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'Papa Doc' Ewing retires

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Ewing retires after more than 40 years in practice

By Zac Oakes

 

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He’s helped thousands of local patients in more than 40 years serving the community in Taylor County.

Last Thursday, Dr. James A. “Papa Doc” Ewing celebrated his retirement from Taylor Regional Hospital with a reception attended by family, coworkers, and friends.

“It’s been a bittersweet day,” Ewing said.

Ewing has always called the local area home. He grew up on a farm in Greensburg and joined the military in 1969, serving as a flight surgeon with the United States Navy where he was assigned to a base in Beeville, Texas, a small town with a comparable size to Greensburg, according to Ewing.

Ewing served for approximately two-and-a-half years before coming to Campbellsville and starting in general medical practice in 1972.

“I always wanted to come back to Kentucky,” Ewing said. “It was just one of those things where I happened to end up back in this area.”

Ewing left for residency in 1974 to specialize in ear, nose, and throat. He came back in 1978 and practiced in ENT since.

Over that time, Ewing has been able to make a difference for thousands of patients in the area. He estimated that he has performed more than 10,000 tonsillectomies, but that number is likely higher because he and the staff quit counting about five years ago, he said.

“We’ve probably done about another thousand or so since then,” he added.

Add on to that an estimated 15,000 ear tube surgeries and it is evident how much of an impact Ewing has had on the community. 

As the first ENT doctor to practice in Campbellsville, Ewing said he is proud of the fact that he was a foundational piece in starting the ENT specialty in the area. It also allowed him to perform procedures that typically were not done in the area.

“When I came here, I was the only one here, and there was one in Elizabethtown, one in Somerset, and a couple in Bowling Green, so it was really kind of uncharted territory,” Ewing said. “Me being here allowed people to receive care here that they would otherwise have to travel 50 or 100 miles to get.”

“Being able to see the practice grow and the entire medical community grow and that I was in on the beginning of it and probably contributed to helping it grow the way it has has been rewarding for me,” Ewing added.

One of the procedures Ewing said he has been able to do several of that were not common in rural areas when he started are stapedectomies, a microscopic middle ear surgery aimed to correct hearing problems. He said being able to perform those surgeries was very rewarding.

“It replaces the stapes, which is the smallest bone in your body,” Ewing said. “... There is a disease called Otosclerosis that isn’t real prevalent, but a lot of people are born with it and it can cause people to lose their hearing by 25 or 30 years old… It is kind of comparable to doing a cataract surgery where one day you can’t hear and the next day you can.”

Ewing could nail down an exact total of stapedectomies he has performed over the years, which amounted to 563 as of his last note.

“For stapedectomies, that is a lot,” Ewing said. “Because there just aren’t a whole lot to be done.”

There have been several aspects to the job that stand out for Ewing, and one of those has been the opportunity to practice alongside his son, Dr. James E. “Jimmy” Ewing, who came on board in July 1997.

“It’s been a tremendous blessing to have him here,” Ewing said. “He’s added a lot to the practice and has taken such a load off me… It’s been very rewarding.”

Also special to Ewing has been seeing the growth and expansion of Taylor Regional Hospital.

He said the number of doctors and specialists practicing in Campbellsville has grown so much during the course of his career. When he first started, there were six doctors, Ewing recalled, and that number has grown to 50 regularly on staff now.

The biggest change he has seen in terms of medicine over the years is in technology.

“Everything is so much more computerized now,” Ewing said. “You’re able to put all the data into the computer and pull it up from there. It’s a lot different now.”

One of the most drastic changes Ewing noted was the improvements in survival and cure rates among cancer patients.

“Being able to care for cancer patients locally, that has probably been one of the most dramatic changes,” he said.

As Ewing retires, he said the things he will miss the most are his patients and the people he works with.

“We’ve worked together for so many years,” Ewing said. “We’ve become extremely close and we are like family. I will really miss the camaraderie of being in the office and the operating room and being around all these people.”

Ewing said he is thankful for all the people who trusted him with their healthcare over the years and all of those who have reached out to him to congratulate him and wish him well in retirement.

“I appreciate all the outpouring of congratulations and good will that everyone has sent,” Ewing said. “It’s been a tremendous amount of well-wishes and I am very appreciative of everyone.”