Robyn Ledbetter: Welcome to this edition of AFMC TV. I’m Robyn Ledbetter. Thank you for joining us today. We have a very special guest, Dr. Ladell Douglas. He is a pediatrician in Hope Arkansas. Thank you so much, Dr. Douglas for joining us today.

Dr. Ladell Douglas: Well, Robyn, I appreciate this opportunity that you have given me  not something that I had thought about, but I have  accepted this responsibility and  it’s a great privilege.

RL: Well, thank you. And I think that you have a really exceptional story to tell, not only with your work through AFMC, but your work in the community and, and the patients that you served for many years in Hope. So, if you would tell us a little bit about your history and you grew up in hope.

LD: Well, yes, I was, born in Hope right outside of Hope in Prescott Arkansas, but lived in Hope, the 1st 10 years of my life. , it’s amazing that after you asked me about this, I had to go back and do a little thinking. And I remember the first house that we lived in here in Hope Arkansas on the north side and back, it was called a shotgun house. Have you ever heard of a shotgun house? No, I’ve not. Well, a shotgun house was a rectangular house, the living room up front, the bedroom in the middle, the kitchen in the rear. that was a shotgun house. And I remember that growing up in that I remember attending Hopewell elementary school and It’s interesting because when my parents moved back in 74 They built a home just right across the street from Hope School, which had become a Baptist church. I remember that. So tell us about your practice in hope and how you ended up back in Hope and why you decided to settle there. I ended up back here in Hope. Arkansas on New Year’s Day, 1994 And it was, I think basically, it was divine intervention. My parents had moved back in 74. My sister moved back in 93. My father had passed away in 78 and I moved back in 94. Just in time to enjoy my mother for one more year because she passed away in 95. So I think it was divine intervention that I come back home. And I’ve been, It’s been worth Well, tell me about your practice because it, it is a little unique of how you’ve set up. You’ve got extended hours and, and work a little lighter than others per se. , how is that set up? And, and why? So we wanted to do something just a little different from the other pediatrician. So we said, well, why don’t we have a little longer lunch break and we stay open a little later in the evening. So initially, we started staying open to seven o’clock in the evening.   four days a week, so that would give the working moms who got off 4 30 or five o’clock. They picked the kid up from daycare and found, found out he was sick, then they would be able to come in and not go to the emergency room. So that was the idea of the extended hours, , for working moms. And we did that, oh, I guess for about 12 years or more. And Then it got to the point the staff were saying, well, you know, it’s a little late seven o’clock to get home. We got to get home, got kids, we got to cook dinner. I said, well, so we decided we come back. So now it’s 5 30.  we worked from 8:00 AM till 12. And then from, 2 – 5 30. So four days a week and then we have half day on Fridays and we have our Fridays afternoon off. So it’s worked out well. so let’s talk health care in Arkansas and, and have you and the changes that you’ve seen. So I, I want to know what health disparities that you see at the forefront for Arkansans as a pediatrician. Well, you know, if you were, people are going into primary care, especially for the rural practice area. Most  physicians these days are going into specialties, subspecialties. And they’re joining groups. I am one of two pediatricians. we have two, family practice doctors here at Hope We have a, we have about four or 5.  nurse practitioners. and I see that, what is happening is that the doctors are two doctors here now ready to retire medical doctors and what’s left, hopefully we’ll have some nurse practitioners. I think Arkansas finally allowed them to become independent practitioners, so they can take up some of the slack and hopefully offer  the rural areas, more opportunities to have physicians. But, , and medical care, One of the things with this disparity that’s needed is that, I think that the legislature needs to understand that There is a need in the rural areas. and they need to offer some incentives. to get more practitioners, health care professionals in a rural area and how they do this has left up to them, but they need to come up with some type of formula even if working with the federal government who maybe will offer grants and for people to come and work in the rural areas and offer them some compensation, but something needs to be done on that area. Well, all all valuable points for sure.  Tell me how the COVID-19 pandemic affected those disparities. Have you seen that change within your practice? Well, yes, it did.  First of all, , there were, restrictions.  We had to, everybody had to mess up and gown up and all of that and that led to, you know,  somebody slow cutbacks.  But I think most of all, The COVID had a greater impact on minorities and poor people. And so they died. proportionately, more of them died and got chronic illnesses.  I myself had COVID twice. And  one of the I have long term COVID, which is  my stamina and energy level is down although I can keep pace at a slow pace, but a rapid pace, I’ve had to slow down. And so there has been consequences to the COVID for everybody.  But I think that overall, It led to the rise of telemedicine and I think that telemedicine is here to stay Although in pediatrics, it’s not as easy to institute telemedicine as it is in the adult population. Little kids. You need to be able to look in their ears and you need to be able to look in their throats and you need to be able to listen to the lungs. and I’m afraid tele medicine has advanced that far that they can allow that. So I think it’s, it’s here to stay but on a limited, , basis when it comes to the pediatric population. Yeah.

RL: Well, how can providers across the state make a change to help those communities who are at higher risk.

LD: Well, one of the ways that the providers across the state they can make, you know, , make it more public awareness of the shortcomings of the rural areas. and they need to be a voice within the medical societies to say that we need to be able to provide more care for the disparities in these poor rural areas that the more care we provide for them, the less cost it would be down the road. So, yeah, even if it’s, , said we will have a traveling, nurse and doctor visit these communities on a ongoing basis. 23 times once a week, two week, once every two weeks or whatever, providing some source for them to get medical attention. So whatever they could work out. And I think the position throughout the state need to be aware that this is a need and there need to be some formulation developed they can bring this about.

RL: So I have one more question for you and you’ve been on the board of directors for AFMC for quite some time and that appointment ends in May, I believe. So, yeah, tell me about your time as a board member and why you decided to serve in that capacity?

LD: Well, yeah. the reason I served in that capacity because it was through my good friend Peggy, who was on the board. I mean, who’s a part of AFMC asked me if I would be willing to become a board member. And I said, well, ok, tell me a little bit about the organization and I was impressed with what AFMC has done and what it’s doing. So I agreed to be a board member and I have enjoyed working with the AFMC. It is a wonderful progressive organization.  I think it’s on the cutting edge of bringing about changes in medicine and how it is distributed and how it is delivered.  And I think that we just celebrated our 50th anniversary at AFMC. And I think the next 50 years even going to be better. It is a wonderful organization and it is always offering something for the medical community.

RL: I agree. Well, Doctor D, it was such a pleasure talking to you today. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your perspective about health care in the state. And I’m, I’m so appreciative of all that you’ve done. Not only to give back to the community and hope but your service to the rest of the state and health care. Thank you.

LD: Well, I appreciate this opportunity, Robyn, and thank you very much.

RL: Thank you. Well, that’s it for this edition of AFMC TV. I’m Robin Ledbetter. Have a great day and thanks for watching.