Tuesday was far from a standard workday for Dr. Carrie Wood.
By 9:20 a.m., Dr. Wood found herself in the co-pilot’s seat of a single-engine Piper PA-32 airplane headed toward Columbia, South Carolina. Seated next to her in the pilot’s seat of the small, six-passenger craft was longtime Tidelands Health family medicine physician Dr. Gerald Harmon, immediate past chair of the American Medical Association and an experienced private pilot.
On a typical workday, Dr. Wood would have been caring for patients as a resident physician in the Tidelands Health MUSC Family Medicine Residency Program. But on this day, she was seated next to a nationally recognized physician helping him guide an airplane into the sky.
“It was a beautiful flight in,” Dr. Wood said, recounting the two physicians’ wide-ranging conversation aloft. “I really enjoyed it.”
For more than 30 years, Dr. Harmon, vice president of medical affairs for Tidelands Health, has come to the South Carolina statehouse to volunteer his time and expertise to serve as a “Doctor of the Day.”
In the role, it’s his job to provide medical care and advice to legislators, statehouse employees and Capitol visitors for a day. He makes it a point to invite medical students and resident physicians to join him.
“It’s important our physicians realize the importance of staying engaged with the Legislature,” Dr. Harmon said. “Our legislators aren’t the ones providing medical care, but through their work they provide important structure and support for it.”
By 10:15 a.m., Drs. Harmon and Wood were stationed in the modest office of Legislative Health Services on the third floor of the ornate statehouse. Over the next two hours, they cared for people with a variety of health concerns, ranging from a finger injury to a complaint of general sickness and malaise.
It was the first visit to a state Capitol for Dr. Wood, a California native and first-year resident physician.
“I feel very lucky,” she said. “I am very fortunate to be able to come to the Capitol and learn about the history and care for the people here. It’s a great opportunity.”
At 12:30 p.m., the two physicians were led to the state House of Representatives, where they were publicly honored by the chamber for their service, a scene that was repeated before the state Senate later in the afternoon.
Although he’s been serving as a Doctor of the Day since the 1980s, Dr. Harmon has no plans to stop. For him, it’s an opportunity to not only to care for others but to also serve as an example to the next generation of care providers.
“It’s important to instill in our physicians that being a leader in our community means stepping outside the doors of our hospitals, of our offices and of our exam rooms,” Dr. Harmon said. “This is democracy at work, and they need to come up here and see it.”