Author, doctor discusses role of country doctors

Country doctors are the “calm in the midst of the storm” for their patients, according to author and physician Dr. Sam Taggart.

Taggart, who spoke to the Hot Springs National Park Rotary Club earlier this week, should know – a country doctor himself, he has interviewed dozens over the years and recently published a book, “Country Doctors of Arkansas “.

The book began as a series of interviews, recorded from 2016 to 2017, examining the lives and practices of rural Arkansas doctors over the past 70 years.

Taggart said the idea for the book came to him while he was writing “The Public’s Health” in 2012.

“There are a huge number of healthcare workers who work in relative obscurity, known only to their patients and a few colleagues,” he said.

“My wife and I, and a friend of ours, started the Arkansas Physician’s Oral History Project,” a nonprofit, he told Rotarians on Wednesday at DoubleTree by Hilton Hot Springs. “We go to small towns that have only 2,500 to 5,000 (people) and interview these guys. We interviewed about 60. The oldest was 96 and the youngest was 34.”

To create a representative sample of physicians involved in rural health in Arkansas over the half-century, the project focused on small towns or slightly larger towns in rural areas, covering all corners of the world. ‘State.

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“The question arises when you start to say who these people were? Who Were Arkansas’ First Country Doctors? Taggart said.

“We have it with pretty good authority now that there were human beings roaming this place we call Arkansas… on a high bank of the Cash River west of Jonesboro known as the Sloan site. . millennia … I don’t mean a hundred years … millennia, thousands of years, these people have developed part of their pharmacopoeia, it was miracle waters, “he said.

“In 1935 there was a study done by chemical engineers. They demonstrated and documented 365 different mineral sources in the state of Arkansas. These people used that water, they used the sludge, they used the salts from the Saline River. They used all of these things to help heal people. “

Taggart said that later, in the early 19th century, “Not all doctors were doctors. They were called home medicine. Women did a lot for their families and neighbors.” In Taggart’s book, he calls them “Granny Doctors”. Midwives were a valuable asset to the community.

“There are characteristics of country doctors. People in small towns and countryside trust their doctors. Country doctors may not be wise… I can say that because I am one of the between them, “Taggart joked. “But the people who live in the cities consider them to be the smartest and wisest people they’ve ever met. They think of them in terms of wisdom. They don’t have all the equipment that these other people have. have, but they can make decisions and they can help me know when I need to go elsewhere and be taken care of. “

An example of a trusted campaign doctor was Dr. John William Morris. “He practiced medicine until the age of 102. On his 100th birthday, the town of McCrory gave him a birthday party. He returned to his office and saw 29 patients thereafter. “said Taggart.

Country doctors, in general, are “there from that first half breath of life panting,” he said, “until the other half of that breath … that sigh at the end of life. They are not defined by your gender. They are not defined by whether you are a child or an elderly person. They are not defined by your medical condition. They are just there to take care of the patients. This is their job. This is what they do.

“The country doctor is the calm in the midst of the storm. Most of them have a calm voice, most of them have a warm smile and a soft touch. These guys are the narrator of the community story. , they are the Father Confessor, they are the priests of technology. People come to the office and say, “Should I have this kind of scan?” This person is the one helping to interpret if this scanner, if this drug is appropriate for them. Part of the country medic’s job is to be the priest of technology. “

Taggart said: “There are four or five families in the state of Arkansas that have a lineage dating back to the 19th century,” including Dr. Frank Thibault, who has the longest direct line of doctors in Arkansas. .

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