February of 1969 seems so long ago. The Beatles had begun recording Abbey Road. Vince Lombardi was named the head coach of the Washington Redskins. The Vietnam War was raging.
Registered medical assistant Kathy Smoot recalls this period of time vividly; it was the month she was hired to work for Watson Clinic.
The interview process was strenuous. “There were three separate interviews, and a 500 question personality test,” she recalls.
Once hired, she started in the physical therapy department. Little could she have known at that moment that she was embarking upon a life-long career that would endure for well over 47 years.
“The Main Clinic was four floors just on the East side,” she says. “The record room was on the top floor, and the first floor included the lab, ekg, and our physical therapy offices.”
At that time, the entire nursing staff dressed completely in white from head to toe, and they were managed by a single nursing supervisor. “She would walk around with white shoe polish in her hand in case the nurses scuffed their shoes during their shift.”
Computers had not yet come into their own, so everything was handwritten and stored on reams of paper in the file room.
Doctor visits cost $5.
At the start of her career, Kathy rubbed shoulders with several of the Clinic’s founding fathers, including Dr. Jere Annis, Dr. Henry Fuller and Dr. Edgar Watson. “They were amazing people, and all very patient- and family-oriented.”
Even today, Kathy occasionally encounters the children or grandchildren of some of our doctors on staff from all those decades ago. “I let them know how loved and respected they were, and how proud they should be of the legacy they helped to build.”
A strong sense of family defined the working atmosphere of the Clinic from the very beginning. Every member of Watson Clinic’s team – from the physicians to the nursing staff – knew one another, their kids, wives and husbands. They would all join together for one of their most anticipated events each year – an annual picnic – during which they would enjoy catering from Jimbo’s, play volleyball, and socialize.
Through the years, Kathy has worked in physical therapy, ophthalmology, optometry, and gastroenterology. For the past ten years, she’s felt blessed to work in the general surgery department alongside Dr. Jack Thigpen.
The Clinic has undergone enormous growth since Kathy first started, but one thing remains unchanged after all these years. “I’m still very proud to be here,” she says. “I still love what I do.”