Had it not been for a desire to take a swim in a lake, Dr. Edward Wysong may never have wound up in Hartwell.
He was destined nearly five decades ago to go begin his career in medicine in Thomaston, but after Wysong and his wife Lillian’s first trip down to the town outside of Columbus, doubt began to creep in about whether it was the right place for them.
“It was 110 degrees in July,” Wysong said, remembering their maiden voyage to Thomaston in his office with moving boxes stacked, waiting to be filled. “We went down there, our house wasn’t half ready. Nothing was ready. So we went back home.”
The Wysongs were to return the next week when things were supposed to be ready for them, complete with a place for them to stay so he could begin practicing medicine.
“They still weren’t ready,” Wysong said. “The doctor I was going to work with was out for the weekend, and they wanted us to stay in a trailer out in the pine woods. We said no. So we came back up the expressway and across the lake. I said I wanted to jump in a lake.”
Lillian had a connection with the daughter and family of Ruby Nell Banister, here in Hartwell, and to Hart County they came. Wysong took over where Dr. Milford had left off when he had died of leukemia two years earlier. That was in 1973.
Today, the practice is known as Hartwell Family Practice and includes three other doctors and a nurse practitioner.
On June 30, 47 years later, Wysong is hanging up his stethoscope, capping a career as one of the most well known and long-tenured doctors in Hart County.
He has seen plenty of changes in town and in the medical field since he began his career. Hartwell has grown and changed with the times and the medical profession has changed with it, not always for the better, Wysong said.
“The worst change was Obamacare,” he said. “That screwed up medicine royals. The emphasis was no longer on the patient. The patient came last.”
A lot of younger doctors are just used to it because that is how it was when they started. A lot of older doctors, however, left the profession because of the changes, Wysong said.
He stuck with it, because “I enjoyed treating people.”
Wysong also stuck with his path to become a doctor while studying as an undergraduate at University of Georgia, even though he didn’t necessarily choose it.
“‘What do you want to do?,’” he remembers his advisor at UGA asking. “I said, ‘I don’t know.’ He said, ‘I’m going to put you down for pre-med.’”
Wysong could always change his mind if he wanted to, but by his sophomore year, he said he noticed something in his other classmates.
“I figured most of the folks in pre-med, I was smarter than they were,” he said.
So Wysong was on track to become a physician. Shortly after he started in Hartwell, he said he became the only doctor he knows of to have delivered triplets in Hart County. That was when being a doctor was a little simpler, before the government and lobbyists took a larger role in the regulations and red tape surrounding the profession, Wysong said.
Doctors used to own hospitals, he said. Then laws changed and scratched that. Then insurance companies and other organizations with monetary interests became more involved and operating small, rural hospitals became more difficult, he said.
Today, “every five minutes you spend with a patient, you have to spend 10-15 minutes on the computer doing paper work,” Wysong said.
With that in mind, Wysong said it was time to use his time for more leisurely pursuits.
“I’ve got all kinds of stuff to do,” he said. “I like outdoors, fishing, hunting. I’ve got some golf clubs I haven’t touched in a few years.”
He also has his farm in Rock Branch and his six grandchildren with which to spend his time.
Plus, “my wife said let’s go do some traveling. It was just time,” he added.
Local product, Dr. Lisa Michelle Seawright, will take Wysong’s place at Hartwell Family Practice beginning July 1.