When an E-F5 tornado devastated the town of Hackleburg, Alabama, including both his medical offices, Dr. Keith Morrow continued to keep doing what he has done for more than 25 years — treat patients and serve as a pillar of his community.
For his extraordinary devotion and compassion, Dr. Morrow has been named the 2011 Country Doctor of the Year. Presented by Staff Care, the leading temporary physician staffing firm in the United States and a company of AMN Healthcare, the Country Doctor of the Year Award recognizes the spirit, skill, and dedication of America’s rural medical practitioners. Staff Care has presented the national award since 1992 to exemplary physicians practicing in communities of 30,000 or less.
"Dr. Morrow has been a rock for his patients," notes Tim Boes, President of Staff Care. "Before and after the tornado that demolished Hackleburg, he has been the foundation upon which the community rests."
Dr. Morrow stands at the site of his former office.
After completing his medical training in 1985, Dr. Morrow returned to practice in the area where he grew up, an economically challenged section of northern Alabama where virtually all of his patients depend on Medicare or Medicaid. For 25 years, he has seen an average of some 50 patients per day, treating all comers regardless of ability to pay, and often paying out of his own pocket to ensure his patients receive appropriate treatment. On call day and night, he is known for his "car hops" – consulting with patients who have mobility problems in the parking lot of his two offices.
Two days after the tornado that devastated Hackleburg and killed 28 local residents, Dr. Morrow began practicing out of tents pitched near the site of one of his former offices. Later, a local soft drink distributor donated the trailer of an 18-wheeler for Dr. Morrow’s use. Converted into a medical office with improvised "exam rooms," the trailer continues to serve as Dr. Morrow’s office, and is filled every day with patients. Dr. Morrow is rebuilding his offices and has vowed to stay in Hackleburg and continue to lead its recovery, though he could easily have used the destruction of Hackleburg to relocate to a community with far fewer challenges.
As the 2011 Country Doctor of the Year, Dr. Morrow will be able to enjoy two weeks of time off, as Staff Care will provide a temporary physician to fill in for him at no charge, a service valued at approximately $10,000. He also will receive the award’s signature plaque featuring a country doctor making his rounds on a horse and buggy, an engraved stethoscope, and a monogrammed lab coat.
Do you know an outstanding physician working in a rural setting? Please take a moment to nominate him or her for next year's Staff Care Country Doctor of the Year Award.