Forrest General Surgeon, One of Hattiesburg Clinic and SEMAAD Founders Remembered for Contributions to Community
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (September 7, 2021) Richard H. Clark, Jr., MD, a Forrest General surgeon, the last surviving founder of Hattiesburg Clinic and one of the founders of the Southeast Mississippi Air Ambulance District, passed away Sunday, September 5, 2021. Because of the vision and hard work of people like Clark, Forrest General has grown to be the lead facility in the Southeast Trauma Care Region and one of just three Level II trauma centers in the state.
In 1963, Clark was one of 10 local physicians and 14 employees who started Hattiesburg Clinic, which would become the state’s largest privately-owned, multi-specialty outpatient medical facility. At that time Clark was quoted as saying, “The main thing is taking care of patients and getting sick folks well, which has been our goal. We didn’t have any studies done to see if it was a good idea, we just did it,” he said.
Thanks to the work Clark was involved in, thousands of lives have been saved. Eight years after the founding of the clinic, Clark and a group of men which included Lowrey Woodall, CEO of Forrest General Hospital from 1962-1996, recognized the need for an efficient emergency services system in south Mississippi, especially in rural areas. In 1970, using a test program implemented by the Department of Transportation, which studied the impact of using helicopters to transport critically injured patients from rural areas to the closest major hospital, the men formed the Southeast Mississippi Air Ambulance District (SEMAAD).
Clark, who served as president of the board when the service started in 1971, served the organization for the next 25 years as off-line medical director. “I’m proud to have been part of such a defining moment in saving lives,” he said during an interview about the process. “Persistence got us to where we are now. It feels good to know I had a hand in this. There’s no two ways about it. Every time I see the helicopter, I think about it.” Clark was honored when his initials, RC, were placed in front of the identifying numbers on the helicopter.
Clark, who had a particular interest in thoracic and vascular surgery, joined Forrest General’s medical staff in 1961. In 2009, he was inducted into the Forrest General Healthcare Foundation Doctors Hall of Fame.
“He was a great man, and I will always be grateful for his vision and his guidance,” said Forrest General Vice President, Millie Swan, who remembered Clark for his contributions to health care throughout the Hattiesburg community. “He will be terribly missed and never forgotten.