Staff Care’s Country Doctor of the Year Award
Country doctors are not a thing of the past. Today, country doctors still make house calls, know their patients personally and dedicate themselves to the care of their community. To honor these exceptional physicians and recognize their continuing contribution to rural healthcare, Staff Care is proud to sponsor the Country Doctor of the Year Award.
The award is presented each year to a physician who best exemplifies the spirit, skill and dedication of America’s rural medical practitioners. We encourage anyone with knowledge of an extraordinary physician to submit a nomination by filling out the Country Doctor nomination form.
Nominate a Physician for Country Doctor of the Year
Meet Dr. Van Breeding of Letcher County, Kentucky, Staff Care’s 2017 Country Doctor of the Year
Based in Whitesburg, the county seat of Letcher County, Kentucky, Dr. Breeding provides dedicated, seemingly tireless care to that county as well as neighboring Harlan and Hazard Counties -- an area beset with challenges including a severely diminished economy, a higher-than-average poverty rate, and an abundance of out-of-work citizens.
But Dr. Breeding, son of a local coal mine worker, faces these challenges with fortitude and aplomb. “My heart is in these hills and with these people,” Dr. Breeding told Staff Care. “My patients are my friends and in many cases my relatives. I can’t imagine living or practicing anywhere else.” Read more about Dr. Van Breeding, our 2017 Country Doctor of the Year.
An Honor Roll of Legendary Rural Physicians: Past Country Doctor of the Year Recipients
2016: Jasmine Sulaiman, M.D. Cleveland, Texas
Often scheduled to see patients 40 hours a week while serving as medical director of four clinics and the local hospice — and also making house calls — Staff Care's 2016 Country Doctor of the Year, Jasmine Sulaiman, M.D., has also worked to implement a program that upgraded medical care at the county jail and spearheaded an effort that saw the Health Center of Southeast Texas designated as a Level 2 Patient Centered Medical Home.
Each year, Dr. Sulaiman also runs a two-day free clinic in Matamoros, Mexico, and in 2013, she was named Texas Family Physician of the Year by the Texas Academy of Family Practice. Read more about Dr. Sulaiman, our 2016 Country Doctor of the Year.
2014: John Otho "Rob" Marsh, M.D. Middlebrook, Virginia
The son of a World War II veteran and former U.S. Secretary of the Army, Dr. Marsh established a renowned record as one of the most decorated military physicians in the United States, having received the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart, the Department of Defense Meritorious Service Medal and the Army Meritorious Service Medal. He is still warmly regarded in Delta Force circles for founding the first full-service, full-time family practice clinic for Delta Force families.
Dr. Marsh currently works as a country doctor in tiny Middlebrook, Virginia (population 215), where he has served as the sole physician for almost two decades. Read more about Dr. Rob Marsh, Staff Care's 2014 Country Doctor of the Year.
2013: Robert Bösl, M.D. Starbuck, Minnesota
At 66, many people are contemplating their retirement. Not Dr. Robert Bösl, who still drives the nearly 40-mile round trip to the hospital in the neighboring town of Morris multiple times daily to check on patients and perform surgeries he can’t do in his hometown of Starbuck, Minnesota.
As a longtime resident of the town, Dr. Bösl joined a family practice there in 1982. When his partners retired, he became the town’s only doctor, and a lifeline to its 1,300 residents. He's worked long hours ever since, doing everything from delivering babies to performing surgery, even driving through blizzards to deliver antibiotics. Watch Dr. Bösl in "Small Town Doctors," a video from the University of Minnesota.
2012: Neil Nelson, M.D. Gibson City, Illinois
Trained in internal medicine/pediatrics, Dr. Nelson sees patients of all ages in his practice, regardless of ability to pay. Raised on his family's 320 acre farm in Gibson City, and a farmer from an early age, Dr. Nelson knew he wanted to be a physician from the time he worked at the switchboard of Gibson Area Hospital where he was born, and where he now admits patients.
2011: Keith Morrow, M.D. Hacklebird, Alabama
When an E-F5 tornado devastated the town of Hackleburg, Alabama, including both his medical offices, Dr. Keith Morrow continued to do what he has done for more than 25 years — treat patients and serve as a pillar of his community.
2010: Kenneth Jackson, M.D. Kingman, Arizona
After completing his medical training in the 1970s, Dr. Jackson spent a year in a migrant health clinic, then worked for five years at the Indian Health Service hospital on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Whiteriver, Arizona where he delivered both of his two children. He moved to Kingman in 1991 and has been providing free care to Native American communities for 16 years.
2009: Steven J. Smith, M.D. Marathon, Florida
For most of the last 30 years, a 90-mile strip of the Florida Keys was covered by one surgeon and one surgeon alone, Dr. Steven J. Smith. For two and a half decades, Dr. Smith covered two hospitals located more than 40 miles apart, often making the drive between facilities three times daily, while being on call around the clock, 365 days a year.
2008: David Watson, M.D. Yoakum, Texas
Dr. Watson arrived in Yoakum immediately out of medical training and began the multifarious tasks of a country doctor: family physician, surgeon, obstetrician and (unofficial) psychiatrist. The 78-year-old Dr. Watson continues to provide most of these services, seeing 20 to 30 patients a day in his office, rounding on patients in the hospital and the nursing home, and mixing in the occasional house call.
2007: Hiram T. Ward, M.D. Murfreesboro, Arkansas
When the only hospital in the county was faced with imminent closure due to a lack of physicians accepting doctor jobs at the facility, 81-year-old Dr. Hiram Ward volunteered to come out of retirement to provide medical coverage for the hospital seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
2006: David Nichols, M.D. White Stone, Virginia
Once a week for 27 years Dr. David Nichols has flown out to tiny Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay to care for its isolated population of 600 people, most of them the descendants of English settlers who came to the island in the 1600s.
2005: Katrina Poe, M.D. Kilmichael, Mississippi
"Dr. Poe is more than a physician in Kilmichael, she's the community's guardian angel."
2004: Kenneth Paul Mauterer, M.D. Olla, Louisiana
"They said they were looking for someone who was one fish short of a stringer," says Dr. Mauterer. "I guess that's me."
2003: Charles Boyette, M.D. Belhaven, North Carolina
Dr. Boyette cared for patients through a hurricane, even after the hospital was evacuated.
2002: James Blume, D.O. Forest Hill, West Virginia
Dr. Blume worked through his own colon cancer, selling personal property to pay rising malpractice premiums.
2001: Kamlesh Gosai, M.D. Bentleyville, Pennsylvania
Dr. Gosai stepped in after several other physicians turned down the role of caring for patients in a declining town.
2000: Howard Clark, M.D. Morton, Mississippi
Single-handedly keeping the local hospital open, Dr. Clark still worked close to 100 hours a week at age 73.
1999: Paul F. Maddox, M.D. Campton, Kentucky
Dr. Maddox continued to care for his community, even after being diagnosed with cancer, scheduling patients around his daily chemotherapy sessions.
1998: Elton D. Lehman, D.O. Mt. Eaton, Ohio
Dr. Lehman brought modern medicine to the large Amish community of Stark County.
1997: Claire Louise Caudill, M.D. Morehead, Kentucky
Known as the "Mother of Rowan County," Dr. Caudill delivered more than 8,000 babies during her 50-year career.
1996: William Hill, M.D. Carrollton, Alabama
Physicians from the Hill family have treated patients in Carrollton since before the Civil War.
1995: John Harlan Haynes, M.D. Vivian, Louisiana
Described as "a cross between Marcus Welby and Daniel Boone," Dr.Haynes is credited with saving his local hospital.
Nominate a Physician for Country Doctor of the Year