Member Spotlight: Dr. George Woodbury

The doctor is talking on the phone

George Woodbury, Jr. MD’s curriculum vitae’s length is long, like many physicians. What makes his (and him) unique is that the length of his is as much attributed to his volunteer leadership efforts as it is to his clinical achievements.

Born in Chicago and raised in Memphis by married physicians George Sr. and Linda Woodbury, George excelled academically at Memphis University School before returning to his birthplace and enrolling at The University of Chicago. One of the most impressive of his undergraduate career is his earning the university’s Morton-Murphy Award, honoring him for extracurricular contributions. If that’s not foreshadowing to his service to medicine, we don’t know what is!

Prior to advancing on to UC’s Prtizker School of Medicine, he was published early in the American Journal of Ophthalmology in 1983. He was co-author of a letter that described the creation of a prism for measurement of the angle . of the anterior chamber of the eye, to help in assessing patients’ risk of developing glaucoma.

After completing a residency in dermatology in Chicago, then actively practicing in Rochester, New York for two years, he returned home to open his clinical practice in Cordova, which quickly grew to include his wife, Cathy Chapman, MD. They quickly enjoyed the fun of building a budding medical practice and raising a budding family.

When George speaks about his family (three children, two grandchildren), the beaming smile you see to your left is prominent. They are scattered about the country, and therefore so is he. One of his great anecdotal stories comes via his daughter, Emily, now a practicing OBGYN in Boca Raton, Florida. After returning home from a long day of combating the challenges of medical practice, George was lamenting the usual administrative hassles imposed by insurance companies. Emily quickly retorted, “Dad, don’t get mad, get active!” He heeded her young, yet sage, advice. An epic tale of service to his profession and his patients was born.

Dr. Woodbury’s beginnings as a volunteer leader in medicine began in both altruistic and somewhat reactionary ways. That encouragement from Emily came after a long legal battle that included two malpractice lawsuits, months of preparing for those suits, and revenue lost from his practice. As he describes it, “I joined MMS and TMA as a source of strength.” Strength in numbers, strength of expertise. As George is wont to do, he immediately went to the front lines.

Perhaps his largest act of service was one of his first. Based on his own experience with litigation, he set out to be vocal and active in the battle for tort reform. By his count, 40 of his 350+ career trips to Nashville were to battle that issue. It subsequently led to the passing of tort reform, saving Tennessee medical practices millions of dollars, and making Tennessee of the best states to practice medicine.

He didn’t stop there. There are not enough pages in a year’s worth of Quarterly’s to capture all of the issues he has advocated for. Indoor tanning protection for minors, graduate medical education funding, truth in advertising, insurer clawbacks, scope of practice…this list goes on and on.

If tort reform was his largest act of service, then mentorship will be his most enduring. Mentorship is a large component of growing in medicine, and Dr. Woodbury has mentored hundreds of colleagues in Memphis and throughout the country. Most recently, he mentored a group of medical students who went on to advocate for the first increase in Graduate Medical Education funding in Tennessee since 1997.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t impart some of his wisdom here: “We physicians can make a big difference in how we deliver care if we stand together and advocate for the science and art of medicine. There is enormous strength in numbers, and we are in a unique position to advocate for both our patients and for our profession. Your level of involvement in advocacy in healthcare can be titrated against the time limitations that all of us physicians face, in terms of having ample family time and time to do what we need to do, on a day to day basis.

With all of his volunteer leadership accolades, when you engage him in the context of TMA and MMS, he is quick to express appreciation. “The Memphis Medical Society has been instrumental in the growth of our company. Our payroll and tax accounting company was by referral from MMS. Even the remodeling of my wife’s and my kitchen in East Memphis became possible through a referral from them!

You can view Dr. Woodbury’s magazine cover HERE.