Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center may be in the heart of the economically challenged Delta, but doctors have come to Clarksdale from all over the country and world and found the care patients receive at this hospital to be top-notch.
Two local doctors could have picked anywhere in the world to practice medicine and they chose Clarksdale.
One of those doctors is surgical pathologist Andrew Martin, who is the medical lab director at Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center. He has a home in Duncan, just outside of Coahoma County, and also works with hospitals in surrounding communities. He is originally from Toccoa, Ga., and has spent time in places such as New Orleans, California and North Carolina and began working with the local hospital in 1999.
Dr. Kushna Damallie is originally from Nassau in the Bahamas, but he has been in Clarksdale since 2003. He is an OBGYN at The Woman’s Clinic on North State Street and works with the local hospital on a regular basis.
Neither doctor originally planned to come to Clarksdale, but once they arrived, things worked out.
Martin had many different options for career paths after scoring a 1560 on the SAT in high school.
“We had a lot of doctors in my family,” Martin said. “For whatever reason, even though I was an athlete, I did really well on my SAT, PSAT and was National Merit Scholar. So I had to figure out how could I best fulfill the talents that God gave me?”
Martin graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., Phi Beta Kappa in 1980 with a degree in English. He went on to graduate from Emory’s medical school in 1984 and earned a juris doctorate from Duke University in 1988.
Martin worked in California for a little while, but did not find it fulfilling as he wanted to use his talents in the best way possible to help humanity.
“I love history,” said Martin of why he originally moved to Mississippi.
“Part of my mother’s family came to Natchez in the 1700s.”
Martin’s daughter’s mother was from Mississippi. He decided to move to the state in 1995.
He began working with Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center four years later and has had a relationship with the hospital for more than 20 years. He enjoys being able to make a difference.
“This is one of the most underserved areas in the state and the country,” Martin said.
Bahamas to the Delta
Damallie’s sister, Indira, was in the medical field and he decided to follow her path and apply to medical school. He earned his undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry from Morris Brown College in Atlanta in 1995. He earned his medical degree from Boston University in 1999. He did his internship at Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn., and finished his residency in OBGYN.
Even after finding a position in Clarksdale, Damallie did not imagine being in the same community 17 years later.
“At one point, I wanted to train more in maternal fetal medicine, which is high pregnancy,” Damallie said. “What I found was two things, A, I really loved the practice that I joined, and, B, I was seeing a lot of high risk pregnancies in the practice here in Clarksdale.”
With the training he already had, Damallie found he was still able to assist patients who had complications with hypertension, diabetes, obesity and advanced maternal age, which means having children after age 35.
Both doctors reflected on their years of experience working with Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center.
Martin said the hospital team makes Clarksdale special.
He talked of housekeeping and how clean they keep the hospital and nurses who smile and go the extra mile to help patients and doctors.
“The hospital in Clarksdale is just highly underrated,” said Martin.
Martin said there are some facility needs, but they are being addressed by the new owners.
Damallie echoed Martin’s views.
“This hospital is comparable to some of the other hospital I trained at as far as some of the services and the level of care that you receive,” he said. “I’m an OBGYN so the areas of the hospital I deal with are outpatient surgery, the surgery department, labor delivery, the emergency, the postpartum ward and the newborn nursery. Those departments that I’m more a part of top-notch departments with excellent care with superior nurses you can find in our part of the country.”
Damallie also talked about a veteran staff that knows their stuff.
“A lot of staff is from this area. It’s close to the heart from them,” Damallie said. “They’ve been there for so long. It’s more personal for them in terms of the care they give.”
Martin and Damallie both appreciated the services the hospital provides, but they also acknowledged economic difficulties.
Martin said healthcare has been decimated by cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. After World War II, he said there were more rural hospitals.
“What’s happened was they privatized so much of healthcare and Medicaid that there’s been an approach to try to cut, cut, cut, cut, cut by privatizing,” Martin said. “Some people did not realize the value of having rural hospitals.”
Damallie expressed similar concerns.
“I think Mississippi was one of the states that didn’t expand Medicaid,” he said. “I think for the other medical practices would feel that more than us with OBGYN. Once a woman is pregnant and uninsured, she will get Medicaid, but other general practices like internal medicine, they will see more uninsured patients because of that lack of a Medicaid expansion.”
Both Damallie and Martin hope the business of healthcare will stabilize and doctors can get back to the business of practicing medicine.
Both said it is what attracted them to become doctors. Both said it’s what keeps them in Clarksdale.