Bobby Graham has been with Jackson Oncology Associates since 1990; he was previously with Jackson Medical Associates. While he's earned an outstanding reputation in the field, Dr. Graham acknowledges that he considered other medical specialties before deciding to work with cancer patients.
"I didn't want to go into oncology because I thought it would be so sad," Dr. Graham recalls. "But in oncology, you have opportunities to help not just the patient, but the entire family during a frightening time. After working with a few patients, I realized oncology was a good field for me. A sad field sometimes, but a good field."
Practicing oncology often means treating patients who will be terminal. Dr. Graham walks a daily line between being professional and becoming callous, being sensitive to a patient's fear and grief and becoming too emotionally involved to perform his job well. He credits his faith with helping him find the right balance.
"I pray every day for four things," Dr. Graham says. "For the competence to do a good job; for confidence, which comes from knowing that God is in control no matter what I do; for the compassion to treat people the way I would want to be treated; and for completion.
"Completion can be the hardest," Dr. Graham continues. "Doctors get attached to their patients and their patients' families. When you get to the end of a patient's treatment, there is a tendency to want to pull back, to not want to go to that patient's room every day. I pray for the completion that allows me to continue to be there for the patient."
While he still feels sorrow when he remembers each of his patients who have died, Dr. Graham has also seen his share of miracles.
"It's so exciting to deliver good news to a patient," Dr. Graham says. "When you go in, the family is all tensed up, holding hands and holding their breath. Those times I can look at them and say, 'Your scan is clear,' are so exciting. I'm grateful for those days."
Dr. Sharon Martin's decision to become a psychiatrist was due in part to the six years she spent practicing with the Mississippi Department of Health. For the majority of that time, Martin worked in the Department of Health office in Port Gibson, Mississippi, where she treated "every patient who walked in the door." She saw a variety of people with a variety of illnesses, but one patient still stands out in her memory.
"This woman came in regularly convinced she had a serious medical condition. She would try to show me the proof of that condition on her clothing," Dr. Martin recalls. "There was never anything there. She didn't have a physical condition. She was psychotic and delusional, and she refused to take the antipsychotic medication that would have helped her.
"Meeting her and other patients like her made me think about practicing psychiatry," Dr. Martin continues. "You'd be surprised by how many people come to the doctor complaining about a physical problem — and maybe they do have physical symptoms — but what's really behind it is a mental problem."
When the couple's sons were three, four, and five years old, Dr. Martin returned to the University of Mississippi School of Medicine to study psychiatry. Upon completing school in 1996 she accepted a position at the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield, where she has worked ever since.
Patients are admitted to the State Hospital when they have been deemed a danger to themselves or to others, or when they are unable to care for themselves. Dr. Martin is a psychiatrist in the female receiving area, where patients are admitted and undergo their initial physical and mental evaluations.
"Our patients usually come from an outside hospital or from jail following a court commitment. Occasionally they come here from their homes," Dr. Martin says. "They range in age from 18 to 83 years old. Some come from wealthy families, some are homeless. Some are highly educated, some are not. Some patients look perfectly ordinary, other patients may not have bathed in months or even years. All of those patients are together on this one unit."