This is Part 2 of an ongoing series. You can read Part 1 here.
Jack, you should write a book about this!
That’s what my friend and fellow Emory doctor, Neil Shulman, M.D., shouted to Jack Birge, M.D., back in the early 1970s when he had become incarcerated in the Carroll County, Georgia, jail.
Neil was an Assistant Professor at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, at the time. He was doing research and seeing patients at Emory during the week, and some weekends would moonlight in the Emergency Room at Tanner Memorial in Carrollton, where he became friends with Dr. Birge. That’s how he became aware of Dr. Birge’s strange plight of ending up in the Carroll County jail.
Dr. Birge was ministering to his patients through the bars of the Carroll County jail where he was incarcerated.
After their doctor was put in jail, they weren’t willing to be shuffled off to the next doctor, so they would come and talk to Dr. Birge at night, who would give them advice from his jail cell.
Dr. Birge, I have a pain in my stomach after eating.
You can buy Prilosec at the drug store. Take twice as much as it says on the label.
Dr. Birge, I have a cough and a fever. Should I go to the Emergency Room to get antibiotics?
Is anything coming up when you cough?
It’s probably a virus then, antibiotics won’t help. Just get plenty of rest and keep drinking fluids.
Dr. Birge’s patients worshipped him, and they didn’t care about what the authorities of Carroll County had to say about him. He was their doctor, and they didn’t trust anyone else with the healthcare of themselves or their family members.
Jack Birge, M.D., was a promising resident physician at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, in the early 1970s, who had dreams of pursuing a career in research and academic medicine. After his wife had one child, and then another, the equation started to change. The financial picture of a growing family meant that he had to look for other avenues, so he found himself in the family car driving south to a new position on the medical staff at Tanner Memorial Medical Center in Carrollton in Carroll County, Georgia.
Chairman of the Board of the Tanner Memorial Medical Center was Roy Richards, CEO of the Southwire Company of Carroll County, Georgia, which if you read the last piece in this ongoing series you will now is one of the largest manufacturers of the copper wire that is strung between our telephone poles in the world.
This migration which through the doctor and the CEO together was to have fateful consequences.