Most of Les Pollards major decisions have had one common denominator family. From his first inkling of interest in becoming a doctor to his most recent move back to Augusta to practice medicine at CPC, his family has always played a pivotal role.
Despite growing up in a family of teachers, Les was never drawn to teaching as a profession. His father, Les Sr., is a history professor at Paine College, his mother Brenda, taught music at Lucy Laney High School for 25 years, and their uncle Lester is an English professor at Augusta State University. Instead, another family member provided the inspiration for his choice of medicine as a career. My grandmother had bone cancer when I was very young and I think that triggered my interest in becoming a doctor, Dr. Pollard explains.
Even so, the educators in his family made their mark as well. They nurtured in young Les an interest in community service, leadership, and learning. As a teenager, he was a volunteer counselor at the day camp at Augusta State University, where he helped supervise childrens activities. Later, his interests turned more toward academics. The first of these was the Student Educational Enrollment Program (SEEP) at the Medical College of Georgia. SEEP is a minority-oriented program designed to generate interest in science and medicine, and thats exactly what it did for Les.
After graduating from Westside High School in Augusta, Les chose Xavier University, a private Catholic college in New Orleans, because it was a good fit for his personal and professional interests. At the time, Xavier had only 1500 students, a strong pre-med program, and the nations 2nd highest percentage of black graduates admitted to medical school, Les explains. He was further influenced by
Xavier being a historically black college and by the schools conservatism set against the colorful big-city atmosphere of New Orleans.
Les took advantage of many social and educational opportunities available to him during college. In addition to being a Minority Access to Research Scholar, he became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, a national social and community service organization, in which he has remained active as an alumnus. During summers, he did research at MCG, the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, and the University of Maryland in College Park. Although Les considers his lab experience invaluable to his education, perhaps the most important thing he learned was that he did not want a career in medical research.
For medical school, Les again chose a small, Southern, historically black institution in a large metropolitan setting. I liked the small class size at Morehouse (in Atlanta) because it was more one-on-one versus a big university where you dont get to know your professors, he explains. While a student at Morehouse, he started the Family Medicine Interest Group.
It was during Less third year in med school that his uncle suggested a blind date with a young lady named Tammy Luke, an Augusta native and counselor at Charter Hospital. Despite the usual trepidation one might have about blind dates, Les called Tammy and there was soon little doubt that the two were as good a match as his uncle imagined. In 1993, when Les graduated from Morehouse School of Medicine, he and Tammy married in a large ceremony at the Paine College chapel and began their life together.
Les realized during med school that he wanted to be a family physician. I considered other specialties but doing just one thing was boring to me, he explains. A family doctor cares for all family members, gets to know several generations, sees babies from the beginning, and watches them grow and develop. It also allows for a better understanding of the family and its impact on each persons well-being. You get to know the ins and outs of a family and how each member integrates with the others, and that, he believes, enables him to provide better care for everyone.
Les and Tammy made their first home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where Les completed his internship and residency in family medicine at the University of North Carolina. I liked the university setting and what it had to offer, he says. Some universities are either research or academic institutions but this one enabled me to prepare for private practice.
Dr. Pollard had several opportunities to join groups in small Georgia towns, but he eventually decided to settle in Statesboro. I wanted to go to a small town where I could really make a difference, he said, and Statesboro was close enough to Augusta for frequent visits with their parents. The closeness factor became even more important when the couple found out they were expecting twins. Brooke and Leslie were born in August 1997, followed by Christina two years later.
Dr. Pollard originally planned to settle permanently in Statesboro, but there were drawbacks to being in solo practice. Youre always on duty and its hard to take time off, even when youre away, he explains. When the Pollards were on family vacations, he would usually call the office twice a day and was always accessible by phone or pager.
Add to that the time-consuming business demands. It can be tough because you have to handle everything yourself. Tammy helped a great deal in the office, but competing family and practice demands made working with a group all the more appealing. They also wanted to be closer to extended family.
The Center for Primary Care seemed to be a perfect match for the Pollard family on many levels. Besides enjoying working with the other physicians at CPC, Dr. Pollard values CPCs administrative support , the camaraderie of a physicians group, and the luxury of not always being on call. The proximity of family is another plus. We have two sets of grandparents in Augusta so theres lots of support, he says, and theres much more for our family to do in Augusta.
Being devoted to his patients, it was difficult for Dr. Pollard to leave the Statesboro practice. It was a tough decision because I care for my patients, he says, but ultimately, he had to do what was best for his family. Dr. Pollard began seeing patients at CPC-Central on July 1, some of whom are from Statesboro and chose to stay with him despite the travel distance.
The Pollards have come full circle now and are back raising their own children in Augusta where they grew up, a city Dr. Pollard describes as big but with a familiar, comfortable small-town feel. As we welcome Dr. Pollard back to Augusta, we hope he will feel equally at home with the Center for Primary Care.