Dr. Howard McMahan for Parade Magazine

DrMac_01 DrMac_02Parade sent me to teeny tiny Ocilla, Ga. last March to spend a few days with a modern country doctor.  Dr. McMahan (or Dr. Mac, as he is commonly called) is one of the last of his kind.  We were hoping for a contemporary take on Eugene Smith’s original country doctor essay, but housecalls are a thing of the past.  That doesn’t mean that Dr. Mac is any less compassionate, though.  His love for his patients and community was apparent.  Despite the challenges he faces, he maintains his practice with the help of his ebullient wife Janet.

Read the article.

I had actually been to Ocilla before, years ago.  When I was an intern at the Macon Telegraph, I was sent there to cover the community during the disappearance of Tara Grinstead.  It’s an unsolved case and I google her name periodically to check on the status of the situation.  But of all the small towns in all of America, I found it unlikely and special that I would return to Ocilla.  I’m just glad it was under better circumstances this time.

Dr. Howard McMahanMost of us never get to experience a personal connection with our doctors.  We’re rushed through our visits and eye contact is rare.  Seeing how Dr. Mac works showed me how the patient-doctor relationship is supposed to be.  He is a southern gentleman of the old school and it is reflected in his bedside manner.  Patients show up bearing gifts, such as this apple- a small, but meaningful gesture.  I bet you don’t like your doctor enough to bring him or her gifts.  I know I don’t. Dr. Howard McMahan Dr. Howard McMahan Dr. Howard McMahan DrMac_07 DrMac_08Ocilla sits in the stroke and diabetes belt of America.  Good Southern food will kill you early, but at least you’ll die happy.  Maybe.  Dr. Mac encourages his patients to make healthy changes to their lifestyles like taking walks and eating fewer fried foods and drinking less sweet tea.  Dang, I love sweet tea.  Pure sugar.  DrMac_09 DrMac_10 DrMac_11 DrMac_12Dr. Mac and Janet and the writer and I went out to lunch in a little cafe on the main street in town.  It’s rare that I get to work directly with writers and even rarer that I get to do so for more than one day, so it was special to work with Jennifer Kahn who teaches grad students in the magazine program at Berkeley when she isn’t in the field reporting on a story. DrMac_13Janet, at work in the practice, juggling paperwork and a grandchild. DrMac_14 DrMac_15 Dr. Howard McMahan DrMac_17 The practice, seen on the right side of the frame, is surrounded by orchards.  It was beautiful and it made me miss Georgia.DrMac_18I’d like to offer a tremendous thank you to Dr. Mac, Janet, all the patients, and the community of Ocilla.  Also, my editor at Parade.  Thank you for trusting me.

3 thoughts

  1. Dearest Melissa… Thank you so much for this “addendum”! I kidded Howard about everyone being mentioned in the Parade.. his parents, his staff, all 4 children, everyone but me. I told him “You didn’t even have to mention me, as long as you made sure everyone knew we found Arsenic in our drinking water after Ben was diagnosed with Cancer.” I didn’t let up until his “fan mail” started pouring in. He has been so humbled, almost embarrassed, by not only Jennifer Kahn’s laudatory comments but also by all of the kindness that people have shown him through mail, emails, phone calls! Hopefully, you and Jennifer will visit Ocilla again to do an article on “Arsenic in Georgia’s Drinking Water Causing Cancer” since no other large newspaper is willing. And..I personally know an ebullient “expert” who has more than enough information on the subject. Thank you again. Janet

  2. I loved every part of this, I can remember, the last house call, given to me and people appreciate house call, they use to give DR’S MANY FARM FOODS LIKE CHICKEN’S VEGATABLES.

  3. Those that knew “Top Hat ” as we called him or now Dr. McMahan knew 40 years ago he was gonna be someone extraordinary. I only wish Dr.Mac lived closer so he could work on this aging body. Hey buddy i miss you and hope you the best you and your wonderful family,and hey i quit smoking 13 years ago. Raymond H Fulcher

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