North Country Surgical Associates Welcomes Virginia Mcdougall
The work of a surgeon is one of skill and precision. Steady hands can mean the difference between life and death. North Country Surgical Associates in Newport welcomes their newest surgeon to their team, Virginia McDougall M.D.Dr. McDougall arrived at the practice in April, joining surgeons Larry Sisson and Mark Meredith. She brings with her an extensive medical background. “Dr. McDougall has settled in and is keeping busy,” Linda Quarmby said. “The community has been very receptive and we the staff enjoy working with her. Dr. Sisson and Dr. Meredith are very happy to have her here sharing the work load in our very busy surgical practice.” Linda is the practice manager for North Country Surgical Associates. The New Orleans, Louisiana native’s journey to becoming a surgeon is an inspiring one, one that meant hard work and perseverance, as well as battling a system which often discouraged women from becoming doctors, to say nothing of aspiring to become a surgeon. The child of a working class family, she learned what hard, honest work was all about at a young age. Her father was in the meat business in addition to juggling other part-time jobs. Her mother was a secretary. Dr. McDougall was the first person in her family, including among her first cousins, to graduate from college. She is quick to note she is proud of her roots and has never tried to hide who she is behind her multiple degrees. And she has great respect for people who labor with their hands. “My brother used to joke, ‘we didn’t have a lot of money, but we always had a good cut of meat on the table,” Dr. McDougall said. The children also had very supportive parents.During high school, she decided
to attend Louisiana State University School of Medicine (LSU) to become a nurse. However after a year of college, she told her advisor she had second thoughts, and realized she wanted to become a doctor. Female physicians weren’t unheard of at the time, but neither were they as common as they are today. “Everyone basically patted me on the head and told me to go be a nurse,” Dr. McDougall said, emphasizing she admires the hard work and dedication of nurses. She followed their advice and went on to earn a Bachelor Degree in Nursing, then went on to become a pediatric nurse and a nursing instructor. Eventually she earned a Master’s Degree in Nursing from the same university. Although she found both jobs rewarding, she still yearned to become a doctor. She credits her best friend from high school for convincing her to pursue her dream, at least in a round-about way. The friend who decided to follow her dream and return to college to become a lawyer, tried to convince her to become a lawyer.“I told her ‘but I don’t want to be a lawyer,’” she said. “I told her ‘I want to be a doctor.’”Watching her friend set off to pursue her dream convinced Dr. McDougall to fulfill her own. She again applied to LSU, this time to become a doctor. She was 34 years old and was accepted when she was 35. Her plans were to become a pediatric cardiologist, but while performing rounds in various hospital departments, she became fascinated with surgery. She earned her doctorate’s degree in 1994, and went on to perform her residency in General Surgery at LSU.
“I was 44 when I finished my residency at LSU, the same school that shot me down at age 21,” she said proudly. “I couldn’t have done it without my family, including my former husband.”Without a doubt Dr. McDougall is a minority as a surgeon. Only 10-12% of general surgeons in the United States are women. However, she said discrimination has never been a major issue for her from colleagues or patients. She is humble yet proud of the reputation she has earned in the operating room and with her patients.“One thing patients consistently tell me is I’m a doctor whom they understand,” she said, noting she doesn’t talk in medical lingo which often confuses patients. “I think that is important.”In an earlier chapter of her life, Dr. McDougall was a self-proclaimed adrenalin junky. She enjoyed the challenge of trying to save the lives of people in crime-ridden sections of New Orleans, with some patients suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.Fast forward in time, her passion is still found in the operating room saving lives; however, she no longer needs the adrenalin rush she once found in the south. She is ready to settle to a more relaxed pace. When she visited North Country, she said she knew the hospital was just what she was looking for. The mother of two grown children, with a daughter in Louisiana, and a son in Maine (his girlfriend is a surgical resident at Maine Medical Center), said she has received overwhelming support from her colleagues at North Country Surgical Associates, throughout the hospital, as well as from the patients. “My reception here has been unbelievable,” Dr. McDougall said. “Everyone has not only been welcoming but people from the hospital as well as others in the community have all offered help in one way or another…so very refreshing.”
Welcome to North Country Dr. McDougall!
Virginia McDougall, general surgeon, joins North Country
Hospital Medical Staff.