From left, Phoebe Putney Health System CEO Joel Wernick reads a plaque honoring Dr. Charles Mendenhall on Wednesday as he and Dr. Robert Krywicki, medical director of oncology services at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, look on. Mendenhall, medical director for radiation oncology at the hospital, recently celebrated 30 years at Phoebe.
ALBANY, Ga. -- In July 1983, Dr. Charles Mendenhall came to Albany to set up his practice in radiation oncology. Thirty years and thousands of patients later, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital honored him for his service to the community.
A celebration of his impact on the community took place Wednesday in the Phoebe Cancer Center. Present were a number of people who shared thoughts and anecdotes of a man credited with making the hospital's radiation oncology department the way it is today, and at the same time developing a bond with patients that has many coming back to visit him even after they are done undergoing treatment.
"This man has dedicated 30 years to serving the people of the community," said Linda Van der Merwe, vice president of oncology services at the hospital. "He has sacrificed time with his family. He still does house calls and remembers their (his patients') names and interests."
To mark the occasion, Mendenhall was presented a plaque by Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick and Dr. Robert Krywicki, medical director of oncology services at the hospital.
"It's been a real privilege to come here, as far as I'm concerned," Mendenhall said. "I found out I was getting this Monday, and I thought, 'We get all our emotional gratification from helping patients. We don't really need anything else.'
"At the end of the day, we are lucky to be doing what we are doing."
He ended his remarks by noting the confidence he has in his associate, Dr. Jay McAfee.
"I can one day go off and do my thing knowing everything will be taken care of for the next 30 years," Mendenhall said.
Born in Williamsport, Pa., Mendenhall earned his medical degree from the University of South Florida and completed his residency at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Fla. He is board-certified in radiation oncology by the American Board of Radiology and the American Board of Medical Specialties in therapeutic radiology.
Mendenhall's three decades of service predate Wernick's hiring by five years, making the physician a product of Wernick's predecessor's tenure. In his time at Phoebe, Wernick said, Mendenhall has earned a reputation for being a passionate leader with high standards who has both bark and bite.
"When we have dignitaries in town to see the things we are doing well, we visit Chuck's department," the CEO said. "... He has given us a high standard to strive for."
Wilhemina Pullins, who has been working in radiation oncology for 24 years, has seen a similar attitude from Mendenhall.
"There are no limits to patient care to him," she said. "He has us look for records no matter where they are. He will see people no matter who they are. His passion, his hard work, has paid off. He would not hire someone who doesn't share his mission.
"He has made us who we are. Today, I am who I am because of Dr. Mendenhall."
Mendenhall's accomplishments include receiving a certificate from the American Academy of Family Physicians for participation as an active teacher in family medicine, and he was listed in "The Best Doctors of America" for three consecutive years. He has authored or co-authored a number of articles about head and neck cancer.
He currently serves as the medical director for radiation oncology at Phoebe, and under his leadership the department has formed a partnership with the Seattle Prostate Institute in the advanced treatment of prostate cancer and expanded its technology to include the first tomotherapy unit in Georgia, officials at Phoebe say.
Mendenhall and his wife have two daughters.