New Natchez residents settle into health-care workplaces, home that suits them well

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Opportunities in their medical fields spread out before them, Dr. Donielle Daigle and her husband, Stacy Dennis, saw in Natchez all they had envisioned as a place to work and to live as a family.

The new obstetrician-gynecologist joined the women’s clinic staffed by Drs. William Godfrey, Thomas Purvis and Thomas Carey soon after completing her residency in Shreveport, La., in late June.

Dennis, an experienced

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physician assistant, fulfilled his dream of working with an orthopedic surgeon in the couple’s move to Natchez. Having worked for five years in neurosurgery, he now assists Dr. Robert Haimson in surgery as well as with office patients.

&uot;We fell in love with Natchez,&uot; Daigle said. &uot;We loved the historic homes and the friendly, welcoming people.&uot;

Dennis agreed. &uot;It’s a charming town, kind of an old European, New Orleans type of feeling to it.&uot;

The couple already had decided that they wanted to settle in a community not far from their families. Hers is in New Orleans; his, in Baton Rouge.

Further, they did not want a big city but, rather, a small town. Most important, they wanted to go where there was a need.

&uot;A big part of my decision to come to Natchez &045; and there were a lot of job opportunities for me &045; was to go to a place where we were needed, where we could be a part of the community and raise a family.&uot;

She has been rewarded for her decision time and again as patients come to her new office in the clinic on Jefferson Davis Boulevard and tell her how glad they are she came.

&uot;I’ve seen a lot of patients who haven’t been to a doctor in a long time,&uot; she said. &uot;So many have told me how glad they are that I’m here and that they can see a woman ob-gyn.&uot;

The couple bought a historic house on Orleans Street, and that, too, fits into their dream.

&uot;We had liked the looks of this house, but there was no for-sale sign in the yard,&uot; Daigle said. &uot;Then one day the Realtor pulled up in front of the house and stopped. We couldn’t believe it. We said, ‘This is the house we want.’ She told us sometimes a house is for sale even if there is no sign in the yard.&uot;

Daigle and Dennis met during his graduate training as a physician assistant and her second year in medical school. He first noticed her in a class they had together.

&uot;Then a mutual friend introduced us one day. A little later, I asked my friend to find out if she would go out with me,&uot; Dennis said.

Both have backgrounds in competitive athletics. Daigle participated on a swim team from an early age, bringing home many honors and wins and eventually holding 30 state records in swimming.

&uot;I went to Vanderbilt University on a swimming scholarship,&uot; she said. &uot;I majored in Spanish and minored in psychology but got in all of my pre-med courses, too.&uot;

She went on to the Louisiana State University Medical School at Shreveport and from there spent two years of residency training at the University of South Alabama at Mobile. She completed her residency back at Shreveport.

Choosing ob-gyn was a result of a mentor who saw in her the talent for that specialty. &uot;I never had really thought about it, but Dr. James Truly from Monroe took me by the hand and told me that’s what I was going to do.&uot;

The mentoring took hold, and she began to realize the opportunity to assist in bringing new life into the world was one she wanted to seize.

&uot;I remember as far back as the seventh grade liking science. My dad has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry so I guess he influenced me some,&uot; Daigle said. &uot;At first I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian. My mother convinced me I couldn’t handle that.&uot;

The husband and wife enjoy their own small group of pets, however. The two active dogs and one very large black-and-white cat are a part of the family. Walking the dogs around downtown in the late afternoon is one of their favorite times together, Dennis said. &uot;That’s how we decompress,&uot; he said.

His background as a college football player influenced his decision to become a physician assistant, Dennis said. &uot;I played football at the University of Southern Mississippi, and I had the usual football injuries.&uot;

Working with orthopedic surgeons and in spine clinics gave him a good idea about the challenges faced by health-care workers in those settings.

&uot;I knew I had most of the prerequisites for the physician assistant program, and I heard about the one at the medical school in Shreveport,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s about a 27- to 28-month program, and anyone entering it already has an undergraduate degree and some quality medical experience.&uot;

Daigle and Dennis find that their careers, though different, give their lives an important common thread. He understands the stresses of her job. She knows the challenges of his.

&uot;But we’ve always had good friends outside of medicine,&uot; Dennis said. Both already are working on getting involved and making new friends in their new town even while continuing to settle into the new home.

Both are impressed with their workplaces. &uot;Our whole office works well together. It’s an easy, fun, nice place to work, and everyone helps each other,&uot; Daigle said.

Dennis said he appreciates having the opportunity to work with an orthopedic surgeon such as Haimson.

&uot;Natchez is definitely fortunate to have someone of his caliber,&uot; Dennis said. &uot;And as busy as he is, the quality of time he spends with his patients is very impressive.&uot;

Both know about the scary economic news the Natchez area faces with the closing of plants, especially the loss of International Paper’s Natchez mill.

&uot;Things will get better. This is a great place to live and work,&uot; Daigle said.

&uot;And everything we looked for fell into place here,&uot; Dennis said.