Natchez Community hires doctor with Miss-Lou connections
By JUSTIN WHITMORE
The Natchez Democrat
NATCHEZ — Two homegrown doctors, lured back to the Miss-Lou by the Natchez charm, are ready to care for locals suffering from the sniffles to skin cancer.
Natchez Community Hospital has hired two family practice physicians, Dr. Jim Waddill and Dr. Dennis LaRavia, to provide medical care to all ages and for a variety of conditions.
Both doctors have decades of experience, and both said coming to live in the Miss-Lou was a big selling point in their decisions to work at Natchez Community Hospital.
Dr. Jim Waddill
Dr. Jim Waddill practiced medicine at Ochsner Clinic in Baton Rouge for 16 years, but he was getting tired of life in the bigger city, he said.
“Baton Rouge was getting to be an unlivable city with traffic and crime,” Waddill said. “I started my career in the country and have always been a country boy at heart. I wanted to get out of the rat race and get to a pace where it’s a little quieter town. That’s what drew me here.”
Waddill is a native of Tensas Parish, and he practiced medicine in St. Joseph, La., for 10 years before moving to Baton Rouge.
He said his experience practicing family medicine in both rural and urban settings showed him that a town like Natchez would be a perfect fit for him.
“I like the size of (Natchez),” he said. “It’s small, but they really have everything that 99 percent of patients would need. I am really surprised at the high level of technology, and there is a lot of equipment and procedures available here that I was surprised to find in a smaller place.”
Waddill is just moving into his new home on South Commerce Street and has not yet started his practice in Natchez, but he plans on beginning soon.
“I started (at Natchez Community Hospital) Monday, but I am not seeing patients just yet,” he said. “We are starting to hire staff. As soon as we can get staff hired, we will be ready to go, maybe even as early as (this) week. The office is up to speed, we just need personnel, but I am ready to go tomorrow.”
Waddill’s staff will include a nurse and two desk clerks in addition to himself, he said.
Waddill said he hopes to be able to use his technical experience at Natchez Community Hospital to continue to improve the care the facility provides.
“I hope to bring a mixture of country doctor, which I was for 10 years, and city,” he said. “I want to practice high-tech medicine in a more rural setting. I don’t know that I will bring anything new, but I want to try to practice at a level you would see at big institutions like Ochsner Clinic.”
Waddill will practice family medicine and has a wide variety of skills to bring to his patients.
“I will see patients of all ages from infancy to the elderly,” he said. “We will do a lot of surgeries like skin lesions and cancers, and we also do routine physicals. Basically we have a broad range of primary care.”
Waddill said he would provide one service to his patients that many family practice physicians no longer provide.
“Unlike a lot of family care doctors, I still take care of the patients in the hospital,” he said. “If my patients get sick enough to go to the hospital, I still take care of them there, and a lot of primary care doctors don’t do that anymore. I like to make sure I see them in the office and the hospital.”
Waddill said he hopes to start building his patient base soon, and he already has loyal patients from his previous practice in St. Joseph.
“I still have a lot of practice from across the river,” he said. “Some of them have been driving down to see me (in Baton Rouge), and we will start hitting the Rotary Clubs and places like that to introduce ourselves.”
Until Waddill gets his practice started, he said he is enjoying just being a part of the Natchez community.
“My family is really happy to be in Natchez,” he said. “We already love sitting out on the front porch and have met a lot of new friends.”
Dr. Dennis LaRavia
Dr. Dennis LaRavia practiced family medicine in Ferriday for 20 years before he began training doctors for the LSU Health Science Centers in Shreveport and New Orleans and also at the Texas A&M residency program. Most recently, LaRavia practiced in Bogalusa, La.
LaRavia grew up in Jonesville and said that coming back closer to home was a major selling point.
“Concordia Parish is home, so this is kind of like coming home for us,” he said. “We live on Lake St. John. I love this area.”
LaRavia said he enjoyed his practice in Ferriday but left because he wanted to educate young doctors.
“I had good relationships with people when I was here,” he said. “I left to try to make a difference in training physicians. There are not enough training programs going back into smaller towns. Small towns and cities don’t have as many specialty programs, and they have to do a lot of referrals to other places, and sometimes it is difficult for patients to leave.”
LaRavia said Natchez Community Hospital wanted him to bring his variety of skills to the hospital.
“They expressed a real interest in offering (specialty) services in the area,” he said. “They sold me on the genuineness of need and the interest I had in coming home.”
LaRavia said he will still work to help the young nurses and doctors at Natchez Community Hospital, but he will also see patients and perform surgeries as part of his family practice.
“I’m a board-certified family doctor with extensive experience in dermatological problems,” he said. “(Dermatological surgery) is a real specialty interest, and I do a lot of that and teaching other clinicians how to do that.”
LaRavia said he is also in the process of trying to open a clinic in Vidalia that will provide the same services that he provides at Natchez Community. He said he expects the clinic to open in the next few months.
“I hope to have a clinic that provides advanced skin needs and family care to help provide for the future of people in this area,” he said. “We’ve already got some people hired and the biggest thing is finding the right place and getting everything squared away.”