Family physician come full circle
By Kate Agel
As of March 30, Dr. James “Jim” W. Wright Pilcher Jr. is returning to Jefferson County to be a part of Jefferson Hospital’s Physicians Health Group.
Pilcher took part in a private practice with his father in Louisville from 1973-1975, did a fellowship in Rheumatology at the Medical College of Georgia from 1976-1977 and since 1977 has had a successful private practice in Dalton.
Pilcher said the major reason he decided to become a doctor was that he grew up in a family full of physicians and, although he did not decide to pursue medicine until his senior year of college, said he did not see anything he would like to do more.
Pilcher was dedicated as a physician in Dalton, has had some of the same patients for more than 30 years and is currently practicing with around 2,000 patients total, with new patients still calling in for appointments regularly. Some of his devoted patients have even said that they would be willing to make the trip from North Georgia to Jefferson County to continue seeing him as their doctor.
“We changed our minds, Jefferson County can’t have him. We’re keeping him here,” Pilcher’s office manager joked, expressing the general lament with which they watch their beloved doctor leave.
Pilcher, though he, too, is sad to leave his Dalton patients, said he is excited about coming back to Jefferson County to work with Dr. Jim Polhill and Jefferson Hospital’s CEO, Heyward Wells III.
“I’m a small town guy who wants to go back to a small town,” Pilcher said simply about his desire to return to his roots.
Pilcher said he likes the traditional way of small town practices, and credited Wells.
“He is very much into caring about the community, and I like that more than the idea of a hospital running like a business,” he said. “To me it’s more like getting back to how things used to be done, when, I think, they were done better.”
Pilcher said the foremost reason he is returning to Jefferson County is to be closer to his mother, Mary Frances Pilcher, 87, who, with her husband, started Jefferson Hospital in 1946.
Pilcher talked about the hospital’s development over the years, and proclaimed that the excellence of Jefferson Hospital is yet another driving factor in coming to work with the Physicians Health Group.
“The facility is really impressive,” Pilcher said. “Mr. Wells, and Ms. Culvern before him, improved upon what my parents started. It’s hard to not be impressed with the board and the community.”
Pilcher’s wife, Dr. Grace Gilgenast, was recruited to Doctors Hospital in Augusta as an in-house neurologist, and Pilcher said his wife was also impressed with Jefferson Hospital.
“They did offer me a position at Doctors Hospital, but I told Grace that I wanted to be home,” he said. “At first, she wanted me to go to Augusta with her, but after she met Mr. Wells and toured the facility she changed her mind and realized that it was really a great place.”
Pilcher acknowledged things are going to be different working with the Physicians Health Group. He said the major difference between the ways he and Polhill work is the rate at which they help patients.
“From my point of view, my pace of practice is a little slower than Dr. Polhill’s. If you are on a tighter schedule, you have to learn how to be more efficient,” said Pilcher, who is used to a smaller volume of day-to-day patients than Polhill,
In Pilcher’s Dalton practice, efficiency was not as much of an issue. Instead, he and his staff dealt with a full schedule by often staying in the office until 10 p.m. or later, still seeing patients.
“We try to be available,” he said.
“I’ve got to learn to do a little different way of doing things. I don’t mind adapting to that,” Pilcher said about his hopes to better fit himself to the style of Jefferson Hospital.
One final thing Pilcher looks forward to about moving back home is the chance to make visits to an old professor, Dr. Joe Bailey of Georgia Medical College.
“If I’m a good doctor, it’s because of Dr. Bailey,” Pilcher said.
BOE works to reduce stops on bus routes
By Carol McLeod
As one of many measures the Jefferson County Board of Education is taking to reduce costs, the system is reviewing the number of stops made by buses on their routes.
Until recently, buses have made frequent stops along bus routes, allowing students in many cases to get on and off the buses at their driveways.
“With all of the austerity cuts the school system has received over the past five years and particularly the cuts that we have received this year, the state’s formula for funding education no longer includes money for things that parents have become accustomed to expect,” Carl Bethune said in a recent interview. Bethune is the county’s school system superintendent.
“That leaves our local board of education one or two choices. We either have to raise our local taxes or we have to cut services,” he said.
Bethune said the board has been trying to avoid making any drastic changes.
“However, it’s getting more and more difficult not to take drastic action. At this point, the board of education and its staff are trying to look at ways to make necessary adjustments that have limited impact on instruction. One adjustment would be to move from door-to-door pickups to collection points for our bus routes,” he said.
Dr. Curtis Hunter, one of the system’s assistant superintendents, oversees the system’s transportation department.
Hunter said the current economic times prompted the BOE to make changes to the bus routes.
“It’s because of the dire need to conserve finances, hard economic times coupled with the need to conserve fuel,” he said.
“We’re having to make cuts in all areas of the budget. We were trying to make the same kind of cuts that the state had as it relates to transportation. One time it was 14 percent. There’s a state requirement that parents are responsible for getting their children to within a half mile to a bus stop. We use a third of a mile,” Hunter said.
The assistant superintendent said one way to reduce costs is for the department to use collection points.
“We cannot afford to go door-to-door,” he said.
Hunter said every route is being reviewed. He said changes within city limits are easier to make because of blocks inside the cities.
He also said there will be no impact on the Safe Routes to School program Louisville Academy has.
“Safe routes has mainly to do with walking to school,” he said.
Hunter said these changes will save time and fuel.
Making fewer stops along bus routes will save wear on brakes and may improve safety.
“If you have stops every hundred feet, that’s not fair to the motorists who are following the buses, either. The state recommends you don’t have stops closer than 100 feet,” Hunter said.
“It’s easier to find the kids if you know where the stops are,” he said, explaining that when drivers are sick, as one example, a substitute driver may not know where students live and that those stops change as families move. A substitute driver would be able to find designated street addresses.
Bethune said in an effort to explain about the changes, letters will be sent home to parents and the principals and bus drivers will talk to the children.
“The school board does not wish to see students walk a long way,” Bethune said. “If anyone is having to walk more than a third of a mile, the parents need to call the office.”
Bethune said he is also concerned with the safety of all students while they get on and off buses as well as during the time they are waiting for pick up.
“It is very important to all of us that we make safe collection points,” he said.
Any parent with concerns about the distance or safety should call the school board’s central office. The number is 478-625-7626. Ask to speak with Dr. Hunter.
Ministry helps feed area families cheaply
By Kate Agel
Shekinah Baptist Assembly will be participating in Angel Food Ministries, a program to help those who are struggling to find ways to cut down on grocery costs.
“It’s not based on income. Even upper middle class people are struggling right now. It’s for anybody,” said Lisa Vaughn, a member of Shekinah Baptist Assembly and initiator of Shekinah’s involvement with AFM.
According to their website, www.angelfoodministries.com, AFM was founded in 1994 by pastors Joe and Linda Wingo, out of Monroe. The ministry began by feeding 34 families and now has extended to feed hundreds of thousands of families across 35 states.
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Angel Food Ministries is a non-profit organization that allows a person to buy a box of food estimated at a $60 value for only $30.
“We started it at Shekinah simply because there’s such a need for it in the community and because it could benefit so many people,” Vaughn said.
Each month, a new menu will be posted on AFM’s website with boxes of food containing both fresh and frozen groceries. Vaughn plans to post menus on fliers in area businesses for those who do not have internet access.
The boxes contain enough food for a family of four for a week or a month’s worth for a single senior citizen.
Purchasing the regular box allows an AFM customer to also purchase special boxes, which contain other food options. The Fresh Fruit and Veggie Box has fruits and vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, cabbage, apples, oranges and more. There is an Assorted Meat Box that includes seven pounds of meat. March’s selection includes New York Strip, pork chops, Baby-Back Ribs and bratwurst.
The food in the boxes is the same quality that can be bought in a grocery store, but with Angel Food Ministries it is for a fraction of the price. One woman, who in October of 2008 had ordered from AFM twice, confirmed that the food was good quality.
Furthermore, with each box ordered AFM sends $1 to the host site.
“This is an excellent way to help any community throughout the United States, an excellent way to reach people in your community,” said Doug Metcalf, AFM director of media and communications.
“For every box that gets sold through a host site, which has to be a non-profit, we put $1 back into the benevolent fund of that host site. What that does is help these host sites continue to help people in their community,” Metcalf said.
Vaughn said that the money they receive as a host site will aid Shekinah in keeping the AFM program going. It will be used to pay for the supplies needed and by paying for advertisement. Some of the money will also be donated to the Food Pantry.
Vaughn said that she hopes more of the community will become involved.
“Any churches that are interested in ordering or volunteering, we definitely need the help,” she said. “Anyone that wants to help, we can find a place for them.”
To place a box-order, call Lisa Vaughn at (478)-494-0185 or (478)-625-7552 or Lena Patton at (478)-625-3808 Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Shekinah accepts cash, money orders and food stamps.
The orders must be paid in advance and the deadline for ordering food this month is Friday, March 13.
Vaughn will be at Shekinah Baptist Assembly on Tuesday, March 10, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and Wednesday, March 11, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. taking orders.