By Michael Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – New District Health Officer Dr. Roma Taylor hails from Pontocola, but medicine has taken her around the world.
Her medical adventures have landed her in locales as diverse as Orange Beach, Ala., Boston and New Zealand. But she’s happy to be back in Lee County.
“There’s no place like home,” Taylor said.
Her 37-year medical career has now brought her full circle. In her first job out of medical school, Taylor worked in the then-pilot public health district in Tupelo, conducting maternity, family planning, STD and general medicine clinics in Northeast Mississippi.
“We are thrilled to have Dr. Taylor back as one of our district health officers,” said State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier. “She brings an extensive background in administration, clinical practice, public and private health, and medical mission experience to our agency.”
The late Dr. Ed Thompson, who served as state health officer, and current state health officer Dr. Mary Currier have a wonderful vision for public health in the state, said Taylor, who will oversee 21 counties in the Northeast and Tombigbee health districts.
“I felt I could have more input in public health than in private practice,” said Taylor, who succeeds the retired Dr. Robert Trotter as district health officer.
Taylor, the mother of two grown children, has family ties to both Lee County and medicine. Her grandfather and namesake was the late Dr. Romie Dabbs, who took care of patients from cradle to grave in Shannon.
She grew up in Shannon and Verona and graduated from Tupelo High School.
Taylor has practiced for years in Lee County, working at the North Mississippi Medical Center emergency room and founding Med-Serve urgent care. More recently, she worked with Dr. John White in Verona.
Time in New Zealand
Taylor just returned to Mississippi from a sabbatical in New Zealand where she worked for six months as a general practitioner on the west coast of the South Island, which was made famous as the backdrop for the Lord of the Rings movies.
“New Zealand has the reputation for having the best mix of private and government-run care,” Taylor said. “I wanted to see what they looked like.”
The practice she worked in covered 6,000 patients and should have had four or five doctors, but instead had only two. Specialists were in short supply and often inaccessible because snow would close the passes through the mountains.
“The west coast was gorgeous,” Taylor said. “But there’s not enough doctors.”
At times, the work was very frustrating because of bureaucratic restrictions on medications, medical tests and care from specialists that people in the United States take for granted.
The impressive things included comprehensive electronic medical records and preventive health programs, like home visits from registered nurses for newborns and their moms.
“We can take the best from the New Zealand experience and avoid the pitfalls,” Taylor said.