As a member of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine class of 1962, Dr. Guilford Dudley has celebrated 10 quinquennial anniversaries. The definition of quinquennial means something that occurs every five years. Few people can say they attended their 50th year college class reunion; even fewer can say they have been practicing medicine for 50 years. In October, at the 2012 Vanderbilt Medical Alumni Reunion, Dr. Dudley was inducted into the Quinq Society.
Dr. Dudley grew up in Swifton, AR. He remembers the minute he decided he wanted to be a physician. “I was inspired by Dr. Haymond Harris while hunting on the White River. He had a cabin on the river and I remember the moment I decided to go into medicine,” says Dr. Guilford Dudley. Dr. Haymond Harris was a founding physician of the current Harris Hospital in Newport. Dr. Dudley says it was his passion for patient care that brought him back to his home to practice medicine. “I could’ve gone anywhere, but my heart is here and I always wanted to serve my hometown citizens with the very best medicine I could provide,” says Dudley. As you can imagine, Dr. Dudley has been instrumental in the provision of good medical care for Jackson County throughout his 50 years of service. He was key in bringing cardiac treatment to the area. In the early 1970s, he was instrumental in opening the first coronary care unit at the hospital. “I’ve seen a tremendous change in technology and advances in medicine and equipment through the years. I remember when EKGs, morphine, and aspirin were all we had to treat a heart attack. I was able to bring echocardiography to the hospital, which helps diagnose heart disease,” Dudley reminisced. What was novel and exciting then, is now routine medicine. He remembers going to Memphis for special education on the use of thrombolytics for heart attack treatment. “That is now standard practice. We were taught to practice medicine in a logical way – things we knew intuitively to be effective have now been researched through evidence based medicine to, in fact, be best practice. So some things we thought all along to be best practice have now been proven to indeed be the best course of treatment.” Dudley remembers when there were no cardiac surgeons in the state of Arkansas. Then in the late 1960s the first cardiologist began doing cardiac caths and coronary angiography in the state. He sent many heart patients to Memphis where he knew the cardiac surgeon who performed the first cardiac bypass surgery in the area. “We are now extremely fortunate to have more availability of cardiac specialists in the state than when I started,” says Dudley. Dr. Dudley has certainly impacted public healthcare with his service as the Jackson County Health Officer and Tuberculosis (TB) officer. He recalls the days when TB was especially prevalent with several cases in the county. They went so far as involving the Sheriff, who took public health nurses to the homes of TB patients to ensure they took the medicine. “That was necessary to protect the contacts of the patients in the community. Now there’s just an occasional case,” said Dudley. He served in that role for many years monitoring, reporting and overseeing any outbreaks. He helped administer some of the first flu clinics. Most recently in 2010, he helped further access to healthcare with the opening of the Christian Community Clinic in Newport. This stemmed from his desire to do mission work. “We talked about going on mission trips across the world, but decided instead to concentrate on the needs of our home community,” says Dudley. Retha Dudley, Dr. Dudley’s wife and Advance Practice Nurse, saw the need for uninsured, self-pay patients to get medical treatment free of charge. The free clinic project was initiated with the help of the First United Methodist Church, a dedicated board of trustees and Harris Hospital. “God opened the doors for us to help provide this service to individuals who meet poverty level guidelines. It wouldn’t be possible without the many physicians and nurses in the community, who willingly give their time on a pro bono basis, and without many other supporters too numerous to name,” Retha Dudley reported. “Harris Hospital has been particularly cooperative with providing all the labs and x-rays needed for the Christian Community Clinic,” Dr. Dudley said.” Through these many years of community outreach work and his clinic and hospital work, patients in the community came to trust his care and appreciated the direct access he provided them. He built many relationships throughout the years that continue today. That’s why his waiting room is still full all day on Wednesdays when he is in the office. Miriam Brown Moore has been his nurse for 36 years. “I began as an aide in the hospital, became a nurse in 1974 and got my Masters in Nursing while working for Dr. Dudley. He always elevated the nursing staff and encouraged us to always keep learning. I was happy to stay where I was content and supported. He never let me coast.” Dr. Dudley sums up his years as a physician by stating, “It has been a lot like the Christian life – just keep travelling the road where the scenery always changes and continue learning and getting better.”