A hometown doctor
Union honors beloved doctor amid her difficult year
— When the annual National Doctors’ Day luncheon is held at Union Hospital in Elkton, typically two physicians are recognized as Doctor of the Year — one nominated by the nursing
staff, the other nominated by the doctors.
This year, however, Dr. Elizabeth Lowe, an Elktonbased general surgeon, received both awards in a ceremony held last week. That’s because doctors and nurses agreed that Lowe was most deserving of the honor, and submitted numerous written nominations containing glowing passages about Lowe as a
person and as a physician.
“It stood out to me. It shows that Dr. Lowe has the respect of her fellow physicians and the respect of the nursing staff,” said Kathryn McKinney, who is Union Hospital’s director of public relations and marketing.
Noting that Union Hospital has been holding the event for the past 10 to 12 years, McKinney said Lowe was first called up to receive the award based on nominations by the nursing staff. Moments later, Lowe was called up again to receive the Doctor of the Year award as determined by nominations submitted by the physicians.
“I was little taken aback,” McKinney said, adding, “This is the first time that I can remember a doctor receiving both awards.”
In the wake of the event, Union Hospital’s Facebook page has been flooded with posts in which writers have given kudos to Lowe.
“Everyone has commented that they love Dr. Lowe,” McKinney said. “Dr. Lowe demonstrates our organizational values. She is caring and compassionate. And she shows leadership.”
Although the naming of the Doctor of the Year is meant to be a surprise, a hospital official contacted Lowe’s staff to make sure she would be able to attend the ceremony. And those employees, in turn, made arrangements so that Lowe’s children — Webster, 13, and Emma, 10 — could be there, as well as Lowe’s mother, Beth Pauley, her three sisters — Nancy, Kate and Janet — and other relatives.
“It was top secret. They keep that information very close to the vest, so we worked behind the scenes,” said Rose Hess, practice manager at Lowe’s medical office, noting that everyone was eagerly on board to pull it off. “We’re like family to each other in this office. We think the world of (Dr. Lowe), just like everyone else who knows her. She is very good to us.”
The plan involved keeping Lowe’s family members at her nearby office until shortly before the ceremony, Hess said. The annual award ceremony takes place during the regular monthly meeting.
At that point, she added, Lowe’s family and her office staff walked across High Street to the hospital’s banquet room and then kept a low profile.
“We were hidden in a corner, so she wouldn’t see us and wonder why we there,” Hess said.
Because Lowe was performing scheduled surgeries that day, the plan also involved “coordinating time in the O.R.” so Lowe would have a break that coincided with the meeting.
Her staff understood how important it was for Lowe’s family to be present, as did anyone in the local medical community who knows Lowe.
Lowe credits her family for supporting her because practicing medicine is a demanding occupation — particularly for a surgeon who must come to the hospital at all hours of the day and night to perform emergency surgeries when on call.
“You can’t be a doctor without the support of your family. No man is an island,” Lowe emphasized.
She noted that there have been many times when she rushed to the hospital for an emergency surgery with her children in tow, because they happened to be with her when the call came. Webster and Emma, as a result, have mastered the art of biding their time in the hospital.
“They don’t complain. My kids know every back hallway in the hospital. They’re like, ‘What lounge do you want.’ They know all the channels on the TV. They know where the food is,” Lowe said. “They are so supportive. They understand.”
Lowe also gave recognition to her mother, who spends nights at the Lowe home whenever her daughter is on call so she can be there with Webster and Emma.
That arrangement started after Lowe’s husband, Derrick, the beloved Cecil County Clerk of Court, died unexpectedly in August at age 49.
Derrick had been Lowe’s emotional rock since meeting him on a blind date arranged by a family friend in 1996 in his native Tennessee, where Lowe was doing her general surgery residency after graduating from Tulane University School of Medicine earlier that year, she said. They married in 1998.
Then in 2002, the couple moved to Cecil County because Lowe accepted a general surgeon position at Union Hospital, where Lowe has been performing appendectomies, gall bladder operations, colonoscopies, breast cancer surgeries and other procedures ever since.
It was a smooth transition for Lowe, who grew up in West Chester, Pa., and whose maternal grandfather, the late Dr. Henry Davis, lived in Chesapeake City. Davis, who died in 1994, practiced medicine for 47 years.
But it was difficult for her husband to leave Tennessee, where all his friends and family lived and where he recently had completed his MBA degree, she said.
“He didn’t know anyone around here. I dragged him up here, and he went because he loved me,” Lowe said, her eyes tearing up. “He supported me so much. I couldn’t have done any of this without him.”
(Her husband “found his niche” up here, when he went to law school and then practiced law in Cecil County, where he befriended hundreds of people and then ran successfully for Clerk of the Court in 2010 and again in 2014, she noted.)
Lowe credits her late grandfather for inspiring her to pursue a career as a physician.
“I wanted to be a doctor since I was 8 or 9 years old,” she said. “I just liked the way he took care of people, and I knew I wanted to do that someday.”
As it turns out, on the day that she received her Doctor of the Year awards, Lowe happened to be practicing medicine — the work she had wanted to do since her girlhood. Amid a workday of scheduled surgeries, Lowe, fittingly, attended the ceremony in her blue surgical scrubs and a white lab coat.
“This really means a lot to me, and I’m honored,” Lowe said of her two Doctor of the Year awards. “It means I have the respect of my peers.”
Her office staf f is proud of Lowe.
“She deserves this recognition. She is like a hometown doctor. She could certainly go to a bigger hospital somewhere, but her heart and soul is in Elkton. She works for her patients and for this community,” Hess said. “She cares so much. Her philosophy has always been that the patient comes first.”
Dr. Elizabeth Lowe, an Elkton-based general surgeon, holds her two Union Hospital Doctor of the Year awards.
Dr. Ryan Geracimos, president of Union Hospital medical staff, awards Dr. Elizabeth Lowe as Lowe’s children and Dr. Cydney Teal, chief medical officer, look on.