Altruism Way of Life For Dr. James Carter
By Space Coast Medicine & Active Living // June 12, 2012
CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIAN
Dedication To His Patients and Profession Is Legendary
Dr. Jim Carter was featured in a “Flashback” story in the June 2009 Space Coast Medicine magazine that began with a very simple statement from this icon of the Brevard County medical community, “I like to get up in the morning and go to work.”
That is exactly what he’s done over the past 48 years as an orthopedic surgeon, physician and hospital leader, unselfish patient advocate, and lifetime contributor to the health and well-being of the people of the Space Coast community.
Life Devoted To Helping Others
If doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in life, then the life of 85 year-old Carter, who “retired” at the end of September 2013, could only be described as a cornucopia of service to his fellow man.
Whether it was helping lead the University of Wisconsin to basketball prominence under legendary coach Bud Foster or treating crippled children as one of the first orthopedic surgeons to practice in Brevard County, or raising a family of six children, Carter’s life has been devoted to helping others overcome adversity while seeking little recognition or fanfare for his efforts.
Roots In the Upper Midwest
Born in Menominee, Michigan, Carter grew to a height of 6-foot-5 and earned a basketball scholarship to play for the Wisconsin Badgers.
Blessed with athletic ability, he spent four versatile years from 1946 to 1949 for Wisconsin playing first as a guard, then a forward, before two final seasons as a center under Foster’s tutelage.
He then went on to earn his undergraduate degree while helping the Badgers claim the 1947 Big Ten title and advance to the NCAA quarterfinals that season.
With his playing days over, Carter poured himself into his studies, graduating in 1955 from Marquette University Medical School in Milwaukee. He went on to serve four years as an Air Force surgeon, specializing in orthopedics and rheumatology at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Sunshine State Climate Draws Young Doctor To CCH
Returning to Marquette as a clinical orthopedic instructor after his discharge, Carter woke up one morning in late May to record-breaking cold. “Here it was May 31 and it was 31 degrees,” he said.
Taking advantage of the opportunity to work with established orthopedic surgeon Dr. Glen Musselman at the recently opened Cape Canaveral Hospital, Dr. Jim Carter and his family moved to Brevard County in 1965. At that time be became one of only three orthopedic surgeons in the county and worked at both Cape Canaveral Hospital and Wuesthoff.
“I guess after living in the South while in the service I was no longer used to the cold, so I simply decided then and there to move someplace warmer. I just couldn’t take the cold weather anymore and Florida looked pretty good to me.”
Taking advantage of the opportunity to work with established orthopedic surgeon Dr. Glen Musselman at the recently opened Cape Canaveral Hospital, Carter and his family moved to Brevard County in 1965. At that time be became one of only three orthopedic surgeons in the county and worked at both Cape Canaveral Hospital and Wuesthoff.
Presiding over a growing household that included wife Joan and eventually a total of six children, just getting on staff at Cape Canaveral Hospital required some doing.
“In those days they wanted staff doctors to live in the area and they had a residency requirement,” Carter said. “I spent time as a member of the courtesy staff there initially because we couldn’t find a house to rent that was large enough for all of us in Cocoa Beach.” When the residency rule was later dropped, Carter became a full-fledged “active” member of the Cape Canaveral Hospital staff.
Altruism Way of Life For Carter
It was a much simpler time for medicine in the mid-1960s without today’s emphasis on profit margins and expensive equipment and technology.
Some doctors still made house calls and almost all physicians of that era knew their patients and their families on a first-name basis.
“In those days I treated everyone over the age of 65 for nothing,” Carter said. “There wasn’t Medicare then and people truly cared about seeing that the elderly received the best treatment possible.”
As one of Brevard’s three local orthopedic surgeons, Carter said he would make trips monthly to hospitals in Titusville, Rockledge and Melbourne to provide care for crippled kids who needed help.
“I treated children who had cerebral palsy, club feet, scoliosis and muscular dystrophy,” he said. “We never turned away anyone. When the families didn’t have the money to pay, I took care of them and forgot about the cost. It’s just what you did back then if you were a doctor.”
For many he helped that couldn’t pay for his services, Dr. Carter said he was touched when parents returned with their children during one of his visits to their area just to say thanks for caring.
Hospital Leader and Physician Mentor
As Carter became recognized as a preeminent clinician, he also rose to prominence as a physician leader.
From 1972 to 1977, he was chief of staff at Cape Canaveral Hospital (CCH) and inspired a generation of doctors to move the facility forward as the area grew and the demand for quality medical care increased.
“Jim was always the go-to guy for any issues that arose related to hospital operations and quality clinical care,” said Dr. Jim Palermo, general surgeon at CCH for 18 years and former Chief Quality and Medical Officer for Health First.
“He was the mentor for my generation of physicians at CCH, and instilled in us the over-riding principle that meeting the needs of our patients must always be our first priority.”
Larry Garrison, recently retired Chief Operating Officer for Health First, was the CCH administrator from 1979 to 1995 and recalls that, “As a very young administrator I was fortunate to have Jim as President of the Medical Staff at the start of my career.”
Reflecting on Carter’s multidimensional service, which includes 25 years on the Board of Directors of CCH and five years on the Health First Board, Garrison says, “He was and still is an outstanding medical leader who has always understood the importance of physicians, the Board of Directors and hospital management working together in concert for the benefit of the community and the hospital. Long before E.F. Hutton—when Jim spoke we all listened.”
Legendary Work Ethic
Carter’s dedication to his patients and his profession is legendary. Right up until the time he retired he continued to volunteer his time, seeing children with orthopedic and podiatry needs.
He particularly enjoys helping elderly patients, a population segment that he believes are underserved by society.
“My clientele was pretty darn old,” he said, noting that he has treated three generations of many families. Many of the older patients needed his and his staff’s help arranging for home healthcare, meal delivery and other services.
“You almost have to do it for them, but I never minded because it was all part of meeting their needs the best we could,” Carter said.
That’s in fitting with the work ethic that Carter displayed throughout his career.
“I think he just exemplifies the typical, old school physician with his hard work and dedication,” said Rodney Moore, former Vice President of Medical Affairs for CCH, who previously practiced internal medicine at CCH and had mutual patients with Dr. Carter.
“He was always focused on meeting patients’ needs and tried to do his very best for everyone,” he said.
Revered Leader Of Brevard County Medical Community
He also is proud of his 47 years as a member of the Brevard County Medical Society, where as president of that group from 1975 to 1976, he helped shape the ethics and standards that have been the heart and soul of patient care on the Space Coast ever since.
As we look back over Jim Carter’s six decades of service and a lifetime of achievement in and influence over healthcare on the Space Coast, it is very clear that he has defined his success as finding his lifework in the work that he loves.
The good news is that although “retired” from private practice he has already started “getting up in the morning and going to work” at Brevard Health Alliance and the Brevard County Health Department, where, as he has done for so many years, he volunteers his professional services and plans to continue touching the lives of as many of the less fortunate members of our community as he possibly can.
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The Central Florida Humanitarian Awards were created to recognize outstanding individuals and organizations that dedicate their Time, Talent or Treasure to help people in need locally – and around the world.
“Over the years, our editorial team has had the distinct honor and pleasure of identifying and featuring the many members of our community who give back so much and are dedicated to reaching out and helping others, here and throughout the world, in a multitude of ways,” said Maverick Multimedia Editor-In-Chief Dr. Jim Palermo.
“We remain firmly committed to identifying and telling those stories and providing a timely media platform to recognize Space Coast and Central Florida residents’ altruistic contributions on a regular basis in our magazines, as well as SpaceCoastDaily.com,” said Dr. Palermo.
This inspiring and compelling event is sponsored by Brighthouse Networks, Health First, Brevard Physicians Network, MPAC ACO, Community Credit Union, Kindred Hospital, Knudson Brain & Spine Law Injury Office, Florida Pain, Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine, CentralFloridaMedicine.com and SpaceCoastDaily.com.
FOR MORE INFORMATION about the Central Florida Humanitarian Awards call 321-615-8111 or e-mail SpaceCoastMedicine@gmail.com
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