Henderson County Physician Named To 'Super Doctors' List
physician named to 'Super Doctors' list
By Toni Garrard Clay
Dr. Doug Curran is everywhere these days. The longtime Athens-based family physician has been spotted in a few magazines you may have heard of, such as Newsweek and Sports Illustrated.
Through his longtime association with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, Curran appears – wearing his white lab coat, clutching a stethoscope and looking more serious than one usually finds him – in a series of their print ads.
While those ads have garnered him the most attention over the last few months, a less visible appearance in another magazine carries even more prestige.
On page S-18 of December's Texas Monthly (S for Super), Curran's name is listed under the Family/General Practice section of "Texas Super Doctors 2005."
Curran, Douglas Warren. Athens. 903-676-3200.
That's it. No big deal, right? Actually, it is.
The physicians were chosen only after more than 45,000 Texas doctors, nurse practitioners and nurse managers were asked, "To whom would you refer a loved one or one of your patients for medical diagnosis and/or treatment?"
Even more notable is the fact that of the doctors listed, only a small fragment have rural practices. Most work in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and similarly sized cities.
Curran takes it all in stride.
"I'm not a better doctor than anyone else here (at Lakeland Medical Associates)," shrugged the 56-year-old. "It's just my name recognition is out there."
Several years ago, about the time his youngest child was graduating from high school, Curran felt the need to get involved with the legislative arm of healthcare. With the blessing of his partners, he jumped into the political arena.
He's now active with a laundry list of state medical associations. In addition to serving as president elect of the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, he's also on the Physicians Advisory Board of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas; and the governmental advocacy committee of the American Academy of Family Doctors, to name just a few.
"Doug has a vision for healthcare that goes beyond Athens and even the state level. He truly wants all concerned to come together and work for the best healthcare system in the world," explained Dr. Ken Lemmon, a friend and fellow founder of Lakeland Medical. "Many of us talk and gripe about things, but Doug jumps in and does something about it. … He's an excellent voice for this community."
Curran has testified before state House and Senate committees – primarily concerning Medicaid/Medicare and other issues relevant to rural doctors.
"Medicare will be broken by 2011," he warned. "I think the system is going to have to be more broken than it is now for things to finally change."
His political activity hasn't slowed him down when it comes to seeing patients. It's still common to find him at his desk at nine o'clock in the evening dictating from a stack of 30 to 40 patient files.
"Internal medicine, family docs and pediatricians – primary care doctors – we're on the frontline and take it on the chin a lot of times," Curran explained. "We do a lot of things that other people don't want to do, like end-of-life care.
"When the cardiologist or the oncologist – or whoever – has done everything they can do, who's going to take care of the patient? We are."
And he doesn't mind a bit.
"I love what I do," he said with a smile. "I love my patients. Most of them are my friends."
Dr. Dee Whittlesey describes Curran as "a physician's physician."
"He's a man who cares deeply for his patients and will go to any lengths to make sure they get the best care," said Whittlesey, who serves as VP in the Office of Physicians Advocacy for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. Before that she worked 23 years in obstetrics and gynecology.
"He wants to make a difference in healthcare," she explained. "He's a visionary."
Curran credits his partners and friends in his practice with allowing him to pursue his political interests.
"My group empowers me to be a part of all those organizations," he said. "They cover for me, and, hopefully, I carry the torch for all of us. … Someone has to represent those of us who are out on the frontlines."
Curran also credits ETMC Athens with strengthening his career.
"Working with and being close to ETMC has made my life so much better," he said. "The professional environment they've created allows physicians here to practice state-of-the-art healthcare."
The admiration goes both ways.
"Doug epitomizes the type of physician a hospital administrator loves to work with," said ETMC Athens Administrator Pat Wallace. "He always operates from the position of wanting to work with you – whatever the situation is."
Since Curran came to Athens in 1979 – catching up with Lemmon who arrived a year earlier – Curran has been bestowed with a number of honors, notably being named Texas Academy of Family Doctors Physician of the Year in 1999.
The bottom line for Curran, however, isn't plaques or titles. It's patient care.
"You just have to love on people," he said. "One of the nicest things I've ever received was a handwritten letter from the daughter of a 95-year-old patient I had. I cared for him for years, and after he died, she said, 'When he left your office, he always felt better.'