, 77, begins retirement after 40-year career
After 40 years, Dr. George Hansberry
will trade dance partners Monday, letting go of his
medical practice in exchange for a life of retirement. Retiring Dr. George Hansberry with, from left, Dr. Jeffrey Johnson, Jo Smallwood, Brenda Reeves, Mary Harbin, Carolyn Proctor, Bethany Roop and Gina Powell.
...Retiring Dr. George Hansberry with, from left, Dr. Jeffrey Johnson, Jo Smallwood, Brenda Reeves, Mary Harbin, Carolyn Proctor, Bethany Roop and Gina Powell.
Without this, Dr. Hansberry
would never be able to pry himself from his
"You don't walk away from something if the job isn't finished," Dr. Hansberry
said, as though it were a creed he
imbedded deep within his
heart while still a boy in Roxborough, Pa.
While the term "caring professional" may sound like an empty slogan, Dr. Hansberry's attitude of completing the job the right way shows his
sincere interest, according to his
patients and staff. Family and colleagues say that caring attitude burns as bright inside as the day he started at Baugh-Wiley-Smith Hospital, and why he still may feel roused at 3 a.m. to call the hospital to check on a patient.
More than a doctor
"We adopted him as a member of our family," said Beulah Booker, whose family has seen Dr. Hansberry
for nearly his entire tenure.
"But we love Dr. Hansberry
.We love him dearly."
Charles Allen, 75, a patient for more than 30 years, chose Dr. Hansberry
from lots of recommendations and from his relationship with him as a fellow Kiwanis Club member.
And even when Dr. Hansberry
referred him to specialists, he
knew Dr. Hansberry
was following his
...Dr. Hansberry came to Decatur immediately after completing his medical degree at the University of Tennessee at Memphis.
Decatur, one of many cities he
considered, caught his
eye because he
could tell it was beginning to boom.
The Chamber of Commerce and local physicians wooed him with dinners at the country club and even an airplane flight around town. "I was so impressed that I decided on Decatur," Dr. Hansberry said, noting it was the first time in six years that a new physician had chosen Decatur.
At the time, Decatur had 36 doctors compared to 250 today, he
The proliferation of doctors hardly compares with the exponential advances in medicine during the past four decades, he
When Dr. Hansberry
started, doctors couldn't order computerized tomography scans or magnetic resonance imaging and the specialists they could refer to were limited to general surgeons, internists, orthopedists, obstetricians/gynecologists and urologists.
"That's it.That's all," he
said, noting that in the '60s, modern medicine limited him to things like X-rays and barium enemas.
In 1965, an office visit cost $3, the same price as for a shot, he
said, and it wasn't unusual for a doctor to see 50 to 60 patients a day, whereas today it's from 20 to 30.
"And house calls, just about all the family physicians made them then," Dr. Hansberry
House calls Dr. Hansberry
remained one of the few doctors who still made house calls, according to one of his longtime nurses, Carolyn Proctor.
is one of the real assets to the community.He's an excellent physician.
They don't make them any better than George
Easier and tougher Dr. Hansberry said in many ways, being a doctor became easier over the decades because of the years of experience, the repetition and the training.
"Like ulcer diagnosis , the way we treated ulcers back in the 1960s was totally wrong," Dr. Hansberry
said."We used to treat them with milk and antacids."
Decatur was more than a smart place to launch a career for Dr. Hansberry
.From the time he
decided it would forever be his
home.That helps explain why his
record of community involvement is longer than his
extensive professional record. He
has served with 40 organizations or special events, ranging from co-chairing a fund-raiser for the Boy Scouts to being marshal of the Decatur Christmas parade.He has been president of the Decatur Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the United Way campaign, president of Calhoun Community College Foundation and vice president of Morgan County Economic Development Association. He still serves on eight boards of directors.
Free health care Dr. Hansberry's
pride these days is the Community Free Clinic of Decatur-Morgan County, which provides medical services for county residents who don't have health insurance, who fall at the poverty level or meet other criteria. When most men his age had long been retired and become accustomed to having others wait on them, Dr. Hansberry helped lead the fund-raising effort that acquired $500,000 to completely pay for the renovation of the former Baugh-Wiley-Smith Hospital.
Now, everybody has access to medical care, he
said, adding that Decatur is one of only 300 cities in the nation to have a free clinic.
Perhaps it's that type of selfless commitment that has earned him a dedicated staff, with a total of 139 years service among six employees.
Proctor has been with Dr. Hansberry
for 28 years.
made it a point to thank his
staff every day before quitting time and walk out together with them.
"I've got an obligation to them as well.So I wouldn't turn this practice over to just anyone," he
said, referring to his
careful and lengthy search to find a replacement.
Finding a successor His
wife of 20 years, Cathy, said they started talking about retirement when he
60s, but her
husband clearly wasn't ready.She
never pressured him despite getting to see their four grandchildren only twice a year.
"I decided that everybody knows when it's time," she
For Dr. Hansberry
, the time came when he
got to know Dr. Jeff Johnson, a former military physician who Dr. Hansberry
said shares his
philosophy on medicine and has demonstrated a desire to care for his
was what I was looking for," Dr. Hansberry
With retirement just a day away, Dr. Hansberry
not sure what part of his
new life most excites him, but high on his
list is visiting grandchildren.
"Of course we're going to travel, too," his
wife said."But we each have hobbies and are active in the community.I think we'll stay busy as much as we want to." Dr. Hansberry
added that the alarm clock will still remain set at 5:30 a.m., indicating how busy he
expects to stay. His
enthusiasm for community service perhaps sheds light on Dr. Hansberry's longevity.He
lives every day, doing what he
loves to do.And to think about how he
had that opportunity still amazes him.
Dance lessons Getting drafted by the Army in 1945 gave him a taste of being a doctor as he received medical aid training.After being discharged in 1946, he used the GI Bill to enroll at Philadelphia College of Art, where he earned a bachelor's degree in industrial design in 1954. He worked in his field for a few years in Asheville, N.C., but realized it wasn't how he wanted to spend the rest of his life.He enrolled at the University of Tennessee, where he acquired his science credits to get into medical school.
While still in Philadelphia, Dr. Hansberry
wanted to take dance lessons, but couldn't afford them.He got around that by getting the Arthur Miller Dance Studio to teach him how to become a dance instructor.
Though it never became his
career, it did lead to him starting dance studios in Asheville and Spartanburg, S.C.
...Dr. Hansberry by the numbers
Numbers that stand out after Dr. George Hansberry's
40-year medical career ends Monday: 3 , Dollars a patient needed for an office visit in 1965. 36 , Doctors who served Decatur in 1965. 40 , Organizations or special events with which Dr. Hansberry
has served. 139 , Total years of service by his
six staff members. 250 , Doctors who serve Decatur today. 16,000 , Different patients he
has seen in 40 years.