Dr. Charles A. Walker: A whole family of physicians

Published 10:45 am Saturday, May 11, 2024

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We are all a product of our parents. Not just in the hereditary sense, but of course in the social sense. Our tastes, mannerisms, and behaviors, and in many cases our careers and lifestyles, are in some way or another, a product of our parents. Sometimes parents have a bigger impact on one child than the other. In the case of Memorial Hospital surgeon Dr. Charles A. Walker, he and his siblings have all followed in the example of their father, Dr. Charles O. Walker, as a family of physicians.

From an early age, Walker found himself exposed to his father’s line of work, as well as moving around. “We ended up in Donalsonville because he used to work there on the weekends when he was stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, during Vietnam,” Walker explained, “so we moved there after he got out of the Air Force.”

However, that hospital in Donalsonville would encounter issues and ultimately closed. It was at that time that the elder Dr. Walker would move to Bainbridge, where he would continue to practice for 17 years.

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“You know, as a kid, I used to go with him to the hospital a good bit and follow him around,” he recalled. “I kind of always felt like that was what I wanted to do… I’d go in the lab and was fascinated with looking through microscopes and looking at cultures in Petri dishes.”

It was after the move to Bainbridge that Walker began to dip his toes into the medical field, working as an orderly at the Memorial operating room during college.

“In those days, you didn’t shadow doctors, you worked in the hospital, and that was part of getting your resume for med school.”

And it wasn’t just him who would take after his father’s example, as his siblings would also pursue careers in medicine at Donalsonville Hospital; his sister, Dr. Sarah Hampton, practices internal medicine, while his brother, Dr. Joseph Walker, is a general surgeon.

Walker would graduate from Seminole County High School in 1978, going on to attend UGA, having already made up his mind about his chosen vocation.

“I had probably already decided by then that that’s what I wanted to do… Daddy’s influence on us was pretty pronounced,” Walker said. “We are a family of physicians, we just don’t know much.” He recalled what it was like for an outsider to see what a family of physicians was like: “My wife, Lynn, likes to talk about how strange it was when we first started dating and she came home with me to visit some, you know our discussions around the dinner table were about medicine, because that’s what we all did.”

He would go on from UGA to further his medical education at Emory University.

Walker also attributed his career decision, in part, to the era he grew up in, as much his father’s influence.

“My era, back in those days, in the 60s, the Space Program was big, especially in the Air Force,” he reminisced. “Everything was about science, so yeah, it was fascinating. It still is.”

Dr. Walker would move to Bainbridge and start his own private practice in 1990, with his father moving back to work in Donalsonville shortly afterward. The medical field has changed significantly from those childhood visits to the hospital.

“It’s almost hard to even describe the changes,” he said. “We’ve shifted from predominantly in-patient surgical methods to out-patient surgical methods, the constant, less-invasive surgery to get people in and out of the hospital and back to work faster, everything has been a change.”

Having grown up in a family of rural physicians and surgeons, Dr. Walker expressed his desire to continue serving rural communities.

“The future is tough, because surgeons don’t want to go to rural areas,” he said, “they don’t even define ‘rural care’ in the big teaching hospitals in the cities. They’ll talk about rural hospitals being Thomasville and Albany. That’s not a rural surgery care.”

He emphasized the need for rural hospitals going forward: “The vast majority of healthcare in the country is not in the big cities. So all the problems that we face are being faced everywhere else. And you have people that don’t really grasp the fact that if local hospitals don’t survive in the future, they don’t have access to care as easily. And the big city hospitals can’t provide all that care.”

It has been over a decade since Dr. Walker joined Memorial Hospital as a surgeon, and just a few since he joined the Memorial Amelia Medical Plaza, still working in the family business.

He concluded his story, saying, “It has been an honor and a privilege to have been able to practice here, and provide quality surgical care for the people of Decatur and Bainbridge.”

For parents, it should be a good reminder that your children are watching you, even if you think they aren’t or that they don’t care. You may be changing their life.