Wiregrass Medical Center staff reflect on those who came before them, following in their parents’ footsteps

Wiregrass Medical Center has served the people of Geneva County and surrounding areas since 1955.
Published: Apr. 28, 2023 at 11:30 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 28, 2023 at 11:30 PM CDT
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GENEVA, Ala. (WTVY) - Wiregrass Medical Center has served the people of Geneva County and surrounding areas since 1955. Some employees grew up in the area, and even formed a family tree of healthcare at the hospital. These employees now take “caring for the community” to a whole new level.

“This is the place I grew up; it raised me,” Dr. John Simmons said.

Dr. Simmons is one of many carrying on his family’s legacy of working at the Wiregrass Medical Center. He studied at Harvard and UAB, and later accomplished his family medicine residency at A&M and spent years teaching there before coming back to Geneva in 2015.

For him, it’s a full circle moment.

“I had surgery in this hospital when I was younger,” Dr. Simmons said.

From once a patient at the hospital to now the chief of staff in his hometown of Geneva.

“It’s very special to me to come back and be a physician, serve, help others, see people who I grew up with that I am taking care of now, it’s something you can’t get in a lot of places,” Dr. Simmons said.

The close connection to his field of work doesn’t stop there. Dr. Simmons also works alongside his father, who is also a doctor at the hospital.

“To round everyday with my father, he sees patients here and then we go to the office together, and my wife is a doctor in Hartford as well, so the three of us kind of work together, so it’s very special,” Dr. Simmons said.

His family of healthcare frontliners is a legacy he knew he wanted to be a part of since he was a child. He recalls growing up seeing patients interact with his dad.

“Everywhere we went he was ‘Dr. Simmons,’ and I remember very specifically at a restaurant in Samson when I was a little kid and patient after patient coming up interrupting us saying, ‘Hey doc, I’m sorry, I just wanted to tell you thanks for taking care of grandma,’ or ‘We appreciate it, we had our kid in the hospital last week,’ and just we weren’t even able to eat because it just kept happening,” Dr. Simmons said. “There are few professions where you can make that kind of connection to people. Medicine was going to be the one for me.”

Tammy McDaniels chose the same. She is a registered nurse and the quality director of all facilities at the hospital.

“I’ve traveled, and I’ve been a nurse in other areas in other states, and there is something different when you’re here,” McDaniels said. “This is your hometown, this is your community, these are the people that you know, so most of the people that we care for are our friends and our family.”

The hospital opened their doors in 1955 to serve patients in Geneva County and surrounding areas.

McDaniels follows in her mother’s footsteps.

“She was the director of nursing and director over quality in case management, and she was a staple here at this hospital, and when I got here the first time a lot of people had said you know, ‘You have big shoes to fill,’ and there was a lot of things that I took a lot of pride in because I knew my mom was here, and she did a good job, and most of the people in the community she has taken care of some way or another, and it was important for me to come here and kind of follow in her footsteps,” McDaniels said.

She said she is constantly reminded of the good work her mother accomplished

“There’s not many people that won’t tell me on a day-to-day basis, ‘Oh your mom took care of me,’ or ‘Your mom was my nurse,’ or ‘Your mom helped me in a time where I was at one of the lowest spots,’” McDaniels said.

McDaniels said this is something she always looks forward to hearing and strives to live up to.

“I hope this is where I end my career, is at Geneva,” McDaniels said.

Pam Gillis is the admission coordinator.

“This is a hospital I grew up in basically, because my mom worked here for many years and retired from this facility,” Gillis said. “So, as a child, I was always in and out of here, and so when I came to work here I felt like I already knew everybody, and it was taking care of our community and our friends and neighbors and our family.”

As mentioned, Gillis was also inspired by her mother to take on a role at the Wiregrass Medical Center.

“It felt like I was coming home,” Gillis said.

Her mother spent many years as a nurse.

“I know that she would be so proud and so happy to know that I was here, because she truly loved this place, and all of the people here, so kind of a heart touching moment for me,” Gillis said.

Now Gillis is working to help expand new service lines at the hospital.

“This whole facility is a very unique place, and a lot of people don’t know that,” Gillis said. “We have so much to offer here that people aren’t aware of. We’re not just a hospital or just a nursing home, we have a senior care unit, we have a nursing home of course, we have a hospital, we have short term rehab in our swing bed unit. We have a detox unit. Not only can we care for patients in so many different facets, but the job opportunities here are enormous. It’s a great place to come and be taken care of, not only that but to work too.”

Dr. Simmons, McDaniels, and Gillis may all work in different departments, but they all have the same mission.

“I love this hospital,” Dr. Simmons said. “I trust it. I send my patients here every day. I operate here every day. I had my own surgery here, and I would just say to the people of this area, this is your hospital, come use it, we’re here to help you, we’re here to serve you.”

The Wiregrass Medical Center opened their doors in 1955 to serve patients in Geneva County and surrounding areas.

Back then it had only 30 beds and 25,000 square feet, according to the hospital.

It was ran by 30 staff members on duty on both day and night shifts.

About 68 years later, the facility has grown immensely by staffing more than 370 people.

Over the years, additions like the nursing home, surgical wing, senior care unit, infusion center and so much more has been added.

Dr. Simmons said the hospital has changed with the times and has added numerous services, and the growth doesn’t plan to stop.

“We’ve expanded the beds, the number of beds that we have in the hospital, the number of surgical services with Dr. Mitchum, our nursing home is growing, we have an inpatient geriatric psychiatric unit which is the only one in the area that cares for seniors who have mental problems, and we have an inpatient drug and alcohol program, so we are always looking for more ways that we can serve the community and grow with the times,” Dr. Simmons said.

The hospital’s most recent addition this year are the four additional senior care unit beds that were added.

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