Dr. Charles Ozborn Has Gone From a Black Bag to High Tech
Eupora, Miss. - Charles Ozborn, M.D., received his first lesson in obstetrics at age 12 by delivering baby cows on his parent’s dairy farm. To put himself through college he raised corn, tomatoes and cotton, and by age 24 had achieved his dream of becoming a physician. Settling in the small Mississippi town of Eupora, population 2,200, Dr. Ozborn has practiced for over 50 years, delivering over 4,000 babies and seeing all patients regardless of ability to pay.
For his exceptional record of commitment and service, Dr. Ozborn has been named 2018 Country Doctor of the Year.
Presented by Staff Care, an AMN Healthcare company, the Country Doctor of the Year Award recognizes the spirit, skill, and dedication of America’s rural medical practitioners. The leading temporary physician staffing firm in the United States, Staff Care has presented the national award since 1992 to exemplary physicians practicing in communities of 30,000 or less.
“Dr. Ozborn is more than an outstanding primary care physician,” said Jeff Decker, president of Staff Care, “he is one of the pillars on which his community stands. The people, the health system, and the economy of his region simply could not do without him.
” Dr. Ozborn is the living embodiment of changes that have taken place in medicine over the last five decades, according to Decker. When he first began practicing in Eupora, Dr. Ozborn could carry all the medications and equipment he needed to provide care to his patients in his black doctor’s bag, which he still keeps in his office. Dr. Ozborn estimates he made some 10,000 house calls during the first 25 years of his practice, delivering numerous babies in the process. Since the community lacked an ambulance service, patients needing emergency care were transported in a hearse, often with Dr. Ozborn at their side.
When patients came to his office, costs were minimal. A routine visit for a cough or cold was $5, while something more exotic, like setting a broken bone or stitches, was $20. Dr. Ozborn charged $120 for the first delivery, $100 for any subsequent births by the same mother. Many patients paid in produce or were unable to pay at all. When Dr. Ozborn closed his private practice and became an employee of North Mississippi Medical Center, he had $3 million in uncompensated care on the books. Drafted by the Army in 1967, Dr. Ozborn was assigned to the Public Health Service and served for two years on Indian reservations before returning to Eupora.
Though in the early years of his practice, Dr. Ozborn often saw 100 or more patients a day, his pace has now “slowed” to about 35 patients a day, many of whom have complex medical problems related in part to a struggling local economy with a poverty rate of 24 percent. He still rounds on patients at North Mississippi Medical Center, the 38-bed hospital in Eupora, and also serves as medical director of the local nursing home, while having completely adopted the trappings of modern medicine, including electronic health records and a team-based approach to care. Dr. Ozborn also is participating in a population health management program, an emerging healthcare delivery model featuring direct patient intervention and management at the community level. Patients can reach him at all hours of the day as many have his personal cell phone number.
Some things have not changed, however. Dr. Ozborn still makes house calls and still is rewarded with the occasional pie. “A lot has changed in 50 years,” said Dr. Ozborn, “but patients still respond to someone who really knows them and to someone who really cares.”
As the 2018 Country Doctor of the Year, Dr. Ozborn will be able to enjoy two weeks of time off, as Staff Care will provide a temporary physician to fill in for him at no charge, a service valued at approximately $10,000. He also will receive the award’s signature plaque featuring a country doctor making his rounds on a horse and buggy, an engraved stethoscope, and a monogrammed lab coat. Additional information about the Country Doctor of the Year Award can be found at www.countrydoctoraward.com.