On the Job with Paul Payne

Paul Payne considers his practice at Southwest Georgia OB/GYN on Fourth Avenue to be something of a medial ministry.

Paul Payne considers his practice at Southwest Georgia OB/GYN on Fourth Avenue to be something of a medial ministry.

Paul Payne may know a lot of birthing babies, but he is just as comfortable sitting on a farm tractor. The Albany physician also has a degree in agriculture. He loves the outdoors and has even worked as a cowboy, on horseback punching cows near Bozeman, Mont.

Payne also hunts wild turkey and envisions growing crops, especially corn, in retirement. He considers his practice, Southwest Georgia OB/GYN on Fourth Avenue, to be something of a medical ministry. Payne recently shared a question-and-answer session with Herald reporter Jim West.


NAME: Paul Payne, M.D.

AGE: 40

POSITION: Physician, Southwest Georgia Ob/Gyn

FAMILY: Married to Patrea, with children; ages 3, 5, 7 and 3 months

EDUCATION: University of Florida. Medical school at Florida State University

Q. What was your first job?

A. I had Paul Payne’s Lawn Service. I started it when I was 16-years old when I could drive, and that’s what I did all the way through college.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?

A. I went to a pawn shop and bought an old Belgian Browning A-5 12-gauge shotgun. That was the first major purchase I ever made, and it’s still sitting in my gun cabinet today.

Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. I think you should lead by example and not by power. I learned that after I got out of college, watching some of my bosses — the good ones. They would always be up there in the front line. You don’t ever expect somebody to do something you wouldn’t do. I mean if the toilet needs scrubbing, I’ll do it. If something needs to be done you just do it. When people see you stepping up and doing things it inspires them to do the same.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to be a doctor, and choose this particular specialty?

A. Had you told me early in college I would be a doctor some day I would have said “no way. that’s way too much school.” Once I graduated from college and had some jobs in different things I realized I needed to get a little more serious about life, so I started back to school and headed down the medical field. In my third year of medical school I got to deliver my first child. I’ll never forget when her little head popped out and her eyes opened. It was one of those surreal moments in life where it’s like “Wow, I’m a dad.” To get to deliver your own child, what greater privilege is there in life? So, that kind of confirmed to me that was the route I wanted to go.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. When I was in medical school, Dr. Sid Stuart. He’s somebody I will still call on to this day when I have a tough case or a question about something. His years of experience, I still rely on that.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a physician learned from the recent recession?

A. Everybody has hard times. If you just treat somebody like you want to be treated. Not everybody is out to do bad things. It’s just that bad times call for making sacrifices. If you can help somebody with their bill or do something for them that will help them work things out, you’ll find that most people are good for what they stand for and will do what they say they’ll do. But in these times if you’ve got a patient who has a sick child and they need to buy their child some medicine and they may owe you money , let them take care of their kid and when things get better they’ll come back and you can work stuff out with them. So, just being patient and understanding in these economic times — that’s a real big value and a lesson for everybody.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology – examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. – what would you most like to see go away?

A. I would not miss my pager at all. I have to carry a cell phone, my smart phone and a pager. It’s like why even have a pager anymore? It’s just a nuisance. If I could get rid of anything it would definitely be my pager.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. My smart phone. It’s smarter than me, I think. But nonetheless, I can look up drugs, I can pull up patient information, I can get into my my electronic medical system with my smart phone. Until you have one you don’t know what you’re missing, so that’s really proven to be a very useful tool.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

A. I would say, in the light of what we just went through, Thanksgiving, where you can really sit back and realize how thankful you are for all the blessings we have here. Just living in the United States is one of the greatest blessings a person could ever have — just to look and see how many people would love to live here in this country. It lets you reflect on how good we have it in this country.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. I read Johnny Deere Tractor three times the other night to my three-year-old boy. After I finished it, he’d make me read it again. I don’t have a lot of time to read, but kids’ books seem to be what I read the most. The last book I really sat down and read was called “A Land Remembered.” It talks about the old cattle industry in Florida back in the 1850’s.

Q. I’m up and going by? And what is your morning routine?

A. My alarm goes off at 5:45 a.m., however, some mornings I wake up at 4 and lay there for 30 minutes and say “okay, I’ll just go ahead and get up.” I’m an early riser. I was programed that way as a child. I typically get up, get dressed, leave the house, come to the office, do some work and then go to the hospital and eat breakfast. It’s always a pleasure to go to the hospital and eat breakfast with Dr. Crimmins and listen to his stories. I always count it a great joy when he’s in the doctor’s lounge when I get to go eat breakfast. Then I go back to the office and we start seeing patients.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet, and Why?

A. Historically, if you could meet anybody in time, ever, I think it would be Jesus Christ. Whether you regard him, as I do, as the son of God or as a historical figure. In 31 years he’s had a greater impact on mankind than any other person. Just to see him and touch the hem of his garment — what a great thing that would be.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. Turkey hunting is my absolute love in life. I used to enjoy farming quite a bit but I don’t have time for that anymore. I can get up early in the morning during turkey season and go turkey hunting. My wife understands. For 12 years now she’s been dealing with it. It’s almost a sickness of mine.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. Probably learning how to appropriately spend money for marketing and advertising. You never know if you spend money on something it’s going to pay off. Since I’ve opened the practice, that’s probably the only thing I’d say I wish I’d have done a little bit differently. That’s a work in progress and a learning thing for me.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. I love seeing the patients. My nurses, when they come and knock on the door or something, I know they’re getting antsy. I just like to sit down and talk to people and find out what’s going on with them. This is a medical practice, but I also kind of view it as a medical ministry, if you will. I can sit down and if I can help somebody from a physical health standpoint, sure, I’ll do that, but there’s a lot more to it than just medicine.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. You know, you’re so at the mercy of the insurance companies. I see a patient that comes in and they need something done. Is their insurance going to pay for it, if not are they going to get stuck with the bill? Do I need to bring them back or I have patients I see one day and may not get paid for 90 days. It’s like going out to eat at a restaurant and getting a bill for $50. You say “no, I’m only going to pay you $10 today.” It has proven to be a stressful thing to deal with.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. Although I hated it, I took Accounting and from a business standpoint it opened the door to how to run a business. On the medical side, the general surgery courses and rotations I had in medical school. That really taught me how to operate on patients.

Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?

A. I have an agricultural degree, so if I could get up every morning and drive a tractor all day I’d do it. I used to work in Montana on a cattle ranch. Sometimes I’d sit on a horse all day moving cows around the Bozeman area.

Q. Finish this thought; “on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself…

A. Sitting on a tractor, looking back on my corn crop.

Q. What is the one trait a person in your position cannot afford to be without?

A. Probably empathy for your patients, for your staff. There’s a human side to everything. To understand what someone is going through allows you to make better, more rational and sympathetic type decisions.

Q. Crystal ball time: What’s your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?

A. Every area is different. For Albany, the economy seems to be based on a couple of things — one is health care, and that’s totally dependent on the health care situation in the country — Obamacare. I think that’s up in the air. As far as agriculture is concerned I think this area is doing really well. As far as recovery, there’s so much uncertainty in the world, who knows the answer to that question? For the American people there is always that hope for tomorrow. If a person is willing to work hard and not live beyond their means, they’re going to make it, regardless of the environment.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. I don’t have an iPod. I do find myself, when I have the opportunity, listening to bluegrass gospel

Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Why?

A. Last year I took (my kids) to Dollywood to see the leaves change. Fortunately, it was Southern Gospel Week so the clientele at Dollywood was my family and a few kids and a lot of retired older folks to listen to the music. That was probably the first real family vacation we’ve had, ever.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?

A. The landscape of the health care regulations — the Obamacare. Once upon a time, you’d go to the doctor, you’d pay him for his services then you’re done. I didn’t go into this to be regulated by the insurance companies, I went into it to help people. The regulations of this industry is something to confront every day.