LUMBERTON — Dr. David Richardson, a beloved Lumberton physician who colleagues say dedicated his life to improving and growing Robeson County’s health care system, died Wednesday after an extend illness. He had turned 65 years old 10 days before his death.
Richardson was forced to retire from the profession he loved in 2007 after an illness that was never fully diagnosed robbed him of his motor skills.
“David was so courageous and he was the strongest person I have ever known,” Sylvia, his wife of 22 years, said. “He never complained and he told me he wasn’t afraid to die.”
Medicine was in Richardson’s blood. Originally from Scotland County, he was the son of James J. Richardson, a general surgeon who practiced in Laurinburg but also traveled the country performing experimental surgeries.
Despite a strong leaning toward medicine, Richardson first graduated with a business degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1969. He went on to graduate from Duke University Medical School in 1974, and then spent 10 months in Scotland doing research on immunology at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh.
Richardson, whose field was internal medicine, joined Lumberton Medical Clinic in 1978. He was among a second flood of doctors who helped turn the community hospital into what it is today, Southeastern Regional Medical Center.
“He was a tremendous doctor, an awesome physician,” said Dr. Rowell Burleson, a long-time friend and associate of Richardson. “He was one of the best physicians to ever come through this area.”
Burleson, a urologist, said that although Richardson’s field was internal medicine, he was extremely knowledgeable in the area of cardiac care.
“I depended on him for advice when I had cases involving the heart,” Burleson said. “He was dependable and had a lot of common sense.”
According to a spokesperson for Southeastern Regional Medical Center, Richardson championed increased access to health care for the region’s residents. One example was the doctor’s supervised care of adult patients at the St. Pauls Medical Clinic when it opened in September 1995.
Joann Anderson, the current CEO and president of SRMC, arrived at that position after Richardson was forced to retired, but knew of him by reputation.
“Because of the many efforts supported by Dr. Richardson, our patients and community are able to access some of the most specialized and highly-technical services in the region, right in their own neighborhood,” she said. “Health care barriers have been removed and our patients and their family’s lives have been touched by the caring efforts of such a dedicated physician.”
Richardson represented the hospital medical staff on the managed care advisory board, which eventually formed the Southeastern Health Network. He also was a strong supporter of the construction of the patient bed tower that opened in 2003; helped bring the first oncology services to the county; and was instrumental in the establishment of the hospital’s heart center that opened in May 2006.
“I enjoyed working with him on hospital projects,” said Luckey Welsh, Southeastern Regional Medical Center’s former CEO and now hospital administrator at Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro. “He was an advocate for patients and a leader of the medical staff. He was respected by the (hospital) trustees, the medical staff and the (hospital) administration. They all knew the value he brought to our health are system.
“David Richardson was very beloved in the community. He cared about all people in the community, not just his patients. He was very bright, an excellent physician, very caring. I can still remember his quick steps down the hospital hallways, the care for his patients always on his mind.” Debbie Webb, who worked as Richardson’s nurse for 28 years, called the doctor “full of compassion.”
“He had the desire to do all he could for his patients, no matter what their wealth, status or race,” she said. “He just cared about people.”
Webb said that a lot of people didn’t know that Richardson had needy children in other countries that he supported. His compassion for children was even more evident, she said, by one of his “passions” — each Christmas raising money for the Empty Stocking Fund, which provides Christmas to needy children.
Webb said that working for Richardson was a wonderful opportunity for her, a “gift from God.”
“He was great to work with. He was a great teacher,” she said. “He taught by example. If anything passed across his desk that he didn’t know about he would go look though references until he found the answer.”
When not working, Richardson was known to be an avid outdoors man, an accomplished hunter and fisherman.
“We spent a lot of time together deer and duck hunting and fishing,” Burleson said. “I loved him like a brother. He was a heck of a guy and a real loss to the community. He had a lot of friends who thought the world of him.”
In July 2007, Richardson told The Robesonian that his ultimate goal was to improve a person’s health.
“…The truth is helping another person feel better, that made me feel the best,” he said.” You’ve got to love people to be a good physician. It doesn’t matter what color they are or how much money they have, you got to love people.”
The funeral arrangements will be handled by Floyd Mortuary. Richardson will be buried on Saturday, the first day of the dove-hunting season, which was one of his passions.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or email@example.com.