09/18/06 — Colleagues, patients, staff remember doctor

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Colleagues, patients, staff remember doctor

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 18, 2006 1:49 PM

Dr. Ralph Bland, a longtime physician in Goldsboro, was remembered today as an empathetic surgeon who set the standard in his field.

Dr. Bland, 79, died Saturday at Kitty Askins Hospice Center after a long illness.

He practiced medicine in Wayne County for more than 33 years, having graduated from Goldsboro High School in 1944 and served a stint in the Navy.

He joined the medical staff of Wayne County Memorial Hospital in 1960, where he went on to serve as chairman of the department of surgery and the outpatient surgical program.

Jane McLamb worked with Dr. Bland for more than 25 years, both as a nurse and as office manager in the recovery room.

"He was very professional and a great teacher," she said. "He was always teaching when he was working with his patients and new staff ... the consummate physician."

Mrs. McLamb said both she and her father also had the opportunity to be patients of Dr. Bland.

"I had as much respect for him as a patient as I did working with him as a professional," she said.

Her husband, Dr. Joseph McLamb, said he had a professional relationship with Dr. Bland that began in 1975.

Bland was "from the old school," McLamb said. "He always had a tie on, a starched shirt and a starched white coat along with his nametag."

McLamb said he and doctors Victor Kokiko, Ross Wilson and Michael Gooden also had the privilege of working with Dr. Bland to bring outpatient surgery to Wayne County in the late 1970s.

"Dr. Bland was instrumental in that," he said.

Mostly, though, Dr. McLamb recalled Bland as a caring, outstanding surgeon.

"He was a good technical surgeon and set a standard in this community of surgical care," McLamb said. "He was a very good fellow and he brought a level of expertise in thoracic and vascular surgery that had not been here before."

Barbara Shelton, director of performance improvement patient safety at Wayne Memorial Hospital, remembers being a young nurse when she came to work at the hospital in October 1977. For a year, she worked with Dr. Bland in the "post-op surgical unit."

He was, she said, "not only a good doctor but a very nice person. He was always willing to stop and teach you if you had a question."

His patients were also very complimentary, she said, and the staff really liked working with him.

"His bedside manner was just excellent. He took an interest in his patients," she said, adding that a lot of processes and procedures Bland introduced at the hospital remain in use today.

Phyllis Hill, director of the school-based health program WISH, worked in Dr. Bland's operating room at the hospital from 1979 until his retirement.

"I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of outstanding surgeons and Dr. Bland would certainly be at the top of that list," she said. "I think he helped put us on the growing edge of things. We were sort of in an expanded growth then anyway. We can attribute some of the success today to what he did when he first came to Wayne Memorial."

But Dr. Bland was not a man who really wanted a lot of notoriety for what he did, Mrs. Hill said.

Calling him an excellent surgeon who was very conscientious and cared about his patients, she said the doctor had a quiet calmness about him, even in emergency situations.

"He just sort of had everything under control," she said. "He sort of had a dry wit about him but once you walked into that operating room, nothing existed but that patient

"I admired him and had a great deal of respect for him as a person and as a surgeon."