A FAMILY AFFAIRDoctor, two sons practicing in city

Published 12:00 pm Monday, August 13, 2012

Forty-five years ago, Paul Williamson Pierce III, then 26 years old, was driving along Drummond Street after a day of work as a hydraulics engineer when he decided he wanted to become a doctor.

When Pierce told his wife, Pat, that he no longer wanted to be an engineer, she supported him and got ready for the move to University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

“I was in shock, but I was fine with it,” Pat Pierce said. “I told him, ‘You know you better like this, we’re basically starting all over.’”

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“I wanted a job where I could do technical work all my life,” “Bill” Pierce said.

Today, Pierce is a physician associated with Medical Associates of Vicksburg and the father of two other physicians practicing in the city.

“I’m just as honored as I could be that my sons would be physicians, too, and that they wanted to come home.”

Paul Williamson Pierce IV, the elder son who is a cardiologist known as “P-4” throughout River Region Medical Center, said his father influenced his career choice, but never forced him into medicine.

“He would take me to the emergency room when he was a resident, that was interesting to be around,” said Paul Pierce. “I saw at a young age that it wasn’t easy, it’s hard work.”

“Paul told us he wanted to be a doctor from the time he could talk,” Bill Pierce said. “Once I heard he wanted to do cardiology I hated for him not to be working with me, but I encouraged him.”

Like his father, Paul Pierce went to UMMC, but decided to specialize because he likes “procedural, hands-on work.”

Bill Pierce said he considered cardiology years ago, but decided to go with general medicine.

“I thought cardiologists didn’t do anything, but, man, was I wrong,” Bill Pierce said. “I thought it was boring, but it’s actually the most exciting field. It takes a special set of skills to do Paul’s job.”

For younger son, Sam, the journey into medicine wasn’t always so obvious, his father said.

“I don’t remember Sam ever mentioning medical school,” Bill Pierce said. “Most people sweat out getting into medical school, but Sam just called up one day and said he was going.”

After getting a degree in chemistry from Mississippi College, Sam Pierce, like his father and brother, studied medicine at UMMC.

Sam Pierce and his wife, Kellie, just moved to Vicksburg with their three children. He will work alongside his father.

“It’s good to be back home,” Sam Pierce said. “I remember going to the hospital as a kid and liking it. I started seriously thinking about medicine when I was a teenager. Dad encouraged me during school, he just wanted me to do what I was good at but never pushed.”

Sam Pierce said he chose general medicine mainly because he couldn’t decide on a specialty.

“I like everything and didn’t want to narrow myself to one field,” Sam Pierce said. “I got into this because I like dealing with and helping people on a daily basis.”

He said he always knew he would end up in Vicksburg, whether he became a doctor or not.

“I never wanted to go anywhere else,” he said. “I always wanted to work with my dad, and I never considered living anywhere other than Vicksburg.”

Bill Pierce, a graduate of Carr Central High School’s class of 1958, called his family “a medical-oriented family.”

“I couldn’t be more pleased that they’re both here,” Bill Pierce said. “You’ve got to support your kids. Our philosophy was that as long as they’re headed in the right direction and are doing what they wanted to do, we support them.”

Paul Pierce IV said the fifth Paul Williamson Pierce, his namesake and oldest son, is already talking about becoming a doctor.

“Will is definitely interested,” Paul Pierce said of his 15-year-old son, a freshman at St. Aloysius High School. “He’s smart enough to do what he wants to, we’ll see.”

As for the other five grandchildren, Paul’s children, Jake, 13, and Sarah Jean, 11, and Sam’s children, Clay, 4, Lucas, 2, and Sam, 9 months, Bill Pierce said he’ll stay tuned to see if they turn out to be interested in medicine.

“Early on, I never dreamed we’d end up with three doctors in the family, not when we started out with a civil engineer,” Pat Pierce said. “It’s worked out great, and my husband is thrilled to work with both of them.”

Bill Pierce said Paul and Sam, graduates of St. Al in 1988 and 1997, usually have steered themselves in the right direction.

“There were bumps along the way, but they’re boys,” Bill Pierce said with a laugh. “You can’t push someone into medicine, it’s too long and involved. I just encouraged them to be the best they could be.”