The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

November 15, 2012

Physician honored at reception


TARBORO — MACCLESFIELD — More than 50 years ago, the leaders and people of Macclesfield realized their need for dedicated healthcare for the community. So, they set out on a search and soon recruited an earnest, young family doctor and committed their personal resources to purchase a building and upfit it as a medical office in the center of town.

That was in 1961, when Dr. J. Edwin Drew was fresh out of residency training and anxious to put his medical skills to work to help people in need. In Macclesfield and the surrounding communities, he found fertile ground.

On Wednesday. Members of the community gathered to honor Drew at a reception held at Vidant Family Medicine-Pinetops. About 75 people attended. As part of the festivities, a wall commemorating Drew’s service to the community was unveiled.

Drew was the only physician in a 12-mile radius of Macclesfield and his office was 16 miles from the nearest hospital, located in Tarboro. Soon after he opened his doors, he became an indispensable part of the community. In addition to the more routine services he offered, Drew was often called upon to do minor surgery, set broken bones and serve as an emergency responder when accidents and critical illnesses occurred. At times, he treated people injured by chainsaws and farm equipment. As a convenience to his patients, he provided X-rays and lab work in his office and even dispensed medicine.

Those were the days when the charge for an office visit was $3 and a house call was $5. Very few people had health insurance and cash was scarce. It was not a lucrative way to make a living. But Drew and his wife, Mildred, realized that Macclesfield citizens placed great value in having health care that was intensely local.

Patients knew he had a soft heart and would go out of his way to ease their pain. As a result, he was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He often saw 60 patients a day and occasionally 80. After his office closed for the day, they often knocked at his back door. It was not unusual for him to get up during the night to care for them. Throughout his 31 years of practice, he continued to make house calls, long after other physicians had given up the service.

Demand for his care ultimately forced Drew to move to a larger, more modern office in town. Predictably, patient volume continued to increase. He was blessed with a loyal, capable staff who were proud to shoulder the responsibility of meeting his patients’ needs.

“They tried to fit every patient in,” he said, “even if it meant they would have to work late.” Drew said. “They were the kind of people who took ownership of the practice,” he said, because they knew that their skills were needed by their neighbors and friends.  

When Drew retired in 1992, other physicians served the Macclesfield community. To continue his legacy, Vidant Health purchased the practice in April 1995 and later built a new facility in Pinetops to serve the region. The Macclesfield office has since been renovated to meet the area’s unmet need for behavioral health services.