Dr. Harvey Retiring After 37 Years in Practice in Tupelo
TUPELO, Miss.—After almost four decades of practicing internal medicine in Tupelo, Ken Harvey, M.D., is hanging up his stethoscope at the end of September.
“It doesn’t seem like it has been 37 years,” says Dr. Harvey, whose last day at IMA-Tupelo will fall on Sept. 30, his 72nd birthday. “It has come and gone quickly, but it’s time to make a change.”
A Picayune native, he graduated from Picayune High School in 1967 and enrolled at Mississippi College, where he majored in chemistry. “I wanted to get a Ph.D. and teach at Mississippi College,” Dr. Harvey said. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1971, he “had no car and no money” for graduate school, so he went to work as a research chemist with Crosby Chemicals back home in Picayune. During his two years at Crosby Chemicals, he had an accident in the lab. The doctor who treated him was an old friend who asked if he had ever considered going to medical school. “I hadn’t,” he says, “but I had worked long enough as a research chemist to know that job wasn’t for me. I’ve always enjoyed challenges like solving puzzles, and medicine is a lot of puzzles.”
Dr. Harvey graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in Jackson in 1977 and completed residency training in internal medicine at University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1980. Because his medical training was funded by a health professions scholarship from the U.S. Air Force, he was assigned to serve at Columbus Air Force Base upon completion. Once his Air Force commitment ended, he became the 14th doctor to join a growing internal medicine practice in Tupelo founded by Drs. Antone Tannehill, F.L. Lummus, Eugene Murphey and Bill Wood. “It was a really good group of doctors and they were able to attract not only internal medicine physicians, but also subspecialists. There were 14 of us practicing in a building that was designed for eight doctors,” he says. “My first two years, my desk was out in a hallway.”
All the doctors had busy practices both in their clinics and at North Mississippi Medical Center. “We worked all day and then all night on call, then all the next day,” Dr. Harvey says. “I really don’t know how we all survived.”
Around 1993, they formed IMA Foundation and affiliated with North Mississippi Health Services, which alleviated the doctors’ practice management responsibilities. Even with the hospitalist program in place, Dr. Harvey continued to visit his patients in the hospital until two years ago. “I liked following my patients over the long-term, taking care of them at the hospital when they were really sick and then following them afterward at the clinic,” he says. “I really enjoyed the hospital practice, and I have missed that part.”
In fact, building lasting relationships with patients and their families has been his favorite part of the journey. “I’m taking care of people now who are the same age as or older than their parents were when I started seeing them,” Dr. Harvey says. “I have a patient who has only had two doctors during her lifetime—a pediatrician and me, and I’m also still taking care of her grandmother.”
One of his longtime patients suffered a heart attack the year after Dr. Harvey started practicing in Tupelo. “I’m still taking care of him 35 years later, seeing him three or four times a year,” he says. “That’s a lot of visits.” He even has two patients who first started seeing him at Columbus Air Force Base 40 years ago.
“After you see patients for a while, they’re your friends and almost your family,” Dr. Harvey says. “You go through a lot with them – you rejoice with them and you grieve with them. That’s the best part of the practice.”
While retirement is bittersweet, Dr. Harvey looks forward to spending more time with Patricia, his wife of 46 years, and their son, Jeff, who lives in Oxford. Now that he’ll have some free time, he hopes to travel the United States and attend as many Ole Miss sporting events as possible. He also enjoys reading and plans to start the vegetable garden his wife requested.