Sometimes, being a leader means being the only doctor in a town of 3,400 in rural Georgia.
That’s how it is for Howard McMahan, M.D., who’s been seeing the same patients for more than 20 years, but for whom life would be easier if he closed his practice and took a job at a regional medical center 30 miles away.
Still, he stays. He likes knowing his patients by name, and most of their family and friends.
He looks them in the eye.
“That’s the No. 1 complaint I hear about other doctors,” he says. “Patients say, ‘He never looks at me! He’s always on the computer.’ So I always look up. I put my hand on their shoulder. Sometimes compassion is even more important than a prescription.”
Farming is the town’s main industry, and patients often thank Dr. McMahan with produce from the garden and gems from the kitchen. He once arrived at work to find a load of watermelons. Homemade fudge, pecan brittle, jellies and jams regularly make an appearance.
One patient brings him an apple.
“You can tell I’ve had an influence!” he says happily. “She used to bring me chocolate.”
Lesson: Not giving up on your people is good medicine.
— Adapted from “The Country Doctor Is In,” Jennifer Kahn, Parade.