Giffin is a doctor always on a mission

Published 8:58 am Monday, January 23, 2017

Dr. Lee Giffin has some very special patients.

A family practitioner in Vicksburg for 31 years, the Louisville native performs the physicals for the area’s Special Olympics participants, and serves as medical director for the 807 HIV Clinic in Vicksburg.

“I don’t remember the person who did it, but I had a request to go to several of the elementary schools about 25 years ago (for the Special Olympics physicals). I just enjoyed it,” he said. “I had fun with the kids.

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“To me, it’s nice to be able to help them get to do something that they enjoy doing. We’ve been doing it ever since.”

Sometimes, he said, he’ll go to as many as four different schools to do physicals, and he’s usually got some help with him.

“I’ve been fortunate; my nurse here and my assistant here have gone with me on certain occasions,” Giffin said. “For several years, my wife, who’s a nurse practitioner, Dee Dee, has helped me do the physicals, so they all chip in when they can.”

He said the physicals are performed using a standard guide, adding he is also looking at coordination and the potential physical risk that would put limits on child’s activities.

“A lot of kids already have a primary physician or a pediatrician, but we’re going through to do the physicals for participation in whatever activity they’re going to participate in,” Giffin said. “We do head to toe, we do ear, nose and throat, we listen to the heart and lungs, and we test out physical coordination, physical strength, balance height and weight; we don’t do vision screening, but look in the eyes.”

Most of the children, he said, are cooperative and enjoy the physicals.

“We try to think of something fun for them to do while we’re doing the physicals to help them relax and enjoy it. Their teachers are generally there with them, because we go in the school and set up in a room and so we have teacher assistants and everyone who can help us there,” he said.

“Some of those (children) have special reinforcement behaviors we don’t know about, so the teachers are very good about helping us accomplish the physical by knowing the reinforcement activity that’s good for the child.

“I’m called every year. It is fun to me; it’s nice to get out of the office and go somewhere different. I’m sure the students feel better in their own environment than they do coming to the office, and it’s not as much a burden on the family, because we go out and do anywhere between six and 60 physicals, depending on what ever is set up.”

Giffin said he has not gone to too many Special Olympics in the area, adding he has patients who are part of Special Olympics, and they come in and tell him what all they’ve done, “And I keep up with it through that.”

Giffin has been medical director for the 807 HIV Clinic in Vicksburg for more than 25 years, helping oversee health visits and with the care of local HIV patients.

“We get support from the city and the county, and we’ve gotten some support from United way, and individual donations,” he said. We have social workers, we have nurses, a blood draw clinic and a practitioner clinic. We have nurse practitioners who volunteer to give the exams.

He said the clinic was initially funded under one of five rural health grants, and the clinic survived the grant period which he said “is unusual. It’s a collaboration between the state, local government and private individuals who donate their time.”

In the early years, Giffin said, it was difficult to work with HIV patients, because of people didn’t understand the disease process, “Now it’s much easier dealing with the public and the patients.

There’s more understanding now.”

Besides his work with the Special Olympics and 807, Giffin is an elder at First Presbyterian Church, and directs the church’s youth activities.

He has also done annual mission trips to Belize for the past 15 years with a volunteer medical organization called Cardiolife .

“We go do a medical and dental trip. It’s meant to be helping heart through the soul — the physical and soul aspect of health,” he said.

Giffin said he plans to continue doing mission trips after the time he retires, adding, “I enjoy mission trips; it’s probably something we need to do more of in our own country.”

And he will continue working with the children.

“I never won’t work with the kids,” he said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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