Local physicians provide care at Capitol through ‘Doctor of the Day’ program
A Columbia native, Dr. John Coward is pretty familiar with the grounds of the South Carolina State House.
Even so, Thursday’s visit was something special.
Instead of spending the day caring for patients as a resident physician in the Tidelands Health MUSC Family Medicine Residency Program, Dr. Coward joined longtime Tidelands Health family medicine physician Dr. Gerald Harmon at the Capitol to provide medical care through the “Doctor of the Day” program. The Doctor of the Day provides care to legislators, lobbyists, State House staffers and Capitol visitors for a day.
For more than 30 years, Dr. Harmon, vice president of medical affairs for the health system, has participated in the program, and he makes it a point to invite medical students and resident physicians to join him.
“I think it’s great because it introduces you to the legislative process,” Dr. Coward says. “In a way, you are also representing the profession and serving as an advocate for health care and medicine.”
For several hours on Thursday, Drs. Coward and Harmon were stationed in the modest office of Legislative Health Services on the third floor of the State House helping people with a variety of health conditions ranging from skin lesions to the common cold.
They also had the chance to watch proceedings in the House of Representatives and Senate. Both bodies recognized the physicians for their service.
“I bring students and residents with me for Doctor of the Day because it’s important they see democracy at work,” Dr. Harmon says. “I want our physicians to be comfortable stepping outside walls of our hospitals, our offices and our exam rooms so they can be strong community leaders and advocates for health and wellness.”
With their service at the Capitol wrapped up, the two physicians headed back to Georgetown. Their mode of transportation – a six-seat Piper PA-32 airplane – was another highlight of the day for Dr. Coward, who had never flown in a single-engine airplane until that morning’s flight into Columbia with Dr. Harmon, an experienced private pilot.
“I’ve always been interested in aviation and flying, so it was a really singular experience,” Dr. Coward says. “It was beautiful, smooth flying.”