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South Point Family Medical Center turns 20

Nurse Susan Brown and medical assistant Rita Justice considered going door to door to get the word out about the South Point Family Medical Center.

Twenty years later, the medical office has grown to serve more than 900 patients in what employees and patients say is a family atmosphere.

Justice, who retired in December 2002, visited the office Friday to join the eight current staff members for a luncheon celebrating the milestone.

"I worked here for 20 years and enjoyed every minute," Justice said. "I loved all the patients, loved what we can do for them. It was very rewarding."

Originally located beneath Staley's Pharmacy along County Road 1 in South Point, the health care provider opened its doors July 25, 1983. Ten years later, the second of the CAO's medical offices moved to its current location at U.S. 52 and Delta Lane.

The staff never did have to hit the streets. Patients started coming in that very first day and really started rolling in by the end of the month, Justice said.

"There is nothing like getting a hug from a child that you see out somewhere," Justice said. "'That is my doctor,' (children) would say."

Brown, a registered nurse, said she is proud to have been there from the beginning and still be a part of the office that has grown to become accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

"This means we provide outstanding medical care," she said. "Hospitals must have accreditation. It is unusual for a medical office to be accredited."

After coming from a nursing background at a hospital, Brown said the transition to a slower-paced, close-knit environment was very positive.

"You get to know your patients better because you see them time and time again," she said. "We become close to our patients. They rely on us and know us as family."

Since she has been there since the office opened, Brown has seen three generations come through the doors.

"I have known some patients since they were kids. Now they bring their kids," she said. "We are just very family oriented."

South Point resident Donald Pennington has visited the medical center for the past 15 years. He rarely has to come alone because his wife, three children and parents are also patients.

Having such a quality health care provider so close to home has been critical, Pennington said.

Dr. Steven Merkel diagnosed Pennington with diabetes about five years ago and has helped him treat it ever since.

"Dr. Merkel keeps me coming back. He has been our family doctor ever since we had a family," Pennington said. "The nurses are very nice, experience means everything."