Chester Martin Remembers Dr. Douglas A. Poindexter

Thursday, June 30, 2016 - by Chester Martin
Dr. Douglas Poindexter
Dr. Douglas Poindexter

About a year ago I was thinking about some people I knew as a teenager from my high school years, and wondering where they were today. One of those people was Douglas Poindexter whom I remembered from my first "real" job at Crisman Hardware Company. He introduced himself to me at the time, and I had no idea who he was!  THAT is a strange feeling, and is probably why I remember it so well. Seems he lived very near some St. Elmo friends of ours, and he had seen me coming and going from that house - and then there would be the normal discussion among the adults that followed, of how the two families knew each other...

Douglas and I got slightly acquainted through the hardware store, but then our paths went totally separate ways and I lost track of him until many years later.

My mother was staying with my wife and me by then, and our house was open to all her old friends - including those good St. Elmo ladies, Nell and Louise Fry. They made frequent stops at our house and started bringing their neighbor, a "Mrs. Poindexter" with them! And now you see where this story is headed...

"Mrs. Poindexter" (maiden name “Burks”) turned out to be Douglas's mom, of course, and I got to hear some of the good things that had happened to Douglas in the intervening years. Nell and Louise glowed with pride over all his achievements. After the Internet came along I was able to find him, and others, very easily, and since I have started writing these "Memories" I have found it very interesting to describe former Chattanoogans who have "done good." Dr. Douglas A. Poindexter makes an exemplary case in point.

Douglas Poindexter attended Chattanooga City High School, graduating in 1953. His future already carefully planned, he then went to the University of Tennessee School of Medicine in Memphis. He received his diploma in 1957 and worked for a time in the public health service at Galveston, Texas, before serving a residency at Grady hospital in Atlanta. A treasured congratulatory letter he received upon graduation from medical school came from our very popular Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver. Doug met and married Dr. Ann Poindexter, moving to the city of Conway, Arkansas, where Ann’s father was a professor at Hendrix College, a private liberal arts college. (Although it was convenient to move to Conway because of family ties, he was professionally invited there by Drs. Ed Dunaway and Bob Benefield in 1965). Through the years, the pair has made an indelible mark on Conway. One newspaper article declared Dr. Doug to be a “giant” in the field of medicine in their part of Arkansas. That was at the time of his retirement in 1995. This reputation was largely established by a willingness to work closely with patients. He made many house calls, frequently in the middle of the night, and saved many lives by doing so. Thanks to innovations made by Dr. Poindexter he was able to save many patients from having to travel the longer distance into Little Rock for certain procedures.

I have a copy of the “Legion of Honor” certificate awarded him by the Kiwanis International chapter at Conway. It reads as follows, “Be it known that Doug Poindexter has been a Kiwanian for a period of Forty Five Years as shown by the official organization records. And be it further known that this member is hereby accorded distinctive recognition and has the admiration and gratitude of this club, the district, and Kiwanis International.” This certificate is dated 23 July 2014, and is duly signed by all pertinent Kiwanis dignitaries.

In an earlier interview with an Arkansas newspaper Dr. Poindexter was asked to tell some of the differences in medical procedures that have occurred during his long tenure. One huge improvement has been made in the field of anesthesiology, he said. When he first started as a young doctor, there were TWO choices: ether and chloroform. “ We used open drop ether (which is) dangerous because it is explosive. Chloroform isn’t explosive but it still is dangerous. An overdose would stop the heart.

“For tonsillectomies, all the family physicians gave open drop ether. They’d put a piece of gauze on the patient’s face and drop ether on it. It was effective, but we didn’t have the monitoring devices of today.” The same system worked for many procedures including the delivery of babies, joint replacements, etc. “But we never lost a patient”, he says!

Thanks to his fine medical education at Memphis and his residency at Grady Hospital he learned about the then-new field of chemotherapy. He was able to administer that procedure to his Conway patients, saving them a long daily round-trip to and from Little Rock. This was seen as a distinct innovation for its day, and Dr. Poindexter had many devoted admirers as a result.

Ann, his wife, shared his altruistic interests, especially with the developmentally disabled. She held offices in many national medical organizations and worked with medical agencies in other states. Together they shared wishes to visit such places as Africa and Central America as medical missionaries.

There is today a state-of-the-art clinic in Conway, Arkansas, which bears his name.

Dr. Doug had a brother, Parke, who was a newspaperman, and public relations person for Prudential Insurance in Jacksonville, Fla. Parke died in 2007 at age 90. One of Doug’s sisters was a “real tennis champ” here, and his oldest sister, Doris Morris, recently died in Virginia at age 97.

Please note that although much of the above story is told in the past tense, both Dr. Doug and Dr. Ann are very much alive and well!

(Chester Martin is a native Chattanoogan who is a talented painter as well as local historian. He and his wife, Pat, live in Brainerd. Mr. Martin can be reached at cymppm@comcast.net )

 

Douglas Poindexter as a senior at Chattanooga High School
Douglas Poindexter as a senior at Chattanooga High School

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