Pierce celebrates 40 years of medicine

Published 10:43 am Wednesday, September 2, 2015

When Dr. Paul W. “Bill” Pierce III first opened his medical practice, one of the latest medical marvels was the Heimlich maneuver and smallpox was still a major concern in some parts of the globe.

Pierce’s practice has outlasted both the once popular maneuver that was all but discontinued in 2006 and the deadly virus that was declared eradicated in 1980.

Tuesday, the longtime doctor celebrated 40 years in the medical profession.

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“I don’t think there’s another doctor here still practicing medicine from when I started,” Pierce said.

Pierce started his practice Sept. 1, 1975, before the invention of MRI machines when the idea of the CT scan was in its infancy. Both are now common diagnostic tools.

“The computer age really has changed a lot of things,” he said.

Yet, Pierce admits he’s not a big fan of using computers. Patients won’t see him in the examining room carrying a laptop.

He takes all his notes by hand.

“If doctors over-rely on computers it takes a lot away from the practice of medicine,” Pierce said. “You can tell a lot about patients by talking to them and listening.”

Huge advances have been made in the past 40 years of medicine.

Medications and diagnostic tools are much better than they were in 1975, he said.

“There are a tremendous number of ways we can track and treat a problem,” Pierce said.

Pierce made the transition to medicine after following in his father’s footsteps as a civil engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“I didn’t like the idea of sitting behind a desk,” he said. “The higher up you go, the less actual engineering you do.”

His friend, Dr. Briggs Hopson Jr., encouraged the idea of changing careers “all he could,” Pierce said.

“Briggs has been a big influence in my life,” Pierce said.

Pierce and his wife, Pat, had been married for 12 years before he opened the medical practice.

“First of all, I couldn’t believe it. I said you need to make sure because we can only do this once,” Pat Pierce said of her husband’s decision to go to medical school. “I was surprised, in shock really.”

She doesn’t think her husband will ever retire.

“I figured he would work to 65 and quit. We’re nine years past that,” she said.

Dr. Pierce said he has no plans of hanging up the coat and stethoscope.

“I’m going to work as long as God lets me. The nice thing about being an internist is we can work as long as we think we can,” he said.

Both the Pierce’s sons, Paul and Sam, are also physicians.

“He has loved working with our sons. He loves to have that opportunity,” Pat Pierce said.