A home­town doc­tor

Union honors beloved doc­tor amid her dif­fi­cult year

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By CARL HAMIL­TON

ca­hamil­ton@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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

ELK­TON

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.”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY CARL HAMIL­TON

Dr. El­iz­a­beth Lowe, an Elk­ton-based gen­eral sur­geon, holds her two Union Hos­pi­tal Doc­tor of the Year awards.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF UNION HOS­PI­TAL

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.

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