When Dr. decided When Laura Lishman moved from Indiana to Alabama 16 years ago, she didn’t think she’d be here for the few years it took to earn an undergraduate degree.
He will graduate from Judson College in Marion debt-free, go to medical school somewhere and move to Africa to dedicate his life to serving as a medical missionary. Alabama was supposed to be a temporary stop
The more time Lishman spent in Alabama’s rural Black Belt, however, the less he saw a future for himself anywhere else.
“When I first moved to Perry County, I was in major culture shock, and I realized that what God was doing was preparing my heart to serve the underserved,” Lishman said. “People here need access to medical care.”
He saw many deserts in the state’s maternity care, the high rate of infant and maternal mortality and the lack of access to transportation that many rural families manage. Knowing the facts and knowing he was in a position to do something about it, Lishman decided to make Alabama his home.
After four years of medical school at the University of South Alabama and three years of residency at Cahaba Medical Care Centerville Clinic, she opened Cahaba Medical Care Marion Clinic in 2018. Lishman also completed an obstetrics fellowship, to be able to he had cesarean sections when they were needed.
“Before we opened this clinic here, there was no prenatal care available in the county,” Lishman said. “People who live here who are pregnant, they have to travel to Selma or Tuscaloosa for their prenatal care and for the birth.”
That’s a 35-minute drive and an hour drive, respectively.
Lishman noticed when the clinic opened that women in the area weren’t used to being able to come in for regular checkups or give birth close to home.
For example, one woman showed up for her first appointment with Lishman around 35 weeks into her pregnancy. She has many STDs, abnormalities in her ultrasound and she only attends a few prenatal care appointments.
When Lishman asked her why she wasn’t receiving more care, the woman simply said that her doctor was in Demopolis, 40 miles away, and she had no way of getting there.
A few weeks later, Lishman gave birth to the baby, who had to be transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit and treated for infections.
“But then, fast forward two years when she got pregnant again, she came here for her first prenatal visit and stayed with me the whole thing. She came to every appointment because it was in town. No She had to find transportation and have a healthy pregnancy and a very healthy delivery, which was a total 180 from the previous pregnancy,” Lishman said. “That shows you how access to care is hindered. -or indeed of lives.”
Now, as the five-year anniversary of the Marion clinic approaches, Lishman hopes to cultivate the same passion he has for rural care among other doctors.
Cahaba Medical Care expanded its residency program this year to include a rural placement, and the Marion clinic received its first four residents in July.
“Our research and clinical experience confirm that local access to prenatal care and delivery services can affect these critical health care metrics around infants and mothers through helping women have healthier pregnancies and babies,” said Dr. John Waits, CEO of Cahaba Medical Care, in a statement. “We recognize this critical need in Perry County, and we are committed to providing these services here to ensure that all expectant mothers have access to the care they deserve.”
Residents spend their first year completing “high-level rotations” in areas such as ICU, pediatrics and inpatient care at Bessemer, and then they spend their second and third years working in Marion and Camden.
The idea is that they get the complete necessary training to become practicing doctors, and they also see firsthand the dire need for doctors in rural areas, especially those like Perry County that don’t have hospital.
“I want to see them finish their training here and start working in places like this, whether they stay here or they work a full-time job in Wilcox County or you name any rural community Alabama needs access to health care,” Lishman said. “That’s the goal.”
The Cahaba Medical Care Marion clinic is located at 1303 Washington St. and is open from 8 am to 5 pm every day of the week. To schedule an appointment, call 334-247-1006.