that, in-person visits were not possible because of precautions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He could reach out to patients over the phone, but the veteran physician felt he wasn't doing his job in the way he knew was best for them.

"I could always talk to them, but without touching them, examining them, looking them in the eyes. It became more and more uncomfortable," Gold, an internal medicine specialist, told the Beloit Daily News.

There were other concerns that he had to consider. He and his wife, Sandy, discussed the possible risks if he continued going to work each day. Dr. Gold said he had to consider not only himself, but the possibility of bringing the virus home to his wife, who is a 20-year cancer survivor.

In the end, Gold said he decided to take the advice of his wife and take the cautious approach. At first he continued to work with patients through his medical assistant and through phone conversations. He saw these as temporary measures until the COVID-19 pandemic subsided. But as the months went by, there was no sign of the pandemic easing up.

"When it got to the first week in May, it became apparent I was not going to get back to work," Gold said.

Once he made the decision to retire, Gold said his goodbyes to colleagues and patients.

"I had many tearful goodbyes over the phone," Gold said.

Cleaning out his office also turned out to be an emotional experience. He said he came across one file of his first patient from July 2, 1968.

In his retirement, he has found ways to keep busy. He works out on his exercise bike in the basement of his home. He has taken to reading Scandinavian mysteries, and he is trying his hand at cooking some meals, which he said Sandy enjoys.

He also has started meeting some friends at Leesons Park to discuss the events of the day in a socially distanced fashion.

In past interviews, Gold has said he had not retired before because he enjoyed his work. He enjoyed seeing people each day and he found that he operates better with a rigid schedule. Now, he tries to keep to a schedule at home, but there are plans that he had that are not possible due to the pandemic.

He and Sandy had planned on a cruise, and there was a trip to California that was in the works, but they were canceled due to the pandemic.

"It is a changed world," Gold said.

The well-known Beloit doctor is not only well respected by his patients, but by other physicians, first responders and community members.

Gold was awarded the Physician Citizen Award from the Wisconsin Medical Society last year, recognizing his years of service to the community and the state.

Gold served as medical director of the Beloit Fire Department from 1979 to 1990 to oversee training of emergency medical personnel.

He also has been a clinical professor of medicine with the University of Wisconsin Medical School for close to 25 years, helping in the instruction and onsite training of future physicians. He has worked with students both in Madison and in Beloit, helping them get hands-on experience. He said the restrictions of the pandemic also affects his education endeavors since his style of instruction was more in an apprenticeship style.

"On behalf of the entire Health System family, we want to thank Dr. Gold for his incredible dedication to our Community over the past 50 plus years," said Beloit Health System President and CEO Timothy McKevett. "His passion for quality and commitment to his patients has, and will continue to, set the standard for the Health System."