Wood County’s first black female doctor retired after 40 years of community service

KVITMAN. After more than 40 years of medical practice at Quitman, Dr. Beverly Waddleton is starting the new year in a new way – in retirement.

Waddleton officially retired on January 1 after four decades of treating patients in her hometown of Quitman.

“It was a very fruitful 40 years,” she said. “Now I look back and some of the things I did now seem almost surreal.”

Waddleton said her desire to become a doctor came about the summer after high school.

“I think it was sort of a spiritual calling. I grew up with my family trying to help other people,” she said. “It was like what I had to do.”

She credits her 4-H District School Agent for helping her get into Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, where she received a full scholarship. She then enrolled at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Worth and returned home to Quitman where she began private practice.

She had several huge accomplishments in her lifetime, including being the first black salutator in Quitman High School’s history; first black woman to graduate from the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (now the UNT Health Sciences Center in Fort Worth); and the first black female physician in Wood County history.

“I was the first woman, the first black woman (doctor), and people were probably a little nervous at first because I was something else,” Waddleton said.

But she has built strong relationships with her patients, many of whom support her decision to retire but are sad when she leaves.

“There were tears, congratulations, ‘We’re happy for you’ and ‘We’ll miss you,'” she said of her patients’ reactions. “Most of it is sadness, but also happiness for me.

“What I enjoyed the most in my practice was the relationship with patients and their families,” she added. “That will be what I miss the most.”

Waddleton also survived 21 years of breast cancer and credits her deep Christian faith as the driving force behind her four decades of practice.

Waddleton left private practice in 2005 to join ETMC, now UT Health East Texas Physicians in Quitman, which she says has allowed her to focus less on the business side of things and more on her patients.

She was instrumental in the construction of the new hospital and served twice as Chief of Staff. Waddleton recognizes the magnitude of this accomplishment given her earliest memory of the hospital, attending the grand opening of the original building with her parents when she was a little girl.

“One of the hospital board trustees told us that people of color cannot come at this time, we will have to come in an hour or two,” she said.

Waddleton said she would advise those considering a career in healthcare to make sure they know why they are in medicine.

“I think some people do it for money or prestige, but it’s not as profitable as doing it to be a servant,” she said.

Rhonda Keller, administrator of the UT Health East Texas Physicians practice at Quitman, said Waddleton’s leadership as a servant is evident in everything she has done for patients, the hospital and the community.

“She is very dedicated to patients and what is right. She cares about patient safety and what is right for them,” Keller said. “She is 100% protective of them and the local medical team. She’s not just a doctor here, she’s a leader.”

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