A Tribute to Dr. Joe Walker
I recently read in the North Mississippi Herald the news of Dr. Joe Walker’s retirement. As much as I was saddened to hear of Water Valley’s loss, as a practicing physician I was excited (and somewhat envious) to learn that Dr. Walker can now enjoy a lifestyle that many non-physicians take for granted. As a practicing OB/GYN, I can not imagine taking call as long and continuously as you have done.
Now Dr. Walker, after your many years of service to Water Valley you might appreciate a few memories of the times I shared working with you and the hospital staff from 1978-1982. These were the days of Shannon Flynn, Sammie McKee, Yvonne Turner, Gladys Perkins, Loretta Crawford, Mike Ayers, Linda White, Jackie Ward, Nell Edwards, Janelle Landreth, Janine Ottawa, Dean Allen, Linda Eakes, Marjorie Godwin, Betty Lewis, Judy Mills, Pat and Billy Aston, George Breckenridge, Lora Lindsey and many others that I am sorry to have forgotten their names.
I first came to Yalobusha General Hospital straight out of high school in 1978. I was living with my grandmother (Rubean Gholson) in Water Valley, while attending Ole Miss as a pre-med student. My aunt, Linda Gholson (administrative assistant to then CEO Shannon Flynn), helped me get a job as an orderly. I will admit, as a pimply faced high school graduate, I thought you were in your 70’s then! I do remember the days when physicians made rounds and the staff was at their side. When you came to round (usually at lunch), I already knew your order—black coffee with a side of orange juice. Now before your head gets too big, I still remember the coffee orders for Dr. Spears and Dr. McMillan as well. After that someone would call the cafeteria to see what was on the menu and I would gladly pick up your order and bring it back to the nurse’s station. I would watch you go through charts and head off on your rounds with Yvonne Turner at your side. I thought what a coveted job to be the nurse rounding with Dr. Walker. When you eventually let me accompany you on rounds I was ecstatic and that is a learning experience I will NEVER forget. I still remember you telling me that each night after you got home you would go over that day’s patients in your head to make sure that nothing was left out. I have tried to adapt this process into my own private practice but honestly don’t know how you remembered every patient, diagnosis and medication the way that you did. Thank God I am just an OB/GYN whose patients usually aren’t as critical as yours were!
During that first summer I took an EMT course in Coffeeville and soon was doing double duty as an orderly/EMT. I had great times working with James Moody, Linda Williams and Linda Cox. I still remember you taking the time to teach me how to read EKGs back in Medical Records. On campus, word spread that I had a great little job in Water Valley that would give you hospital experience and the ability to work up close and personal with physicians. Enter Greg Jenkins, Bob Corkern and Dave Simmons. It wasn’t until my third year there that I moved back to the OR as a scrub with the likes of Dr. and Mrs. Dr. Purohit, Martha Potts, Claudette Pascal, Michelle Evans, Miss Lucy Champion, Miss Lottie Johnsey, Robin Greer and Julia Fernandez.
Who knew what a training experience there would be at such a small town hospital. Not only did Greg, Bob, Dave and I have fun learning but enjoyed blowing off a little steam now and then as well. Thanks for donating the use of your pasture on Hwy. 7 as we had quite a bachelor’s party for Greg Jenkins. I still don’t think Susan gotten over having to take him to the Emergency Room to have the 2 leg casts removed that were placed that night. I can also say, to this day I have never again woken up in a car to see a cow’s head sticking through the window.
My senior year at Ole Miss, I was President of the Premed Society and will be always indebted to you for taking time out of your schedule to speak to our group on campus. Your talk on “detecting diabetes based on a urine specimen” was passed down for many years I am sure. After being accepted to several medical schools and not knowing which to choose, I again turned to you for advice.
Once again you led me in the right direction and helped me make decisions that I have never regretted. You were my guru on the mountain for sure. That same year you were also instrumental in helping me obtain financial assistance through the Board of Directors for my medical school education. The plan was for me to return as a general surgeon to Water Valley, but unfortunately I had the misfortune to fall in love with Obstetrics. Not having an OB unit there left me no choice but to repay the loan and move on. Thank you for your support on all fronts of those decisions.
Dr. Walker, you may not realize what an important part you played in the lives of four pre-med students between 1978 and 1982, but trust me, we will never forget. Your teaching, patience, gentle nature and love of your patients and the practice of medicine influenced me in so many ways that I honestly believe I am a better physician today because of my time spent working with you. Obviously you “did good” by us newbie’s. I am now a practicing OB/GYN in a small rural town in Main and last I heard Greg is an internist in Olive Branch, Bob is an ER physician in Memphis and Dave is a pediatrician in Grenada. That is four physicians carrying the torch which you helped ignite and for that you should be proud. To say the least, as a pimply faced pre-med student I stood in awe of you and now as a seasoned practicing physician I stand the same.
God bless you and your family that shared your lifestyle and may you enjoy retirement above and beyond your dreams, you deserve it. By the way I hear that Maine is a pretty nice area to visit in the summer and fall so I’ll leave a light on for you.
With my profound respect,
Shelby Wilbourn, M.D.,
Reception Honors Dr. Joe Walker
Dr. Joe Walker’s friends urge everyone to “save the date,” Sunday, Nov. 22, for his retirement reception sponsored by the Yalobusha General Hospital and Nursing Home. The event will be from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Family Practice Clinic. Please feel free to share comments, anecdotes, and memories in appreciation for his many years of faithful service to our community, according to sponsors.