Sheila was wary about finding a new primary care doctor for her mother, Brenda, after her previous nurse practitioner had retired from Piedmont Health’s Moncure Community Health Center. Even though Sheila was a nurse, she knew it would be a difficult task. The nurse practitioner, Jean Dowdy, NP, had been the mother and daughter’s primary care provider for many years and she had provided incredibly compassionate and high-quality care. Besides, Sheila recalled, “My mother didn’t like doctors.”
But when the two women met Dr. Melissa Bishop, a physician specializing in family medicine, they knew that her mother’s fears had melted away. They knew that Piedmont Health medical providers cared deeply about their patients, having worked with Jean for many years at the Moncure Community Health Center. Sheila found a warm and welcoming environment at the center.
That was 27 years ago. Through the years, Dr. Bishop has been the primary care physician for Brenda, Sheila and Sheila’s son, Ryan, who was a patient from the beginning. Sheila received prenatal care at Moncure from Dowdy when she was pregnant with Ryan.
Today, Dr. Bishop remains the primary care physician for Sheila and the Moncure Community Health Center remains her medical home. Sheila had no insurance for a number of years when she first became a patient at Moncure although when she did obtain insurance, she was happy and committed to continue her care with Dr. Bishop.
“I’ve never met a doctor as good as she is,” Sheila said about Dr. Bishop.
The family’s relationship with Dr. Bishop grew even stronger about three years ago. Sheila was living in Spring Lake, N.C., and she started having heart problems. During this same period her mother was also dealing with various health problems of her own; her kidneys shut down and she was placed on dialysis in September of 2010. Sheila remembers Dr. Bishop visiting them in the hospital, bringing flowers for each of them. “We both considered her as not just our doctor, but our friend,” Sheila said.
Sheila said that Betty Smith, a medical assistant who has worked at Moncure for 29 years, was always very personable and always was asking about her mother if she wasn’t with her. “She would always ask if there was anything that she could do to help,” Sheila said, adding: “She is wonderful!”
Dr. Bishop said her relationship with patients has benefits for her as well. “As primary care providers, getting to know our patients is what makes the job rewarding,” she said. “We know that is how we can provide the best care for our patients, and we develop those relationships over time. In family practice, we have the unique opportunity to get to know our patients in multiple contexts – as patient, parent, child, sibling. It allows us to have a deeper understanding of our patients and their lives.”
Sheila is now 54 years old lives in Cary, N.C. Her son, Ryan, is now a 26-year-old actor who lives in eastern North Carolina – too far away for Moncure to be his medical home, though he might visit the center when he is in the area. Sheila said Ryan remembers Dr. Bishop and sometimes asks how she’s doing.
Brenda’s health problems worsened in late 2010. She died in December of that year.
Sheila talked to Dr. Bishop about her mother’s passing during this time. She also called Dr. Bishop on the first anniversary of her mother’s death. Dr. Bishop is a great listener, she said.
“Dr. Bishop has helped me a lot,” Sheila said. “I just love her as a person and as a doctor. She’s a confidant, a healer and she’s my psychiatrist sometimes.”
Sheila is also now preparing to have gastric bypass surgery, which she hopes will happen next year.
Sheila said the past three years have been difficult, but she’s hopeful about the future. Whatever happens, she is confident Dr. Bishop will help her prepare for it.
“Dr. Bishop has been with me all along,” Sheila said.