By David Howell
It may take some getting used to, but making life changes were the driving force for Heidi Pratt in the move from the top-rated Cleveland Clinic in Florida to serving as the Valley’s newest doctor.
Dr. Pratt, a family physician, will begin practicing with Yalobusha General Hospital in mid-January, sharing space in the Water Valley Medical Clinic with Dr. Joe Walker.
“We were ready to settle down,” Dr. Pratt said of her family’s move, citing a small-town atmosphere and quality of life as motivating factors for the move. Accompanied by her husband, Russell, and two sons, the family relocated from Fort Lauderdale to Oxford.
The job change came after the 33-year-old doctor answered a recruiting mailer sent out by Yalobusha General Hospital Administrator Terry Varner.
After looking at places all over the country, Dr. Pratt flew to Mississippi last July to meet with Varner and the hospital board.
“We didn’t think we would see her again,” Varner says jokingly of the July interview. However Varner traveled to Florida and met with Dr. Pratt a month later, extending a formal job offer that found favor.
“In a county our size, we should have five doctors,” Varner explains of the recruitment effort, using the county’s population as the reference point. Currently the county has three doctors, Dr. Joe Walker, Dr. Paul Odom and Dr. Dragica “D” Milicevic, who are all also employees of the hospital.
“Two of our doctors have retirement within eyesight,” Varner elaborated on Dr. Pratt’s hiring. “I told her we hired her for life,” Varner jokes during a lunch meeting.
As a family medicine doctor, Dr. Pratt explains that she deals with everything from “birth to death,” although she expresses a particular interest in diabetes, hypertension, well-women and nutrition.
The Utah native married her high school sweetheart. She graduated from Nova Southeastern University in Florida after transferring from the University of Utah. She received her D.O. degree from Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Lauderdale in 2002.
Dr. Pratt’s move also coincides with continued improvements at Yalobusha General Hospital and the county’s health care network. One such improvement, Varner explains, is the addition of a new 10,000 square foot doctor’s clinic that will be constructed adjacent to Dr. Walker’s current clinic. Currently in the planning phases, Varner said that he hopes to have the building operational by early 2009. The facility will house all of the doctors employed by the hospital under one roof.
Meanwhile renovations continue at the 1961 model hospital. Conducted in phases, an electrical upgrade with an expected price tag of $750,000 is next on the list. This upgrade follows recent equipment upgrades and building renovations at the hospital, plus an addition to the nursing home. Other phases of the renovation will follow the electrical work including continued cosmetic improvements at the hospital and a lab upgrade, according to Varner.
A fifth doctor, Ashley Harris, is expected to join the hospital and community in mid 2009. Harris is the nephew of Dr. Odom and is currently completing his medical residency.