05/07/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/07/2021 13:54
Albany, Ga. - Chuck Mendenhall was a little boy in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, just four years old, when he first began dreaming of being a doctor. 'I wanted to be a doctor as soon as I can remember. I spent a lot of time as a kid in the ER after falling off porches or onto barbed wire fences, and I got my fair share of house calls from a general practitioner,' Dr. Mendenhall said. 'It just seemed to me to be a very worthwhile career to follow.'
Dr. Mendenhall certainly made it a worthwhile career, spending all of his 38 years as a practicing radiation oncologist here in Albany. 'If I had to do it all over again, I would do the exact same thing,' he said.
Mendenhall's family moved to Gainesville, Florida when he nine years old. That's where he went to college, graduating from the University of Florida before going to medical school at the University of South Florida, where he became fascinated with the burgeoning specialty of radiation oncology. 'I did this elective, and I thought, 'my God, this really works.' We'd do follow up visits with patients who had no evidence of cancer and were back at work living productive lives.'
He returned to UF to complete his residency in radiation oncology, then came straight to Albany and began working alongside southwest Georgia's only oncologist, Dr. Phillip Roberts, who Mendenhall says is one of the top cancer physicians in the country. 'Phil Roberts was a huge help. To me, he is the consummate physician, extremely dedicated. For years, it was just Dr. Roberts and myself, and that made it easy because I knew what he was doing, and he knew what I was going to recommend before I did it. We were like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers,' Dr. Mendenhall said.
Together, the Fred and Ginger of cancer care built the region's first cancer program. Today, the Phoebe Cancer Center remains the largest and most comprehensive in the area. Dr. Mendenhall is proud of the level of cancer care available in Albany and stresses that the Phoebe Cancer Center is here for anyone in southwest Georgia who needs its services.
'The citizens of this area are spoiled because, if they have a problem, they get taken care of. In a lot of communities, they don't. A lot of cancer patients get punted around because doctors don't want to treat patients without insurance,' Dr. Mendenhall said. 'I've never had any sort of pressure from anybody in the administration in this hospital not to treat someone who didn't have insurance, which has made it a joy to work here.'
Following a series of health problems, Dr. Mendenhall is retiring. 'I don't know if I'm really ready to be retired, but I've done it for as long as I can at the pace I'm used to, and I can no longer keep up that pace.'
Dr. Mendenhall is turning over Radiation Oncology Associates to Dr. Jay McAfee and Dr. Adam Jones. He met them both when they were in medical school and recruited them to join his practice, Dr. McAfee returning to his hometown in 2010 and Dr. Jones joining the team in 2014. 'I have two excellent partners. I call them 'the boys.' I have no doubt they'll provide the same level of care over the next 35 years.'
The Mendenhall name will live on at the Phoebe Cancer Center. At a ceremony Friday, the radiation oncology department was officially named the Charles M. Mendenhall, MD, Department of Radiation Oncology.
'Dr. Mendenhall is an incredible physician and true healer whose impact on our community is immeasurable. He's been an outstanding mentor to so many members of our team. Seeing his name on the wall every day will remind us of his commitment to our patients and the legacy we have a responsibility to live up to,' Dr. McAfee said.
'Chuck's greatest impact is seen in the people who are alive today because of him. His patients love him and rave about the care they received from him and his team. But he has also been a great leader at Phoebe, serving on our hospital and health system boards, and making sure every important decision we make is done with the best interest of our patients in the forefront of our minds,' said Joe Austin, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Officer.
Dr. Mendenhall is known as a doctor without a big ego, a physician who routinely gave his personal cell phone number to patients and readily took their calls to answer whatever questions they had about their treatment. He says he is humbled and honored by the renaming recognition, and he hopes he's remembered in one simple way. 'They can chip on my tombstone, 'he made a difference.''