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A Lifetime of Care: Dr. Claire Louise Caudill’s Legacy Continues

A Lifetime of Care: Dr. Claire Louise Caudill’s Legacy Continues

Five-year-old Holly Ann Brown was all dressed up in her denim jumper and matching sunflower hat when her mother took her to see her family doctor.

“Dr. Louise was my mother’s doctor. Then she was my doctor. And she was Holly’s doctor too,” explained Janice Brown.

It just so happened there was a reporter in the office that day who asked Janice if it would be okay to take a few pictures of Holly with her doctor. During that visit, photojournalist John Flavell captured what would become an iconic image portraying Dr. Louise’s love for her patients.

On December 25, 1994, that photo was published in the Ashland Daily Independent alongside the headline, “‘Dr. Louise’ to be honored: Rowan has Country Doctor of Year.”

Claire Louise Caudill, MD, was recognized as the nation’s 1994 Country Doctor of the Year by the Country Doctor Museum in Bailey, North Carolina, and Staff Care Inc. of Irving, Texas. She was chosen from more than 100 nominees for having demonstrated outstanding energy, skill, and dedication to the practice of rural medicine.

“She was just a very special person. Someone you could talk to,” Janice recalled. “She was just a very good person and a good doctor.”

During the more than half a decade she practiced medicine, Dr. Caudill along with her friend and nurse, Susie Halblieb, cared for countless patients and were credited with delivering approximately 8,000 babies including two of Janice’s four children. (She retired from delivering babies when she turned 70, but continued caring for her patients.)

Today, Holly Ann is all grown up, and recently gave birth to a daughter of her own at St. Claire Regional Medical Center where she was born 32 years ago, a hospital that exists because of Dr. Caudill’s dream to build a good hospital for the people of the region. Before leaving the hospital, Holly and her new baby girl, Sunday, (wearing that same sunflower hat from Holly’s childhood) posed alongside the image of her younger self and Dr. Louise.

This image and the family’s story are reminders of the dedicated care Dr. Louise provided for generations of Eastern Kentuckians and a promise that her legacy will continue to live on in all those who continue to serve St. Claire HealthCare’s healing ministry.