The kindness of strangers first brought Dr. Paul F. Maddox to the small Appalachian community of Campton, Ky., but his desire to make a difference in the lives of area residents is the reason hes stayedfor 47 years.
Maddox, a spry, 74-year-old physician, has devoted much of his life to treating the aches and pains of Camptons 541 residents, as well as many in neighboring communities. His years of service, which include treating the poor for free, have earned him tremendous respect from patients and peers. In fact, he recently was named Country Doctor of the Year by Staff Care Inc., a national temporary physician staffing firm. The award recognizes the dedication and life-saving efforts of rural physicians.
The challenge is changing things and making them better, Maddox says, explaining why he and wife Pat have endured occasional primitive living conditions, such as a well that actually ran dry, to remain in Campton. If you have everything already, then theres nothing to do.
The toils of country doctoring are plentiful. Maddox recalls delivering seven babies in 10 hours with only two delivery rooms, and the time his in-laws came to take his wife home with them because they were so dismayed by their living conditions. Fortunately for Maddox, Pat refused to go with them. If shed gone, I would have been in trouble, he says.
Dr. Maddox moved to Campton from Lexington, Ky., in 1953 after a group of area residents loaned him $2,500 to start his practice. This act of blind faith touched Maddox, and hes been repaying the community ever since.
When he arrived, the nearest medical facility was 50 miles away. He promised to treat everyone 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. He didnt require appointments. And payments? Well, they were optional too.
We started out charging $3 for an office visit, and we took everybody that camemoney or no money, Maddox says, recalling the early years.
Records show that he has treated more than 1.5 million patients and delivered approximately 6,100 babies. While the numbers are impressive, they tell only a small part of the story of Maddoxs dedication to others. Area residents willingly supply the rest.
Whatever progress you see in Wolfe County, hes been a part of it, says Mary Bollinger, a 35-year volunteer at Bethany Christian Mission Center. Bethany, now a private school, was formerly an orphanage and childrens home. Maddox treated children and staff there for free.
At one time, we had 130 children and Dr. Maddox would doctor us all, Bollinger recalls.
Campton Mayor Richard Jett credits Maddox with helping build the countys school system. The doctor served nearly 30 years on the school board and helped battle shrinking budgets by treating teachers and their families for free. He gave student athletes free physicals, and purchased band equipment and other necessities out of his own pocket.
He also served two terms as Camptons mayor, recently donated $100,000 from the sale of his medical practice to help build a town library, gave another $5,000 to construct a memorial wall for area veterans and established a $20,000 educational trust fund for his one-millionth patient.
No words could ever possibly describe what Dr. Maddox has meant to this area, says Nell Johnson, a longtime friend and patient. Theres probably not a family in all the contiguous counties that he hasnt touched in some way.
Maddox sold his practice several years ago but continues to work there. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1998 and astonished many by scheduling radiation treatments around his patients appointments so he could continue practicing medicine daily. Maddox plans to retire from his former medical clinic at the end of 2000, and health permitting will devote more time to the 98 elderly residents under his care at the countys only nursing home.