When Bob Smith came to Ackerman from Ohio for work, he never dreamed his time in Mississippi would include an emergency surgery followed by a two-week hospital stay. Smith was diagnosed with a perforated ulcer, which can be deadly if untreated. Under the care of Cameron Huxford, MD, and Daniel Smith, MD, at OCH Regional Medical Center, Smith’s health was restored, and six months later, he came back to the Medical Center to thank Dr. Huxford and Dr. Smith, along with his nurses and other healthcare providers. “They showed me great southern hospitality, hospital style. I’ll be 76 this year, and those were the nicest people I’ve ever met,” stated Smith. “They saved my life. There’s no two ways about that.”
Smith’s testimonial is just one of thousands of stories from patients who have received life-saving care from the physicians at OCH Regional Medical Center. It’s why every year on March 30, OCH honors staff physicians on National Doctors’ Day for their tireless service. Every day people who are hurting turn to them for help. Because of their ability to heal and provide relief, they’re sometimes viewed as superheroes in the eyes of their patients. But just like all good superheroes, there’s a personal side to them most people don’t get to see.
As a pulmonologist, Dr. Huxford treats patients with conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, COPD, emphysema, pneumonia and sleep disorders. He’s a fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians and is board-certified in internal, pulmonary and critical care medicine, but don’t ask to see his high school diploma because he doesn’t have one. No, not even his GED! “I was 16 when I quit going to high school. I didn’t have a good reason other than I was bored. The intention wasn’t to not do anything. I worked odd jobs for a few months until I was accepted to the University of West Alabama on probation,” explained Dr. Huxford. He maintained the required GPA and transferred to the University of Mississippi where he earned his bachelor’s of science in biology and later completed his medical degree at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, a familiar line of business for Dr. Huxford.
“I grew up across the street from my grandfather who was a doctor. I went on house calls with him and can remember getting up with him at night when patients would randomly show up at his back door,” recalled Dr. Huxford. “I’m glad they don’t do that anymore!” he added with a laugh.
There are certainly aspects of the practice of medicine that have changed over the years, and family practitioner Everett McKibben, MD, has witnessed many of them in his 22 years of practicing. “There have been huge changes in the field of medicine; take for instance surgery. Now, most operations are outpatient or one-night stay, but I remember when it was common to have a week-long hospital stay for gallbladder removal surgery,” recalled Dr. McKibben.
Dr. McKibben also explained some of the changes have presented obstacles for physicians. “One of the biggest challenges is the third party payers like insurance companies and the government. Those groups have inserted themselves between patients and their doctors and want you to use their alternative treatment,” said Dr. McKibben. “There’s an artificial illusion that doctors work for the insurance companies, and that’s not true. Doctors work for patients,” he added.
At the young age of seven, Dr. McKibben knew he wanted to be a physician. “My grandmother worked as a nurse’s aid at a small hospital. She would take us to the hospital to show us off to her friends, and that’s when I became fascinated with the practice of medicine,” said Dr. McKibben.
Pediatrician Chasity Carpenter, MD, had a love for science, but her path to medical school wasn’t the traditional route. “I majored in biology in college, but before I completed my degree, life happened. I became a single mother and put school on hold temporarily,” explained Dr. Carpenter. Armed with coffee and an encouraging mother, she eventually completed her college degree, took the MCAT and started medical school. “My son grew up playing with my bone box from gross anatomy class and coloring pictures of ‘upside down trees’ or lungs,” remembered Dr. Carpenter with a laugh.
As a mother in her first pediatric rotation in residency, Dr. Carpenter was able to empathize with worried mothers who had questions about their children. “I enjoyed being there for the parents, as well as the children,” said Dr. Carpenter. “Unlike other fields of medicine, I was allowed to have fun and play with my patients. I love a child’s ability to find joy even in the midst of a serious disease. Even on the oncology floor, the kids would ride their IV poles down the hall in between getting chemotherapy treatments,” recalled Dr. Carpenter adding, “that’s not something you see on the adult floors!”
“To be honest, I had moments when I doubted my ability to take this journey with a toddler, but I made it through. I love what I do, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else!” Dr. Carpenter continued.
Dr. Carpenter’s sentiments parallel those you would hear from most physicians if you ask about their profession. Few would be doing the job if they didn’t have a passion for helping others. Like so many of us, Bob Smith will be forever grateful to his physicians at OCH. “I thank God for the experienced doctors at OCH who saved my life,” said Smith. “I recently attended a funeral, and the preacher talked about unfinished business. Because of the compassion and care rendered by these physicians, I’m able to take care of my unfinished business.
“National Doctors’ Day is a day of celebrating the compassion of physicians in caring for the sick and alleviating human suffering, as well as the many contributions they make in the never-ending fight against disease,” said OCH Administrator/CEO Richard Hilton. “The OCH Regional Medical Center board of trustees, administration and staff joins patients, family, and friends to express gratitude to members of the OCH Medical Staff for their hard work, dedication, loyalty and service to this community.”