I was asked to speak to the pre-med honors society at the University of Alabama about the new health care law (either the Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare depending on your preferred news channel) but that is a story for another day. On the way back to Mobile, being untroubled by an Interstate highway in that part of the state, we decided to take the (way) back roads to eat lunch at an out of the way “fish camp.”  While sitting down at Ezell’s Fish Camp (“The Holy Grail and standard bearer of catfish camps.”) in Laveda Alabama I spy a person walking in with what is clearly a medical office staff who I think I recognize. It turns out that it was Bernita Mims, MD who graduated from our residency and is now working in Butler. It is a very small state!

I later was speaking to the waitress and she reminded me that Karen Manning, MD, a family physician who is one of our community faculty, has an office in Toxey, Alabama (Population 152). As we were driving through Toxey anyway, I stopped by to say hello. Dr Manning has an Rural Health Clinic which she shares with a Nurse Practitioner. I had a long conversation with her a couple of years ago where (as she recalls) I encouraged her to set up the practice and break away from the hospital system that was supporting her at the time. I was able to tour her new office and was impressed by the efficiency of the design, the effectiveness of the staff, and the ability of the office to bring medical care including lab, x-ray, and now ultrasound to a very rural part of the state. I was also impressed by the built-in child care arrangement that facilitates employee attendance and I’m sure accounts for the high employee morale.

As I finished my drive through rural Alabama and hit other towns where we have placed physicians, I was reminded of why I went into academic medicine. As a physician I can only reach so many people but as an academician I can extend that reach. Although we still have profound shortages in this state, at least we as a department are doing our part.