What I Have Become (in an Outline)- Part 1 (Desperado)

Written by John McElligott

(Click to play “Desperado”, and create the proper atmosphere!)

Well just in case Nugent Brasher is watching,  I will put this is an outline form- a technique that he taught me at Odessa College when I was 18 and headed nowhere. 

 I. Born Big Springs, Texas September 17, 1945
    a. Moved after one year to Terminal, Texas. 1946

II. Lived in Terminal Texas for 19 yrs. 

III. 2 semesters at Odessa Junior College. Met up with Nugent and he made me into Starman for the rest of my life

IV. Became a father in September of 1963, and my son’s mother and I worked at surviving.

V. Since I could not provide all the things for my new son and his mom that they needed, I joined the Navy May 4, 1964. It was quite an adventure that most of you know about.

VI. Spent 7 1/2 years in the military( 4 yrs. active duty and 3 1/2 reserves). The last 3 yrs I spent in college and working nights and weekends. Since I was a Medic with the Marines for 3yrs 8months and 20 days, I was able to set up my own schedule to keep the benefits for my son who was with his mom and her new hubby in Houston. In addition, during my reserve time I was able attend NTSU full time and work part time at Merchants Motor Freight.At this job I reunited with WG, Bill Cumbie and Billy Pittman. Billy taught me how to weld, and I ran the night crew and weekend shop at the Dallas/Arlington terminal.  Working for me was fun, especially on weekends. I would set up the work late Friday night for all my NTSU student crew for Saturday & Sunday. Now my  NTSU crew was to do 8 hrs. of work each day. Now if we got done early, I would collect their time cards and we would go drink beer and play shuffle board til 5 pm. Then go clean up and come back when the female shuffle board competition would show up.  Sunday was the same. WG & Bill don’t report me. I made sure we did 8 hrs. of work. Most, if not all, of my crews were Veterans I knew in Nam. 

VII. Finished my Pre-Med at Odessa College, Old Dominion University, Baylor University, and teaching degree at NTSU, and was just about to start my student teaching at Plano High School and coach the swimming team and teach organic chemistry. (Thank you Nugent). Well by this time I was working at a Hospital nights assisting and scrubbing in surgery when Duke University in late 1970 offered me a job and a slot for the 1972 year in a program called Allied Health (Physician Assistant/Associate BHS degree). This offer was because of my military history and an application I sent Duke in September 1967 when I was still flying medivac out of Marble Mountain Air Base.  So, for one year I ran the department of Plastic Surgery (OR and Burn Unit only) and part time during my first year of classes. Since I had Pre-Med courses done at NTSU/OJC I just worked that year and had fun with all the partying nurses, and there were plenty.  I never went back to NTSU (at graduation) to walk.  

VIII. Duke University Medical Center was a wealth of history, knowledge and challenges for this MHS grad 12th from the bottom my 1963 class. But I knew I could do it and… I did. I graduated in August of 1974 # 3 (?4) in my class. Left (? Mistake, lots of offers to stay). 

IX. Started my 1st Job September 1974  I came home to Texas!! My dream!! Assistant Medical Director at UT Medical Center Southwestern Medical School, Parkland Hospital. Developed clinics at the VA and helped educate some of the best PA-C’s ever. Did PR and placement for our graduates in rural and city practices including family practice to surgical specialties.

X. Colorado City Texas was the pinnacle of what was to be (in Texas) Charles Root CEO of Root Memorial Hospital called John Delahunt, Director of the PA program in the spring of 1976. Mr. Root requested a presentation to him and his Doctors. I was dispatched to educate the medical doctors, director of Nursing, and Chief administrator about Physician Assistants! Well after 2 days they said they wanted a PA asap. I said OK I will see if I can find a suitable recruit. Charles said no we want you!!. I said that I was paid well and they could not afford me. Charles Root said they would double my salary and help buy me a house. I said OK. Well I lived in the hospital for 3 months since my wife at the time was also working at a hospital and they said they would hire her as well. Oh, we had a son, Jay, who was going on 3 by now. He was born in Garland Texas and we lived in Richardson. The latter was 25 or so miles from Parkland but took 2 hours to get to work. Coming home was easy we stopped at a bar near Parkland and drank beers until the traffic died down. But leaving the Big D area was easy but adjusting to Mitchel County was tough. The ERDP in Colorado City was nonstop since Interstate 20 was a 1/4 of a mile away. The county was Cattle, Cotton and Oil and the birth place of John Duff Chesney(all Duff’s family was amazing and just like him never give up!!!).  So, we stayed busy. So busy that I told the Rooter that I was working close to 100 hours a week with no days off. The Doctors were great but the youngest was late 50’s and oldest was 80+ yrs. Good news is I trained at Duke and could do everything needed to help the doctors. Delivering babies, assisting in surgery, evacuation oil worker blown to pieces to Big Springs Texas for Air Force planes to take them to the Burn Center, house calls that were 100 miles round trip and often my Chevy Blazer served as the ambulance to save time.  So, I told the Rooter Guy ( Charles Root) I needed help and right now. Just so happened that numb nuts, AKA Charlie in Charge (CNC), AKA Charles Clark PA-C (now MD retired) was sick of doing open heart cases at the University of Virginia and signed on. He and I insisted that we rotated call and both were off every Thursday morning at 7am until Friday am at 7am. So, we would leave town and head to the bars as and drive as far west as possible stopping at every bar that had a crowd. The farthest we made it bar hopping was all the way to Fort Davis and never got pulled over!!!. We delivered over 100 babies in 3 yrs. without one complication and sent only one Mamasita off for C-section to Lubbock, Wow!!. When a new OB/Gyn doc finely showed up in CC he did 30 sections in 6 months. He disappeared, and I heard later he could not handle the ER call and one tumor he was going to remove was a child at 3 months gestation, YOW!! After this CNC and I were planing our exit but were involved in promoting the PA profession in Texas. Promoting was not easy. 
Now before we left Colorado City for good Texas Monthly Magazine did an article on us. Later after the article we were charged by the Texas Medical Board  for Practicing Medicine without a License. The TMB said that me looking in an ear was endoscopy. Well CNC and I appeared before the TM Board and the Judge from Mitchel County and Dr. Bill Roads attended with some of the community. Now the Judge’s mother was my patient and so was the judge. He flat out told the Board that they would have to try this case in Mitchel County and in his court. He also told them in no uncertain words that they would be pissing up a rope and chewing on the wet end. Charges were dropped.  CNC and I then helped to start the Texas Academy of Physicians Assistants before we left CC & Texas. The state of Texas now has the best laws second only to North Carolina. 

XI. Back to NC and the Outer Banks!!

  Back to North Carolina to a place that was heaven. Manteo, NC in Dare County birth place of Virginia Dare. We operated a small clinic behind the Pharmacy,Fernando’s Bar and a block from the sound. The MD owner was a Duke Graduate in Family Medicine and was happy to see up show up.  May through August we saw 80 patients a day not counting night call and helicopter medivac flown by the sheriff’s officer & paramedics. We always went on critical cases. The Coast Guard choppers would pick us up during bad weather. Only problem besides a very rough ride was getting a ride back from Norfolk VA where the Coasties resided. Reminded me of Flying in Nam during the Monsoon. CNC got a taste of real time medivac since he served in Guantanamo Cuba where he was Sun bathing, picking limes off the trees outside the Navy’s air-conditioned barracks. Reminded me of the Air Force suites in Danang military base with restaurants with waiters and did not allow us grunts to enter. Anyway, CNC was a successful PA-C and later a board-Certified Internist in Knoxville. CNC also delivered Son # 3 , Jamey Lee, at the Clinic in Manteo in Dare County. He and I sipped on a 5th of bourbon following the ambulance to Elizabeth City NC for state required certification. 

XII. On to Tennessee! After bouncing back and forth from Manteo NC to CC Texas to keep the family together, I took a job with Union Carbide In Oak Ridge Tn. This is where the 1st Atomic Bomb was developed in WWII and nuclear weapons were being configured. CNC followed soon after and we split a can of beer and played tennis after work. Needless to say we took a cut in pay moving and working at this facility. Luckily we were at different locations. Luckily the University of Tennessee let us both go to night school and get our MPH degrees in Occupational Health and Safety. This shot us to the moon. CNC and I then started and ran a small hospital and ERDP in Appalachia for several years. This was the first PA owned and operated business in the USA. Luckily no one knew it and the doctors who owned the clinic and small 20 bed hospital kept it quiet. 

So l decided to go to medical school and arrange my schedule to work at the hospital and ER on quarterly breaks from Med School. After being on the waiting list at Duke, Vanderbilt, ETSU, and UT Medical School Memphis for a year, I took a midnight flight to Santo Domingo. I went to Medical school there 2 yrs. On scholarship my last year. Then Cuba invaded the islands including Grenada (medical school). Well that day the Dominican Republic went nuts and people were getting violent and the Military were looking to shoot anyone who looked like a militant. Well that would be me. So I drove my motorcycle, a Sportster, to the airport and gave it to young 12 year  boy, keys and all. Flew to El Paso, via Miami, and Resumed Medical School at the St Lucia campus there. Did my clinical rotations at St Mary’s and The Griffin Hospital in Connecticut, both Yale Medical Affiliates. Offered a Surgical Residency at St. Mary’s and Internal Medicine Residency at the Griffin. IM (internal medicine) was a thinking man’s sport so I took the offer. All the while, accepting a position as Director of Trauma Research at the department of Surgery at St Mary’s which included a free apartment where all the surgical residents lived. My apartment became our gathering place at night when I was not at the Griffin working as a resident in IM. My surgical residents kept the ER and ICU busy searching for cases we were researching and writing about for our presentation at the annual CT College of Surgeons competition each year. I did not get much sleep for the next 3 yrs. See my bio (here) for details. St. Mary’s won the competition all 3 years that I was director of Trauma. Again I used the Nugent B. technique of “Kick Ass and Take Names”.

XIII. I obtained medical licenses in CT, TN, NM, PA and had practice offers in all  these States. Chose TN and Had 2 more kids and inherited one in addition to my Midland son showing up with his family often from Houston. I was 37 when I started Med School & 43 when I became one of a few Board Certified Internist in KNOXVILLE TN. Later I was elected a Fellow American College of Medicine. Remembering NB Quote 1964“Never give up, kick ass, take names and don’t forget your pencil”. 

Started Tennessee Center for Internal Medicine in August of 1989. A one man group and when on call at the hospital I was it  for 30 straight days and nights. My first month to be on call for the ER was December of the same year. Christmas Day I had 28 patients in the hospital. I look like I had been eaten by a wolf and sh– off a cliff. But since I was certified as an Intensivist  at the Griffin before I lest CT I just continued doing the job in TN. 

The next year my practice grew and I started recruiting partners for the Center and ended up with 3 in Knoxville and 3 in a near by town. Life was good and my 2 youngest kids Kelley and Jake were born at the same hospital where I worked. Internal Medicine Specialist is I was never home. Socializing was difficult and often lasted to the midnight hour. Later I did get to coach a bit with my kids starting with number 1 down to 6. Baseball, football, soccer, and basketball. My kids were my life and still are to this day. 

See Part 2 Staying alive!!

2 thoughts on “What I Have Become (in an Outline)- Part 1 (Desperado)

  1. Admin January 27, 2020 / 5:54 am

    Bill Wood

    Dec 27, 2019
    I agree, a lot of great Midland inspired persistence!

  2. Admin January 27, 2020 / 5:56 am

    Gere Gaige

    Dec 27, 2019

    Amazing write-up John. Every decision you made along the way – and there are a LOT of them – swept you along to the prominent contributor to medicine you have become. You could add some dates to some of those milestones…. so readers can relate to the speed of your journey. Right now it looks like a rocket ride from the Navy to Internest in Knoxville. (Probably felt like it too.)

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