Beloved Doctor Delivers Memories

Beloved Doctor Delivers Decades of MemoriesLongtime Obstetrician and Gynecologist Dr. James E. Mills Reminisces on a Full Career as He Looks Toward Retirement

As he prepares to retire at the end of this year, Dr. James Mills looks back on a medical career in which he has cared for countless women and delivered thousands of babies – hundreds of them here in the Emerald Coast area.

The father of four and grandfather of 13 graduated from the Creighton School of Medicine (now the Creighton University College of Medicine) in Omaha, Neb., in 1958 and began his residency at Saint Catherine’s Hospital in Omaha. Among many career highlights, Mills was the first doctor to perform an intrauterine fetal transfusion to treat erythroblastosis, a potentially fatal blood disorder. He later became chief resident while stationed at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu before serving in the Vietnam War.

Mills moved to Fort Walton Beach in 1974. Now, after 34 years on the Emerald Coast, the 74-year-old physician is ready to retire.

His secretary, Ida Brown, has been with Mills for the entirety of his 34 years in Fort Walton Beach and has seen the bond he created with his patients.

“The patients are very attached to him and sad to see him retire,” Brown says of the beloved doctor. “They are spoiled from all the attention and the continuity of care through the years.”

Mills says he, too, will miss the interaction with his patients. He recently sat down between appointments with Emerald Coast Magazine Editor Wendy Dixon to reflect on his career and tell of his plans for the future.

EC: What was it like delivering your first baby?

JM: It was in 1958 while I was in medical school at Saint Catherine’s (Hospital). When I look back on it, I think, “I didn’t know what I was doing.”

EC: How have things changed in obstetrics over the years?

JM: Patients often do not get their chosen physician delivering their baby. Hospitals use midwives or hospitalists to deliver babies, and patients are many times seeing these physicians for the first time.

EC: What’s the most rewarding thing about doing your job?

JM: Making women feel comfortable. In this specialty, I see women with menopause, and sometimes they’re not so easy to get along with. It’s not their fault – it’s the hormones. So I try making them feel comfortable by letting them get to know me. We’ll sit in my office and discuss their lives – family situations, their emotions and concerns – anything that is bothering them. After we’re done in the examining room, we’ll meet in my office again to follow up. I really want them to know we care about them as an individual with specific needs.

EC: What do you consider the highlight of your life?

JM: My wife, kids and grandkids, who live here or within driving distance. (He points to a photo of his large family surrounding him and his wife, Madeline, during their 50th wedding anniversary celebration.)

EC: How many babies have you delivered on your busiest day?

JM: I remember delivering 23 babies in 12 hours once. That was a long day.

EC: How about in your entire career?

JM: I never kept track that much. But let’s see … when I was stationed in Hawaii, I was chief resident supervising five other residents. And we delivered 400 per month, in three years. That plus the others adds up to … thousands.

EC: What do you plan to do upon retirement?

JM: I will still keep my license and work from time to time. But I’m looking forward to working on my ’63 Ford Thunderbird. I also like to repair pianos, organs and furniture. And I enjoy hunting deer in Alabama and working in my yard.

EC: As you look back on your career, do you have any regrets, any last thoughts?

JM: I can’t think of any regrets. It has been a wonderful life!