Long-time state doctor, Sandino, dies

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 3, 2010

NATCHEZ — Dr. Alberto Sandino’s medical work affected countless lives in Southwest Mississippi, but for those who knew him best, it’s not the stethoscope they’ll remember.

Sandino, the staff physician at the Adams County Health Department, died Jan. 20 at his Vidalia house. He was 77.

“It was a joy being around him,” health department nurse Margaret Stutzman said. “He was kind and quiet and gentle and always happy. He was always interested in his patients and wanting to teach.”

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Born in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, Sandino began his medical career in 1963 when he received his Doctor in Medicine and Surgery degree from the National University of Nicaragua Medical School.

After completing his internship and residency in Managua, Nicaragua, Sandino spent the next 14 years practicing orthopedic surgery in his native country before moving to the United States in 1979.

Sandino began working for the Mississippi State Department of Health in 1980 at Kuhn Memorial Hospital in Vicksburg where he practiced medicine for nine years working in the emergency room and in the areas of general medicine and surgery, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology.

In 1989, Sandino began his job as staff physician for the Mississippi State Department of Health in District VII, providing care to residents of Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Wilkinson and Amite counties until the time of his death.

Stutzman, county coordinating nurse, said after working with Sandino for more than 20 years, she considered him a member of her extended family.

Sandino was a special man with many wonderful characteristics, but certain traits made him unique, she said.

“His faith in God and his love for his family made him special,” Stutzman said.

Daughter Karla Tucker, a resident of Vidalia, said her father was an extraordinary man.

“He was an amazing dad and was very much loved by everyone,” Tucker said.

Many who knew Sandino remember how he changed their lives.

Abundant Life Church secretary Linda Blaney said as a member of the church Sandino’s death was felt by everyone who considered him to be a brother in Christ.

“He was loved by everybody,” Blaney said. “He always had a smile and he was always very friendly. He was a very quiet man, but he was fairly active in our church.

“We’ve watched his family and his kids grow up and marry and go on to start their own families.”

Blaney said Sandino’s love and appreciation of all kinds of people made him a joy to be around.

“After he’d met you, you never saw him out in public when he didn’t greet you,” she said

Stutzman said for the past 21 years Sandino has offered many talents to the people of Adams County and other surrounding areas.

“He was such an asset (to the health department) because we have such a large Spanish speaking population here,” Stutzman said.

While proud of his Nicaraguan heritage, Stutzman said there was one accomplishment in which Sandino took special pride.

“He was exceptionally proud of becoming a U.S. citizen,” Stutzman said. “He became a citizen back in the mid-’90s, and he went to Washington, D.C., for the ceremony. He was so excited about that.”

Stutzman said through the years of working alongside Sandino, she began thinking of him as a member of her family.

“We were going to retire together at the end of this month,” Stutzman said. “I decided to retire first, but I wanted to stay and finish out with him.

“It was really hard to think about leaving work. There are some people you work with that you just hate to leave.”

Blaney said, the community lost one of its best.

“Have you ever met one of those people who always has a smile on his face and a kind word for everybody?

“Well, that was him.”

He is survived by his wife Maura Sandino, son Alberto Sandino Jr., Tucker and his two grandchildren.