When thinking back to his youth, James H. Long Jr., MD, FACP, doesn’t remember a time when he wanted to be anything other than a doctor.
“I don’t know that we even considered other options outside of medicine,” he shares and adds that he and three of his high school friends all went on to become doctors.
Dr. Long and his friends credit Dr. Ed Mardini, a local surgeon in their native Missouri, as a mentor who took the eager young high schoolers under his wing.
“He encouraged us to pursue medicine and let us round with him and watch surgeries,” Dr. Long says. “If not for this early mentoring, I could have instead become an impoverished musician.”
Fortunately for Paducah, Ky. and its surrounding communities, Dr. Long chose the path of medicine.
Dr. Long came to Paducah in 1987 to establish a private primary care practice after completing his residency at the University of Iowa. His mentorship with Dr. Mardini continued upon his arrival to the Bluegrass State.
“I was very lucky to also have Dr. Richard Smith and Dr. Jesse Wallace as role models and mentors when I started practice,” Dr. Long says. “They were the epitome of what it meant to be a great doctor and I aspired to be as good as them. In fact, there were a lot of truly brilliant clinicians when I came to Paducah in many specialties that had a big influence on how I practiced.”
Now, Dr. Long’s career serves as an inspiration to others. He has spent the last 35 years in service to the region and joined Mercy Health five years ago. For the last three years, Dr. Long has dedicated himself full time as a board-certified hospice and palliative care physician.
While he does miss the long-term relationships he had with patients while a practicing internist, Dr. Long finds his current role to be very rewarding.
“I have had the opportunity and privilege to care for the sickest of the sick and play a role in their comfort and quality of life,” he explains. “Taking away pain and discomfort is really the essence of medicine in my opinion.”
While Dr. Long has seen a lot of change in the medical profession during his career, the last several years have seen the rate of change, and the challenges, accelerate. COVID-19 has led to additional complexity and stress, and Dr. Long notes that morale in the medical community can be challenging to maintain. Still, he has also witnessed acts that have provided him with optimism.
“The pandemic has forced medical providers to be more flexible in how they care for patients and rethink how we deliver care effectively in nontraditional ways, which is a positive thing,” Dr. Long shares. “I also think it has been impressive that health care workers as a group have stepped up to do what was required to take care of people even at their own personal peril. My fellow physicians and providers have put patient needs before their own. I admire their competence and tenacity.”
When it comes to National Doctors’ Day, Dr. Long is very grateful for his Kentucky work family.
“I really do appreciate the recognition here at Mercy Health – Lourdes Hospital because I think the appreciation is sincere and heartfelt.”
And if you were to ask any of the thousands of patients and families Dr. Long has helped through the years, they would agree that it is.
Help us celebrate National Doctors’ Day by sharing a heartfelt message of appreciation for your Mercy Health provider! Please visit mercy.com/doctorsday before March 30 to submit your message of thanks.