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Paxton’s career devoted to giving best care to patientsOriginally Published September 29, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated September 27, 2013 at 11:13 a.m.
Dr. Jason Paxton had wanted to be a doctor for a long time, but it took a trip to Africa while he was a college student to help him make the decision to start his journey of becoming a medical practitioner.
Though he’s been working at White River Medical Center in Batesville since 2005, Paxton isn’t an Arkansas native. He grew up in California and graduated from high school at Whitney High School in Cerritos, Calif.
When he graduated from high school, Paxton said, he had the dream of going into medicine on his mind.
“I got a scholarship to Harding University for my undergraduate degree, and I decided I liked Arkansas,” he said. “The reality was, I thought I would be a good doctor.”
Paxton said he really started pursuing his dream of becoming a doctor after a medical mission trip between his junior and senior year of college at Harding.
“I went to Nigeria, and you name it — I did it,” Paxton said.
He said that on his first day in Africa, he was helping women deliver babies, the second day he was helping with surgeries, and by the third day, he was running a clinic.
“It was nerve-racking,” Paxton said. “[I realized that] nine out of 10 women don’t need your help [delivering babies].”
His trip to Nigeria brought his plans to become a doctor into focus, but when it came time to apply to medical schools, he wasn’t able to attend his first-choice school, which was the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, he said.
At the UAMS College of Medicine, qualified Arkansas residents are given preference over non-Arkansas residents as medical school students, and because Paxton was not an Arkansas resident, he was not accepted into the program.
That meant it was back to California for Paxton.
“I went to Loma Linda University School of Medicine,” he said.
After four years of medical school, he had to complete a three-year residency to become a physician, and this gave him an opportunity to get back to The Natural State.
He decided to make the trek back to Arkansas, and he completed his residency at UAMS’ Area Health Education Center-Northwest in Fayetteville, which offers a family-medicine residency program. As part of their training, residents spend time in a hospital and clinics providing care for patients.
“I liked the people in Arkansas better, and I like the green grass, opposed to concrete all around me,” Paxton said.
During his residency, Paxton had to do rotations in every area of medicine, including surgical, pediatric and internal-medicine rotations.
“I spent a lot of time in the hospital,” he said.
His favorite rotation was his internal-medicine rotation, which involved caring for patients in the critical-care and intensive-care units.
Upon completion of his residency, Paxton started his own family-practice clinic in Mountain Home. Having his own clinic made it difficult for him to balance work and family.
“My third child was born 18 months after his brother,” Paxton said.
His 80- to 90-hour workweeks at his practice made it difficult to find time to be with his wife and children at home. In addition to the long hours, he was commuting to his part-time work in the emergency room at White River Medical Center in Batesville.
From July to December 2005, Paxton became a full-time ER doctor while trying to close down his practice.
During this time, he also moved his family to Batesville from Mountain Home in November 2005.
“When I was a resident, I did a lot of ER work, and I felt confident doing it,” he said.
Paxton said working in an emergency room makes it easier to spend time with his family because it is shift work.
“You see two to three
patients a day [in the ER],” he said. “They can go from suffering from severe trauma, and you can stabilize and help them. You just jump right in.”
The hours can be quite odd when a doctor works in an emergency room, Paxton said.
“One shift could be from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. or 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.,” he said. “They’re 11-hour shifts.”
Though the hours are long, Paxton said, an average ER doctor works about 12 of these shifts a month, and this gives him much more time to spend with his family.
“The shifts are like this because we have a limited number of doctors to work,” he said. “It would be different if we could bring in an unlimited number of doctors.”
His more than 10 years of ER experience has paid off, and he’s now the Emergency Department medical director at White River Medical Center.
“Now, I have more administrative work,” he said. “I have to make sure the emergency room is staffed and handle the compliments and complaints.”
This new position has given him just another reason to love medicine.
“[Medicine] makes you really think. It challenges you both mentally and intellectually, but it helps the community and the people around me,” Paxton said.
His time as a doctor has proven to be extremely rewarding for Paxton.
“I love being able to stabilize somebody who is critically injured or ill,” he said. “It makes me feel like I’m doing my job right.”
He also enjoys living in Batesville.
“I love being on the river, and we’ve found a good church home,” he said.
In his new position, Paxton will still see patients in the ER, as well as at the hospital’s Wound Healing Center.
“[In the emergency room], the patients are sick and still need to be seen,” he said.
“In the Wound Healing Center, we treat chronic wounds, such as someone with diabetes who has a wound that won’t heal,” he said.
His goal as a doctor is to treat everyone fairly.
“I treat everyone as if they’re a member of my family,” he said. “Sometimes that involves saying ‘no’ to what they want.”
Medicine has become a passion for Paxton, and his advice to anyone going into the field is to be prepared.
“Prepare for change — it seems to be imminent,” he said.
Zoned Editions Staff Writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.