Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Recently, Dr. Maura Dollymore, Surgeon General of the U.S. Coast Guard, Dr. Margo Erme, medical director of the Summit County Ohio Public Health Department, and I traveled to Mercer and McDowell counties for a reunion marking 29 years since we were assigned to work at Welch Emergency Hospital after our residency training. All three of us had received scholarships from the U.S. Public Health Service that required service in an underserved area. The experience in Welch was life-changing for us — forging our medical skills in the cauldron of grinding poverty and inconsistent access to quality medical care for the uninsured of McDowell County. In that difficult environment, we were sustained by the generosity and loving kindness of the staff and our patients at Welch Emergency.
We also want to pay tribute to the unsung physician heroes who supported us during that time — those doctors who took our calls asking that they see our sick, complicated, uninsured patients who needed specialty care. Doctors like Dr. Bruce Lasker who stood ready to take over care of our complicated obstetrical patients whom we transported to Bluefield in Buzzo’s Ambulance Service over three mountains; Dr. Randall Lester who willingly accepted our patients in need of surgery; Dr. Chad Ashby who provided emergency phone consultations for our patients with myocardial infarctions and critical aortic stenosis.
Drs. Dollymore, Erme and I have relied on the experiences during those years in McDowell County to shape our careers as physicians. We have shared those experiences with our colleagues throughout our careers. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all those who made it possible for us to tend to the medical needs of all those folks who trusted their lives to our care.
Barbara G. Cook, M.D.
medical director, The Access Partnership
Johns Hopkins Medicine