For Country Doctor, House Calls are a Hike Down Grand Canyon
Bringing Healthcare to Remote Areas
Family practitioner Ken Jackson is known around
Kingman, Ariz., as the "Cowboy Baby Doctor,"
though he says the nickname is a bit misleading —
he doesn't always ride a horse or wear his cowboy
hat, and he prefers alternative rock to country
But for the past three years, Jackson has traveled by
horseback once a month deep into the Grand
Canyon to provide prenatal care for Supai, a remote
Native American village of about 400 that is
inaccessible by automobile.
It is the last place in the
USA to which the U.S. Postal Service makes deliveries
In winter, Jackson makes the trip by helicopter. But
come spring, he'll climb on one of his horses for
the trip to Supai, on the Havasupai Indian
Jackson, 62, who has worked on Native American
reservations and in small and medium-sized towns
for most of his 36 years as a physician, was recently
named 2010 Country Doctor of the Year.
The award, which honors a primary care physician who
exemplifies the spirit of rural practitioners, is given
by Staff Care, the largest physician staffing service
in the country, to physicians practicing in
communities of 30,000 or less.
For 16 years Jackson also has made medical visits to
the Indian Health Service clinic on the Hualapai
(pronounced ?WAH-lah-pie?) reservation in nearby
Peach Springs, Ariz. In addition, he sees patients in
his family medicine practice in Kingman and serves
on the labor and delivery staff at Kingman Regional
A family medicine physician certified in obstetrics,
Jackson estimates that he has delivered more than
Whether it's making a visit to Supai, driving home at
3 or 4 a.m. after a complicated delivery, or treating
one of his family practice patients for a routine
ailment, "what I do is very validating," says Jackson.
"Every single encounter that you have is important,
and it's important that you give the best that you can
to everyone who comes through the door."
That philosophy of compassion and sincerity
helped Jill and Chuck Cone of Kingman select
Jackson as their family doctor.
"He has a way of relating to each person and making
them feel respected and cared about," says Jill Cone.
Jackson delivered three of Kendra Hernandez's
The nurse's aide at the Peach Springs
Health Center says Jackson always makes extra time
for expecting and new moms at the clinic, even if
they're not on the schedule.
"He's on top of everything ... and we always have a
good time with him," adds Hernandez, whose
ancestry is Hualapai and Mojave. "He makes
Debbie DeMarce, an infection prevention specialistat
Kingman Regional Medical Center, nominated
Jackson for the country doctor award and says she
was impressed with his commitment to an underserved
community that often battles high rates of
diabetes, alcoholism, poverty and teen pregnancy.
Jackson was raised in Colorado and graduated from
Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Early in his
career, he accepted a position at the Indian Health
Service Hospital on the White Mountain Apache
Reservation in Whiteriver, Ariz.
Before arriving in Kingman in 1991, he spent a
decade working in a private medical practice in
Pinetop, Ariz., which borders the White Mountain
Over the years, he says, he has developed a
fascination with and respect for the Southwest and
Native American culture; he has twice crossed the
state of Arizona on horseback (west to east and
north to south) and recently published his first
book, Manifest West, a fictionalized suspense novel
about a physician on the Fort Apache Indian
Reservation. Now he is working on a sequel, but he
says he hasn't given any thought to quitting his day
"I love the contact with the patients and the health
care people who are working to help our patients,"
he says. "Every day has its challenges, but at the end
of the day, I feel worthy. With every encounter, you
have the chance to do the right thing."