Dr. Jane Carswell:Family Physician, Humanitarian, Friend
ThisbiographyofafamilydoctorinLenoir,NorthCarolina,isastorythatbegsto bereadandstudiedasanexampleforalltofollow.WhenKennethRoberts approachedmeaboutwritingabiographyofhislatewife,Dr.JaneCarswell,my first question was, “Would she be okay with this?” “Probably not,” he replied. “But it’s too important not to share.”Hewasright.Fromallmydiscussionswithherfriendsandcolleagues,she wasanextremelyprivatepersonwhopreferredthespotlighttofocusonothers whilesheworkedbehindthescenes.Shewasthefirsttogiveothersthecredit, andyetherownstoryistooremarkablenottobringoutintotheopenasan inspiration.Shethoughtoutsolutionstosociety’slimitations.Shesteppedup when she saw a need and she lived her faith as she practiced her medicine.MuchofthisbookwaswrittenbyJaneherself.Notonlywassheahard workingphysician,adedicatedhumanitarianandafriendtomany,shewasa prolificwriterwhosetherthinkinginwordsthathavelivedwellbeyondherlife. Shewasalsoanaccomplishedphotographer.Includedatthebeginningofeach chapter are pictures showcasing Jane’s gift in nature photography.Herstoryrevealsalifeofintegrityandfaithinactionthatcanbestbe describedwithverbsratherthanadjectives.Sheorganizedthefirstshelterfor abusedwomeninthestatethatbecameamodelformanyothersthatfollowed. ShewasinstrumentalindevelopingthefirstHospiceinwesternNorthCarolina andthefirstHospicestructureinthestatethatwasindependentofahospital facility.Inatimewhenfewwomenreceivedmedicaldegrees,shecourageously perseveredagainsttheoddstoreachherdreamofbecomingaphysician.Born in1932,shegrewupasadaughterofaPresbyterianministerintheRaeford, NorthCarolinaarea,attendedFloraMacdonaldCollegeandtheUniversityof NorthCarolinabeforegraduatingfromtheMedicalCollegeofVirginiain Richmond.Nationallyrecognizedasthe1984AmericanFamilyPhysicianofthe Year,shemergedthemedicalwiththepractical.Shewasalsorecognizedasthe 1980L.A.DysartCitizenoftheYearinLenoir,bytheRotaryClubwitha scholarshipinhername,andwithhonorsfromtheUniversityofNorthCarolina, St.AndrewsUniversity,andDukeUniversity.Hercradle-to-the-gravepractice extendedbeyonddeliveringbabiesandprovidingcareforfamilymembersofall ages.Sherespondedtosociety’sillsbyadvocatingforherabusedpatientsand thosesufferingfromaddiction.Shefoughtagainstracialinjustices.Shepushed forafacilityofferingaffordablemedicaltreatment.Herfingerprintscanbefound inthebackgroundofnumeroushumanitarianorganizationsinLenoir,although shepreferredtoremainoutofthespotlight.Whethershewasphotographing wildflowersonahikethroughtheAppalachians,diagnosinganillness,or deliveringababy,Dr.JaneCarswellwaswellrespectedbyallthosefortunate enoughtocomeuponher.Herlateinlifelovestoryandmarriageisadelightful part of the book that takes the reader through to her death in 2015.
Gretchen Griffith with Kenneth Roberts
This photograph by Spencer Ainsley of Dr. Carswell at her desk appeared in the October 1984 Lenoir News-Topic. The desk once belonged to her father, Rev. Arthur Dula Carswell and has remained in the family at her nephew’s home.
Not only was Jane Carswell known as a beloved physician, she was also widely known for her beautiful rose gardens. She took the cover photograph of a rose in her front yard.
The photograph of the Veteran’s Rose on the back cover was also taken by Dr. Carswell. It also graces the dividing pages between sections of the book, and the postage stamp photo from chapter one. Each chapter begins with one of her nature photographs.
Chapter 1 Heritage“The best thing parents can giveis a Christian Heritage and a good education.”Jane Carswell in the Sandhills CitizenDecember 12, 1984
Chapter 2 Childhood“Mother and Daddy set an example for us to ever be mindful of the needs of others.”Jane Carswell, in a 2010 letter to nephew, David
Chapter 3 College“Those first two years at Flora Macdonald were a very steadying influence on my first experience away from home.”Jane Carswell in the Sandhills Citizen December 12, 1984
Chapter 4 University“I was raised in a family and a churchthat made me want to go into a helping profession.”Jane Carswell in the Raleigh News and ObserverDecember 13, 1984
Chapter 5 Kentucky“Dear God, Thank you for giving us all skills and talents. Help us to use them in good ways so that other people will come to know Jesus and His love and how He wants us to live. Amen.” From “God Given Talents” Jane Carswell, 2001
Chapter 6 The Practice“Family medicine keeps one humble. Often you as a physician can do very little to help the patients, but they still give you their trust and share their joys and sorrows with you.”Jane Carswell, Family Practice Hi-Lights, Medical College of Virginia Student Family Practice AssociationWinter, 1984
Chapter 7 Interracial Relations“Protecting the dignity of people is what that was all about.”Jane Carswell, The Modesto (California) Bee October 28, 1984
Chapter 8 Shelter Home“He really hit her hard, right in front of me. But she wouldn’t press charges. She said she had to go home and live with him, that she didn’t have any place else to go.”Jane Carswell, Charlotte ObserverDecember 9, 1984
Chapter 9 Caldwell House“You can’t cut patients off after office hours in a small town.They are people you go to church with, people you see in the grocery store. You have to be a part of the community.” Jane Carswell, The Sandhill Citizen and News OutlookDecember 12, 1984
Chapter 10 Caldwell Friends“Family physicians have a responsibility in the community. Because we are on the front line,the problems often come first into our offices.”Jane Carswell, speaking to the DelegatesAssembly American Association of Physicians, AAFP Reporter, October 1984
Chapter 11 International Missions“The Guatemalan mothers with sick childrenshowed the same anxiety and love that I see in parentsin my office in North Carolina.”Jane Carswell, “Reflections on Guatemala Trip” February 4, 2002
Chapter 12 Helping Hands“The family physician is in a unique position to work for better health care for the community on a broad scale.”Jane Carswell, Family Practice Hi-Lights,Medical College of Virginia Student Family Practice AssociationWinter, 1984
Chapter 13 Cradle-to-Grave“I would love to give you back your good health but cannot.So I will give you my love, which you have always had.May you feel God’s arms around youand know the peace that only He can give.”Jane Carswell in a letter to a friend
Chapter 14 Friendship“With some folks I like to roam.With some I like to stay home.”From an undated poem by Jane Carswell Roberts
Chapter 15 Joy“To share my life is my requestWith you because I love you best.”From an undated poem by Jane Carswell Roberts
Chapter 16 Retirement“We are both feeling fine and are active in a variety of things which are so diverse that sometimes we feel like several different people.”Jane Carswell Roberts in her 2006 Christmas letter to friends
Gretchen Griffith with Kenneth Roberts at the book launch.
Author Gretchen Griffith with Rufus from the Happy Hands Puppeteers, Chapter 7.
Click the arrow above to learn more about Dr. Jane Carswell
Judges’ Collective CommentsNorth Carolina Society of Historians2018 Book AwardDr. Jane Carswell: Family Physician, Humanitarian, FriendThis was such an easy book to read, with a great anticipation to be had with the turning of each page. We were privy to a well-researched text, some exceptional vintage black and white photographs, and beautiful color photographs that truly enhanced Dr. Carswell’s story.In this book, Griffith captured the ‘spirit’ of Jane Carswell, every aspect of it. We learned that not only was Dr. Carswell a determined young woman in her quest to serve the medical needs of mankind, but even in her youth was a loving, thoughtful, kind and generous person who put the needs of others before her own needs. She dedicated herself to a life of serving, a life fashioned like that of Jesus Christ…the ultimate servant.Dr. Carswell took care of people from “the cradle to the grave,” and that is what the book does, with emphasis on her medical career, interests, travels and family life. Early in her story the reader grows to love “Jane,” and realize this awesome lady’s contributions to her community and society. Those who knew her in life surely will miss her in death. Even though we did not know her in person, we shed tears when she died on 25 March, 2015, when her overworked heart stopped…although her memory didn’t.