By Contributor Apr 14, 2018
Continuing a decades-long tradition of recognizing outstanding rural health care leadership, Staff Care is proud to announce the 2018 Country Doctor of the Year. Meet Dr. Charles Ozborn a dedicated physician who has spent more than 50 years caring for patients, delivering babies and improving the health of his small community in Eupora, Mississippi.
A practice built on humble beginnings, hard work and human connections
Dr. Ozborn received his first lesson in obstetrics at age 12 by delivering baby cows on his parents’ dairy farm. He subsequently put himself through college by raising corn, tomatoes, and cotton, and by age 24 had achieved his dream of becoming a physician.
Settling in the small town of Eupora, population 2,200, Dr. Ozborn has delivered more than 4,000 babies and seen countless patients during his half-century medical career—regardless of an individual’s ability to pay.
In recognition of his exceptional record of commitment and service to his community, Dr. Ozborn has been named the 2018 Country Doctor of the Year.
Presented by Staff Care, an AMN Healthcare company, the Country Doctor of the Year Award recognizes the spirit, skill, and dedication of America’s rural physicians. Since 1992, Staff Care has presented the national award to exemplary practitioners working in communities of 30,000 or fewer people.
Old and New: Country Doctor Embraces 50 Years of Medical Progress
“Dr. Ozborn is more than an outstanding primary care physician,” said Jeff Decker, president of Staff Care. “He is one of the pillars on which his community stands. The people, the health system, and the economy of his region simply could not do without him.”
He is also the living embodiment of changes that have taken place in medicine during the last five decades, according to Decker.
When Dr. Ozborn first began practicing in Eupora, he could carry all the medications and equipment he needed to provide care to his patients in his black doctor’s bag, which he still keeps in his office.
Dr. Ozborn estimates that he made some 10,000 house calls during the first 25 years of his practice, delivering numerous babies in the process. Since the community lacked an ambulance service, patients needing emergency care were transported in a hearse, often with Dr. Ozborn at their side.
When patients came to his office, the charges were minimal. A routine visit for a cough or cold was $5, while something more exotic, like setting a broken bone or stitches, was $20. Dr. Ozborn charged $120 for the first delivery, and $100 for any subsequent births by the same mother. Many patients paid in produce or were unable to pay at all.
When Dr. Ozborn closed his private practice and became an employee of North Mississippi Medical Center, he had $3 million in uncompensated care on the books. Drafted by the Army in 1967, Dr. Ozborn was assigned to the Public Health Service and served for two years on Indian reservations before returning to Eupora.
Though in the early years of his practice Dr. Ozborn often saw 100 or more patients a day, his pace has now “slowed” to about 35 patients a day, many of whom have complex medical problems related in part to a struggling local economy with a poverty rate of 24 percent. He still rounds on patients in the hospital and also serves as medical director of the local nursing home.
While maintaining the personal approach of a country doctor in a small community, Dr. Ozborn has fully adopted the trappings of modern medicine, including electronic health records and a team-based approach to care. In addition, he started a Suboxone program to treat patients with drug addiction and also is participating in a population health management program.
Some things have not changed, however.
Dr. Ozborn still makes house calls and still is rewarded with the occasional pie. And patients can reach him at all hours of the day as many have his personal cellphone number.
“A lot has changed in 50 years,” said Dr. Ozborn, “but patients still respond to someone who really knows them and to someone who really cares.”
As the 2018 Country Doctor of the Year, Dr. Ozborn will be able to enjoy two weeks of time off, with Staff Care providing 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.
For more information about Dr. Charles Ozborn and Staff Care's Country Doctor of the Year program, we invite you to visit our Country Doctor Award page. For media inquiries, please contact Phil Miller, Staff Care Vice President of Communications, at (469) 524-1420 or firstname.lastname@example.org.