Idaho doctor's impact spreads far beyond Shoshone

Keith Davis wins 2014 Family Physician of the Year over 100,000 of those eligible, and those who know him can tell you the national award is well-earned.

(TWIN FALLS) TIMES-NEWSOctober 29, 2013 

Small Town Doc-Honor

Keith Davis discusses his national physician of the year award Tuesday at his office in Shoshone. His patients say the honor should be no surprise.

JOE CADOTTE — (Twin Falls) Times-News

SHOSHONE - As the "Lincoln County stork," the only physician in a county of about 5,200 residents, Dr. Keith Davis delivers babies and attends to patients day and night.

The American Academy of Family Physicians, which announced his award, deemed him "the small-town doc with statewide impact."

But Davis, 58, isn't just the county's sole doctor. He's also its coroner, an emergency room physician at St. Luke's Jerome Medical Center and the emergency medical services director of Lincoln and Jerome counties. He also teaches rural family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine and Idaho State University.

"I was in the office when I got the call," Davis said of the award, given to two other Idaho physicians over the past decade. "I have to admit that I shed some tears of joy because it was really a thrill. I did not expect another Idaho doctor to be picked so soon. I was resolved to the idea that they were going to pick somebody in a different state."

But that recognition pales in comparison to his miracle touch, patients said.

Heather Rumple, of Gooding, said she started experiencing severe stomach pains four years ago. Fourteen physicians and specialists in Twin Falls misdiagnosed her ailment, and surgeons removed her gall bladder and appendix, but the pain continued, Rumple said.

Three months ago, friends recommended Davis.

"He explained to me that in medical school, if you hear a stampede, you automatically label it that because that's what you see," she said. "Dr. Davis said I was a zebra instead of a horse."

She said she walked into his office, and after a few moments with his head on his fist, the doctor said: "You have a stomach migraine."

"I was like, 'stomach migraine? I've never heard of that.' No one I've known has heard of that."

It's a rare condition in which receptors in her brain sent the migraine to her body instead of her head.

"He gave me regular old migraine medicine, and within days the pain was over," Rumple said.

Yet, despite Davis' many roles in the community, "He wasn't rushed," she said. "I could tell he just genuinely wanted to fix my problem and didn't care about the money. A lot of times, I feel like doctors are sleazy and just in it for the money. Incidentally, the cheapest place I saw a doctor for my stomach was Davis."

Rumple said Davis' award didn't surprise her. "He is the most impressive doctor I've ever been to," she said. "He's the most selfless person in his profession, for sure. He gives up so much of his time and energy to his patients."

Davis, asked about his most memorable experiences, got teary as he described delivering babies.

"That's an area where there can be great joy, but certainly great sorrow when you have loss," he said. "Delivering babies is just the happiest thing a doctor can do. I'm a medical scientist, but I also believe in miracles."

Davis delivered three of Melody Russell's five children. He went "above and beyond" what any other doctor would do, she said.

"He's very personable. He talks personally to us," Russell said. "It isn't just a patient to remember. He knows us personally and knows our family and knows each of us. Even the children that he didn't deliver he knows personally. He asks about them and truly cares about each member of my family."

When Davis determined that her husband had cancer, he broke the news at their house rather than at the hospital.

"He sat us down, and he told us that he had news that my husband had cancer," Russell said. "The fact that he came to us - he did not just give us bad news in his office, he came to our home to personally tell us."

"He's not just a doctor, he's a friend."

Davis's daughter, Karla Davis, said her father has no plans to retire any time soon.

"He'll probably die doing what he loves," she said.

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