I don’t know how to care for people without caring for them

October 24, 2021

“I don’t know how to care for people without caring for them. I wear big, loud earrings and bracelets because that’s how I get to examine baby’s ears. I don’t wear a white coat because it can intimidate patients. If I look like a man’s granddaughter or someone he sees at the grocery store, maybe it will help him open up and make it easier to look at his knee.

I was in a newspaper story in second grade. They asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said I wanted to be a good mom, a good wife, and a good pediatrician. My father was the CEO of the hospital in Brookhaven. I’ve always known I was called to help people who were hurting. Being a pediatrician was the only way that I knew how to do it, so I stuck to that plan.

I graduated from high school in three years, and I was 17 when I started Mississippi State. I met my husband, Johnny Carpenter, during my freshman year of college. I was on the dance team and he played football for Sylvester Croom. We were super cheesy. I went to medical school at South Alabama and went into rural care so I could practice in Chatom. Johnny had family in Washington County, and I fell in love with the community.

Washington County has a critical access hospital in Chatom. We’re able to provide good quality care and stabilize a patient, but we’re not able to provide surgical services. I cover internal medicine and pediatrics. My partner and I are the only two full-time doctors in the county, and we’re a team doing what’s best for our community.

We had a learning curve with COVID, but we have a highly trained medical staff and got through it. The hardest part was not finding hospitals for the patients who needed transfers. There were times I called more than 50 hospitals around the South trying to find ICU beds for our patients who needed a higher level of care. The nurses and director of the hospital were also making those calls.

The unique thing about being a doctor in a rural community is that you’re not just the doctor in the hospital. You’re the doctor in the clinic, the nursing home, on the streets, on the school board, and on the city council. I am on call 24/7. In a small town, you know the patient, his wife, his parents, and his children because you’re their doctor, too. You know what activities the child is in and what would fall apart if the patient were to pass. So you’re praying with that wife and consoling the children, helping them pick up the pieces. It’s a big responsibility. It hurts my heart to see our community suffering from COVID. These are the same people I see at my kid’s football games, at church, the grocery store, or at the restaurant on Friday night.

I like the challenge of not having specialists around me. Dr. Donald and I stretch our brains and do a lot of reading to keep up with what’s going on in the medical field. My husband is the head football coach at Fruitdale high school. I’m also the team physician for them, so Friday nights are fun. We have a five-year-old little boy and a seven-year-old little girl and the community helps me whenever I need them.

I think so much about the book of Esther and where it says you were created for such a time as this. God chose me to be in this particular field, in this particular community, with my children and my family for this time. I am grateful to be here.”

Dr. Meagan Carpenter


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