Robert Brull is a modern country doctor. He will make a housecall if he must, but he prefers to see patients in his Hagerstown office--or in the hospital. Brull, 42, is from Baltimore, an alumnus of the University of Maryland, both premed and medical school. He was a resident at the Washington Hospital Center before coming to Washington County.

Brull is a board-certified internist. What he is not is a general practitioner--GP. He prefers not to stitch Johnny's head if it splits open. In fact, Brull prefers not to treat Johnny at all. He has enough (five) kids at home, he says. He doesn't want to see them in his office.

Brull treated cancer patients until an oncologist started a practice in Hagerstown. Brull was glad to give it up. "It's not very happy," he said. "Everybody dies."

By anybody's standard, Brull works a long day. He starts around 7 in the morning and doesn't finish until 8 or 9 at night. His office is closed Thursdays so he can spend more time at the Washington County Hospital, where he sees patients seven days a week.

Brull and Frances Leatherman have a mutual admiration society. "Dr. Brull doesn't give out a lot of information to the patient until he knows," she says. "I think he believes it scares the patient. He says, 'When I know what's wrong with you, I'll tell you.'"

"She's a pretty bright lady," he says of Leatherman. Because she is childless, Brull observed, she is free to focus on the problems of others in the family, many of whom are also Brull's patients. It was Brull who first diagnosed Frances Leatherman's lupus --a degenerative disease that destroys the body's connective tissues--when other doctors were mystified by her condition. Brull continues to treat Leatherman's relatively mild form of lupus. Since she learned of her disease, she has read all she could about lupus and founded a local chapter of a national lupus organization.

"She's not a pushover," Brull said. "She's not meek. She's sharp. If you're a phony, she'll know it."

Brull says he likes living in Hagerstown. "Once in a while I wish there were a little more going on. A lot of doctors don't come out here for that reason. I frankly don't think I would have time if there were (more to do). I'm pretty busy."