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Dr. A. E. McQuagge - Treating so much more

  • Written by 
Dr. A. E. McQuagge Dr. A. E. McQuagge

Dr. Eugene McQuagge is without a doubt one of the doctors from days gone by, who ‘doctored’ during a time of house calls, night calls, no answering services, and genuine care and concern for his patients.  It mattered not to him if it was three in the morning or afternoon, if he was called, he responded.   

Margaret Miller Curtis, who has almost become an adjunct writer for the Times, has vivid memories and a perspective of McQuagge not many had the opportunity to see and know, “Eugene McQuagge was both a doctor and a teacher. He did, in fact, begin his medical career by teaching biology in Malone before moving to Tuskaloosa, Alabama to study medicine at the University of Alabama. There, he met a pretty woman, Eva Pearl Sherrill, who became his wife. Even before moving to Marianna to set up his practice, he was already the father of a son, Bill. Soon after settling into a new house, he and Eva Pearl welcomed a baby girl, Eugenia, into their small family.”

Miller says, “That is where I came into the picture. Mother took me to meet the new baby, and when I saw Eva Pearl, wearing a lacy negligee, propped up in pillows, and cuddling a tiny baby, I thought that was the sweetest thing I had ever seen. I visited again when Eugenia was a year or so older, and fell in love with the entire McQuagge family. I became their favorite babysitter, and would have gladly served without pay, because I so much enjoyed being a part of their family life.  I was taken along when they visited the Sherrill grandparents in Tuskaloosa, and also began babysitting for Dr. McQuagge’s sisters, Alyne Pittman and Lottie Fite. Lottie’s husband, J.B. Fite, was already my Dad’s hunting buddy, which could explain how we came to know the McQuagges. I worked in Dr. McQuagge’s office the summer after my senior year, because Alyne, who had been previously serving as his bookkeeper/receptionist was ready to move on.”

Miller says learning the bookkeeping end of the business gave her new insight to the man behind the doctor, “I soon began to learn far more than just bookkeeping. Dr. McQuagge educated each of his patients about - not just how to treat their condition-but explained what caused it. He wanted me to learn something too, so called me into his office, and if the patient was willing, gave me the same lesson he gave his patient. One man had such an obvious case of shingles that Dr. McQuagge couldn’t resist showing me a back so afflicted that it really did look like a roof covered with overlapping shingles of blisters.  I could tell from the look of anguish on the man’s face that this was not something I’d ever want to have, so when shingles shots became available many years later, I did not hesitate to get in line for mine.”

Miller said of McQuagge’s practice, “Normally, only Voncile Hudgens stood by while he examined patients, and certainly when he examined female patients. It was against his ethics to put women in a position of having to trust their male doctor not to take advantage of them sexually. As his employee, I was always treated as respectfully as he treated his patients, and he encouraged me to peruse his medical books if I was not otherwise busy.  His attending nurse, Voncile Hudgens, also took an interest in my welfare, and after another teenager was treated for a botched abortion, she gave me such a thorough lecture on the risks of pre-marital sex that it made dating look far less appealing than it had previously. She also made sure I stayed busy.”

The one thing Miller remembers well was McQuagge’s kindness and generosity, “Dr. McQuagge practiced medicine because he loved it, not because he was greedy. When farmers were having a bad year, he did not push them when they were unable to pay their bills. As a result, his books were filled with unpaid invoices. The summer I worked in his office had been a good year for farmers, so Voncile told me to go through all those unpaid bills and send them out again. There were so many that I had to work overtime and on weekends to get them all in the mail.  This created a lot of drama for Dr. McQuagge. Men were stopping him in the streets or in the halls of the hospital demanding to know why they were getting a bill for something that happened so long ago. He said he had no idea, but to stop by the office and if the bill was recognized as one paid, it would be marked as paid. I was left to deal with irate patients who had simply forgotten about their previous office visits, but when showed the reason for the bill, they suddenly remembered the occasion and paid up. As a result, Dr. McQuagge enjoyed the most profitable summer in his career, and I enjoyed a nice bonus for my work.”

To this day, Miller attributes her work ethic in part to McQuagge, “Dr. McQuagge, the teacher-doctor, inadvertently taught me that going to extra effort in your work is a worthwhile thing to do. He was right, of course.”

Linda Hatcher, “He was constantly at our house because we always had somebody sick.  There was always somebody sick in our large family, seven kids, and then mom and dad. He was the only doctor we ever used and all we had to do was call and he was there.  Momma always had coffee or cake or something to offer him.  I can remember seeing him sitting with a cup and a saucer and that’s just something you never see anymore.  Of course you don’t have house calls any more either.”

Janice Becker says of Dr. McQuagge’s bedside manner, “I was so afraid of doctors and he came to the house one day to see my sister and I had a fever. My mom asked him to check me also and I immediately started crying, and telling her that I felt better.  He was so soft spoken, kind, and gentle, all my fear just left me. I don’t know that I’ve ever been afraid of a doctor since, but I also have never had one to compare to his with the compassion and care he provided.” 

Stan Peacock, an attorney in Panama City knew McQuagge more on a personal level, “Dr. McQuagge and I got along just fine.  He was a great doctor and respected by everyone.  He was extremely intelligent on medical issues, and he would sit around for hours and hours and read stuff on medical information, pharmaceuticals, anything medical, he was always reading new stuff.  When I was a kid, I was rather rambunctious and I got injured a few times.  I had some stitches a few times, and he stitched me up.  Then I had a problem with my bike and he stitched up my leg when I was seven years old.   I remember he said to my mother, “Well, do you think we will get him grown?”  And she said, “Well, I hope so.”  And of course when I was 16, he married my mom.” 

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