North Louisiana, East Texas mourns death of beloved ‘Country Doctor’

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VIVIAN, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Visitation for Vivian’s beloved physician, Dr. John Haynes, will take place from 4-6 p.m. on Saturday at Vivian’s First Baptist Church, 311 North Pine St.

Haynes, 84, died Monday at Willis Knighton North in Shreveport following a long battle with cardiovascular disease, served as chief of staff of North Caddo Medical Center from 1966-2016.

It’s estimated, Haynes delivered over 1,000 babies in his more than 55-year career – more than the entire population of Oil City – was working Willis Knighton’s Oil City clinic until his final illness.

Although his family practice clinic in Vivian closed, in March, Haynes began seeing patients three days a week at the Oil City Medical Clinic.

The job was a perfect match for Haynes, as he was once again practicing medicine alongside Dr. Karen Walker, a Blanchard native, who worked alongside Haynes at North Caddo Hospital.

Both Walker and Haynes held undergraduate degrees from Centenary College, and both served their residencies at John Peter Smith Hospital in Dallas – Haynes, who finished in 1966, and Walker, who finished in 2006, exactly 40 years later.

From the time Haynes came to Vivian, he not only treated patients from the local rural area, patients came from north Bossier Parish, Shreveport, and many who  traveled from East Texas to see him.

According to Roxie LeBleu Davis, who was Haynes’ nurse for 28 years before her 2016 retirement, Haynes “didn’t care whether people were black, white, purple, rich or poor and treated them all the same.”

She said Haynes “had the biggest heart,” and if he knew a patient couldn’t afford to pay, he saw them anyway.

His patients, all of them, were his priority, so when he was late to the clinic because of hospital rounds. But, Davis added with a laugh, it wasn’t always easy because she stayed with him as long as there were patients to be seen, and for almost three decades, she commuted across the Red River Bridge to her home in north Bossier Parish.

Davis wasn’t surprised in 1995 when her boss was selected as the first, “Country Doctor of the Year,” by Staff Care, a national organization that annually honors “a physician who best exemplifies the spirit, skill and dedication of America’s rural medical practitioners.”

While a 1993 USA Today article described Haynes as a “cross between John Wayne and Marcus Welby,” a 70s’ television series about a country doctor that still made house calls, his 1995 biography from Staff Care described him as a “cross between John Wayne and Daniel Boone.”

Three years after he was named national Country Doctor of the Year, Haynes was honored as 1998 Louisiana Family Practitioner of the Year, an award that was repeated in 2004.

In 1998, Haynes also was recognized as Louisiana Rural Practitioner of year, an award that was repeated in 2009.

Haynes was founding member of the American Board of Family Medicine, and in 1993, he founded the Rural Family Practice Fellowship and residency in conjunction with Willis-Knighton Health System and LSU Health Shreveport’s School of Medicine.

James K. Elrod, president & CEO of Willis Knighton Health System, who had a personal as well as professional relationship with Haynes over the past half-century was saddened at the loss of his dear friend, yet grateful for the contributions Haynes made not only to the patients he cared for but also the many young physicians he mentored. Elrod released the following statement on Monday:

“The unexpected death of Dr. John Haynes creates a void in healthcare locally that will be hard to fill. His vision for primary care in a rural setting led to development of a rural medicine fellowship residency with Willis-Knighton and LSU School of Medicine. Physicians who trained with him always marveled at his depth of knowledge and his skills. His legacy is not simply the people whose health he managed but the doctors he helped to train who are sharing those learned skills with their patients. I valued him as both a physician and a friend and will miss our conversations and his wise counsel.” 

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