Private-practice psychiatrist joins Mental Health Associates
NATCHEZ — When Dr. Linda Wilbourn needed to find a psychiatrist to associate with Mental Health Associates, she didn’t look long.
She went with the first person who came to mind.
Dr. William S. Cook Jr., who Wilbourn first met two decades ago when both were consulting at a chemical dependency clinic in Jackson, was an obvious choice, she said.
“I have always been very impressed with Dr. Cook’s professionalism and his dedication to his patients and their welfare,” she said.
Cook accepted Wilbourn’s offer, and has been working part-time with Mental Health Associates and Miss-Lou Addiction Clinic three days a week since Dec. 1. He also serves as the staff psychiatrist for the Senior Behavioral Health Unit at Natchez Regional Medical Center and has a private practice at MHA.
The need for a psychiatrist in the area is two-fold, Wilbourn said.
The first is the Miss-Lou hasn’t — to her knowledge — had a private-practice psychiatrist in the 20 years she has been practicing psychology in Natchez, and patients needing psychiatric evaluation have had to drive to Baton Rouge or Jackson.
The second need was for Miss-Lou Addiction Clinic, which needed a psychiatrist in order to properly administer Suboxone treatment, a medical approach to treating opiate-based addiction.
“A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has gone to medical school and done four years of residency and can prescribe medicines and psychotherapy,” Cook said. “A psychologist can do the therapy, but can’t prescribe medicines and doesn’t have a medical background.”
With Cook’s addition, Miss-Lou Addiction Clinic takes a three-pronged, multi-disciplinary approach to substance abuse treatment, he said.
First, the clinic’s counselor — Lisa Swinny — will complete an intake questionnaire with a patient, who will then see Cook.
After Cook performs a medical evaluation, he refers the patient to Wilbourn for further mental treatment.
“The Drug Enforcement Agency has strict guidelines about what they consider to be appropriate Suboxone treatment, and one component that has been missing in some instances has been the mental health component,” Wilbourn said. “With (Cook’s addition), we are covering all of the needed and mandated components for Suboxone treatment. The patients can’t just take the pills, they have to have the mental health treatment as well.”
Cook said he’s delighted to return to Natchez, where he worked in 1991 as an emergency room doctor at Humana Hospital, now Natchez Community Hospital.
He graduated from Wheaton College with a bachelor of science in biology in 1978 and completed his medical training at the University of Mississippi Medical School in 1982.
Among other things, he was a teaching fellow in pathology at Boston University’s School of Medicine and completed a year of residency in pathology at the Mallory Institute of Pathology.
He also spent a year as a research fellow in dermatology at the University of California, worked in emergency rooms in six hospitals — including the King’s Daughter’s Hospital in Brookhaven, where he was acting medical director — and completed a residency in psychiatry at UMC in June 1994.
Cook was the chief resident at UMC from July 1993 to June 1994.
Since then, he has completed other fellowships and served as the medical director or primary call physician at five clinics and as psychiatrist at a sixth.
Cook said he decided to become a full-time psychiatrist after 10 years in the medical field because it was the most interesting specialization for me for him.
“I liked the emergency room, but I always wanted to be a psychiatrist,” he said. “There are no two days the same, and I like working with the variety of patients.”
Cook said he still sees some patients who might be hesitant to see a psychiatrist, but the fears they might have can be eased after a couple of sessions.
“There is a lot of reluctance because there is still a lot of stigma in the deep South about seeing a psychiatrist about dealing with their problems, but when patients get some help and start to move forward, they have less reluctance,” he said.
While Cook works three days in Natchez, he still has a private practice in Jackson. Working between the two cities, however, isn’t a problem for him.
“I take the Natchez Trace, and except for the deer hazards — I had a 10-point buck hit my new car — I like the drive and the variety of getting out of my office.”
Cook said getting re-acquainted with Natchez has been easy, and residents are likely to see him downtown before work in the mornings he’s in the area.
“I love Natchez, and I always have,” he said.
Mental Health Associates is located at 404 N. Union St.