KINGMAN - After more than 30 years of service in rural Arizona counties, Kingman's Cowboy Baby Doctor has earned national recognition. Dr. Kenneth Jackson received the 2010 Country Doctor Award from StaffCare Thursday evening. StaffCare is a company that provides temporary doctors and other healthcare providers to hospitals and other healthcare companies.
The company started the award in 1992 to honor doctors who work in the most rural and under-served areas of the country, said StaffCare Vice Chairman of Communications Phil Miller. In order to qualify for the award, the doctor must be a primary care physician, must work in an area with a population of less than 30,000 people and exhibit a level of commitment and impact to the community that is above and beyond a doctor's normal work, he said.
Each doctor granted the award receives a plaque, a lab coat, a stethoscope and two weeks off, although not all of the doctors take the two-week vacation, said Kurt Mosley of StaffCare. One doctor who received the award did take the vacation, but the company later found out that she spent a week of it helping AIDS patients in Africa.
Each year, the nation loses about 1,000 rural doctors, and only 700 step in to take their place, Mosley said. That shortage is growing every day. A recent study shows that the nation will need approximately 200,000 doctors by 2025.
More than 100 doctors were nominated for this year's award, Mosley said. Jackson is the first doctor west of Texas to be presented with the award.
He is in good company. Previous award winners included a doctor who opened a birth center in Ohio's Amish Country that respects the Amish's tradition of not using modern technology, a doctor who serves nearly 60 miles of coastline in the Florida Keys, and others.
Jackson's work with the Hualapai and Havasupai American Indians and his dedication to his patients is what made him stand out. Mosley and Miller knew they had given the award to the right person after meeting and working with Jackson for less than 24 hours, he said.
"He is the classic country doctor. He does it all," Mosley said. Jackson is not only a family physician, he also does pediatrics, surgery, obstetrics and more, he said.
Before coming to Kingman in 1991, Jackson served five years at the Indian Health Service Hospital on the Apache Indian Reservation in Whiteriver, Ariz., and 10 years in Pinetop, Ariz.
He travels every other week to Peach Springs to see patients from the Hualapai Nation and at least once a month by horse or helicopter to see patients in Supai, a Havasupai village at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. He has worked with the Hualapai Tribe since 1995 and started working with the Havasupai Tribe nearly three years ago.
"I like taking care of those people," Jackson said. "I treat them as I would any of my other patients. You have to be as honest and as straightforward as you can be."
It is doctors like Jackson who inspire others to become doctors or current doctors to become even better, Mosley said. Jackson has delivered more than 4,000 babies since he moved to the Kingman area, 66 percent of his patients are on Medicaid or Medicare, and he has accepted a variety of payment methods, including firewood, he said.
One of Jackson's former nurses spoke of Jackson's dedication to his patients at the award dinner. She told a story of a patient that was particularly down on her luck and could only afford dog food to eat. Jackson found out and sent the patient every Christmas basket he had received that year and sent an assistant out to buy even more food and supplies.
Kingman has been particularly blessed over the past several years with medical facilities, staff and doctors such as Jackson who are dedicated to serving the community, said Mayor John Salem.
"This is a man who deeply deserves this award," said Dr. Joseph Smith, Kingman Regional Medical Center's chief medical officer. Jackson is widely respected and held in the highest esteem by the staff of the hospital. He shows an ethic, a depth of character and a commitment to improving the community that has inspired others to be better physicians, he said. Jackson has a impressive ability to connect with his patients on a one-on-one basis.
"He has shown what it really means to be a physician," Smith said.
Two women from the Hualapai Nation thanked Jackson for his work with their people. Richard Walema, Sr., the vice chairman of the tribal council, presented Jackson with a plaque, a handmade doll in a traditional Hualapai outfit and a medal of honor that the nation gives to each of its veterans as they return home from war.
"There will never be a true cowboy doctor like you ever again," Walema said, reading the inscription on the plaque.
"The most important people to me, other than my family and patients, are in this room. This really means the world to me," Jackson said after receiving the award. Jackson said he has gotten to the point where money means less to him than the job he is trying to do. He thanked KRMC CEO Brian Turney for creating an environment where he could practice medicine in this way.