Stubbs: ‘There will never be another Natchez’

Published 7:41 pm Saturday, February 17, 2024

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NATCHEZ — After 42 years of practicing medicine in Natchez, Dr. Kenneth Stubbs is retiring.

His last day as a physician at Internal Medicine Associates in Natchez will be Feb. 28.

Stubbs and wife, Karen, are heading to Madison, where they have bought a house and will be near the youngest of their grandchildren.

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Stubbs took some time recently to reflect on his medical practice and what the Natchez community has meant to him.

The early years

Stubbs was fresh out of his internal medicine residency at Earl K. Long Hospital in Baton Rouge, which at the time was part of Louisiana’s Charity Hospital system, when he accepted an invitation to join Dr. Iley Dillon as a partner in an internal medicine practice here.

Dillon had only a few years before completed his internal medicine residency, also at Earl K. Long in Baton Rouge.

When Stubbs and his wife, Karen, arrived in Natchez in 1982, their son, Nathan, was 17 months old and son Andrew was three weeks old.

Two other children would follow, daughter Joanna and son Julian.

“I originally set my sights on being a pathologist because I love lab work. I love microscope work. I worked at the blood bank in Charity Hospital from my sophomore through my senior year of medical school,” he said.

During his undergraduate years at LSU in Baton Rouge, which was his hometown, and his years in medical school at LSU in New Orleans, Stubbs always had a job.

“I had no money,” he said.

It was at one of those part-time jobs at LSU where Stubbs met his future wife, Karen, when they worked together at the LSU bookstore during the holidays of his senior year.

The two married during Stubbs’ sophomore year in medical school after Karen earned her undergraduate degree. She, too, was a Baton Rouge native.

“Your first two years of medical school are mostly in the classroom studying biochemistry and physiology and things like that. It’s really still like that today. You start getting exposure to things like how to use a stethoscope and how to check blood pressure and those kinds of things. But you really get into your clinicals during your junior and senior years of medical school. That’s when you start tending to patients.

“I worked in the blood bank at Charity and we worked nights. I worked every third night typing and matching blood for the people coming to Charity Hospital, The Knife and Gun Club would meet every Friday and Saturday night in New Orleans so the emergency room was busy all the time.

“Through my clinical rotations in OB-GYN, pediatrics, internal medicine and surgery, I would do a call night at the hospital and the next night would work in the lab at the blood bank and then I would have a night at home. I would bring clothes and put them in the locker and basically spent two nights in a row at Charity Hospital,” he said. “To me, it was great. It was so much fun and you learned so much and you were right there in the middle of everything.”

It was during his internal medicine rotation that he decided that was the specialty he wanted to pursue.

“I knew I wanted to care for patients, rather than work in the lab,” he said. “Earl K. Long was a great learning opportunity because as a resident physician, you had to do a lot yourself physically. We didn’t have a lot of aides or as many nurses, so we had to start IVs and sometimes put people on gurneys and roll them to X-ray and help them get the X-ray. It was very hands-on training. We did a lot. We put in pacemakers and central lines because we did not have a lot of fellows.”

Fellows are physicians who have completed a residency and are pursuing education in a medical subspecialty, such as cardiology or gastroenterology.

“We were doing scopes and lung biopsies and endoscopies at Earl K. Long. We did all that as residents. We had staff doctors who would teach us, but we really got to do it. As medical education has evolved, that’s more of a rarity that a resident gets to do those things,” Stubbs said.

‘Natchez was rocking and rolling’

When Stubbs joined Dillon in his practice in Natchez, Stubbs said Natchez was growing and on the move.

“Natchez was rocking and rolling at that time. It was really booming. The oil industry was growing leaps and bounds and had Natchez had IP, Johns Manville, Armstrong Tire and Rubber Co. There were 85 doctors here and between the two hospitals — Jeff Davis Memorial and Community Hospital — both needed doctors,” he said.

Stubbs planned to stay in Baton Rouge and work at the Baton Rouge Clinic until one of the staff doctors at Earl K. Long told him about Dr. Dillon and his need for a partner in his private practice in Natchez.

“I came up to visit and they took us to Cock of the Walk and we stayed at the Ramada Inn overlooking the river,” Stubbs said. “Bill Mitchell was the administrator at Jeff Davis (later known as Natchez Regional and now Merit Health Natchez) and Jimmy Cathey was the administrator at Community Hospital. It just looked like it was a good fit for us.

“Natchez was small, but big, but nothing like Baton Rouge. There was no such thing as a traffic jam. Natchez had traffic minutes. They needed doctors and they did not have a lot of sub-specialties at the time. It was a good fit for me because of the kind of training I had doing a little bit of everything,” Stubbs said.

Those subspecialists would arrive before long.

“Randy Tillman, a gastroenterologist, came to Natchez, and his brother, Barry Tillman came, who was a pulmonologist. And the dialysis center started setting up and had a nephrologist and it became less important for us do to those things. Mal Morgan was here doing pacemakers and eventually we had other cardiologists come here. Those guys knew how to do them better than me, so we backed off of things like that.”

During the early 2000s, physicians in Mississippi were having a difficult time getting malpractice insurance because of the prevalence of huge legal verdicts against those providing health care.

“We had these ridiculous lawsuits. I was named in about a dozen that had to do with drugs, medications and their side effects. Jefferson County was known for its Jackpot Justice. At any rate, Iley Dillon resigned from our company and moved to Louisiana and opened his own office there because of the lawsuits and malpractice insurance situation. He wanted me to go over there, but I wanted to stick it out here,” Stubbs said.

By that time, Dr. Blane Mire and Dr. Ed Daly had joined Dillon and Stubbs in their practice.

“Me, Ed and Blane formed a new partnership and with the help of the public and Karen and other wives of doctors, they put together a really good public relations campaign. We got the news out about what was happening with tort reform and eventually — in 2004 — some laws were passed,” Stubbs said.

In 2006, Stubbs, Mire and Daly moved into Doctors Pavilion, which they built and owned until selling it to an investor in 2020.


“First of all, we have been so grateful to this community for accepting us. We are not native-born Natchezians. We are from Baton Rouge. I just can’t say enough about how great this community has been in receiving us, our church, our friends. The involvement you can get in this community is more than I could have ever imagined. The history, the camaraderie, the friendliness, the social activities — it is beyond its size and scope of what should be available to do here. You think of all the activities that go on in this town. There is so much to do; we almost don’t have enough people to do them all. But it’s been great. I have nothing but gratitude for this community, which gives me a little bit of a guilt twinge about leaving,” Stubbs said.

He said he will be 71 in April and it’s time for him to devote more time to his wife and family.

“It will be 42 years this summer and I’ve put in a lot of long nights and days and missed things from my own kids and family and they were kind enough to put up with me and let me practice medicine. One of the great old physicians, William Osler, said ‘Medicine is a jealous mistress’ and that’s true. It requires a lot of time commitment,” Stubbs said.

The Stubbs’ oldest son, Nathan, who owns a general contracting company that is very active in Natchez and south Louisiana, lives in Natchez with his wife, Jessica, and their children Jack Henry Stubbs and Jordan Stubbs.

Son Andrew, an attorney, lives in Madison with his wife, Elissa “Lizzie” Woodruff, Ph.D., who is a child psychologist specializing in eating disorders. The two have one son, Brian, who will soon be 9 years old.

Daughter Joanna is a fitness trainer and runs the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi wellness program. She is married to Billy Dixon and they live in the Canton area and have one daughter, Samantha, who is 11.

Youngest son, Julian, is married to Lindsey Tatum Stubbs, who is a nurse practitioner at University Medical Center in Jackson. Julian has been in the restaurant business and now works as an account manager for a hotel and restaurant supply company. They are the parents of a one-year-old son, Locke.

“I was able to attend a Christmas program my soon-to-be-9-year-old grandson was in this year and I was sitting there watching and thinking about how many of these I missed of my own kids. There I was getting to see my grandson. That was pretty cool.

“It is strange to think about putting down roots in another community. There will never be another Natchez,” Stubbs said.