Tanner Recognizes 39 Years of Service
Denis Morin, MD, moved his family from their native Quebec, Canada, to rural Haralson County 39 years ago for the warmer weather. And they got it! The temperature was 104 degrees Fahrenheit on the July day that he, wife Louise and their four young sons, ages 3 to 7, stepped off the plane at the Atlanta airport.
But it’s not just the warm weather that has kept him here. The people welcomed his family with open arms and have entrusted him with their health care, in some cases for five generations. Over those 39 years, there have been close to 400,000 medical consultations and several office expansions to keep up with his growing patient base.
“What an honor!” said Dr. Morin, who will retire this month from the Buchanan Medical Clinic, a Tanner Medical Group practice, located at 2908 Business 27 in Buchanan. He wants the community to know he’s leaving them in capable hands with the practice team he has assembled.
“I have had the privilege to care for so many good people who became my friends and extended family. It has always made me feel so good and I have treasured the immense confidence placed in me,” said Dr. Morin. “Imagine when somebody comes in with their sick child or mother, and the confidence that they have in you. The people of Buchanan and Haralson County gave me a chance to prove that I was worthy of their trust, and I am so grateful for that honor.”
Morin’s west Georgia story began in February of 1983, with a well-timed recruiter’s call and letter to see if the physician was interested in relocating to the United States. At that time of year, the outside temperature in Quebec stayed around -10 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit, “or what we call very cold!” said Dr. Morin.
He spent his first eight years practicing medicine in Quebec, but he had fortuitously already taken his American medical boards in case an opportunity arose.
“We told the recruiter it would be okay if we could find an area a lot warmer and pleasant to live,” said Dr. Morin.
South Dakota, Iowa and Kentucky were quickly ruled out because they were not south enough. And Thomasville, Alabama, was too remote.
Then the recruiter showed them Buchanan, Georgia.
“It had everything that we were searching for: nice weather, open spaces, a great education system, an existing hospital network with great potential (Bremen and Carrollton), very friendly people and proximity to a big city – Atlanta,” said Dr. Morin.
“We did not know at that time, but Higgins General Hospital in Bremen was also facing an exciting future,” he added.
The Morins were heading South to their new home.
Many memorable firsts
The Morin family made a home in Buchanan, just across the street from Danny and Patty Hutcheson, whose family owned Hutcheson Memorial Chapel in Buchanan.
“We became very good friends, but I have tried very hard over the years not to send them any business,” said Dr. Morin. “When we arrived, we were all just starting out in our professions in Buchanan.”
“At dusk on our first night in Buchanan, we got kind of scared getting out of the car. We heard noisy croaks and quacks. It was very intense. We learned later that it was mostly the sound of crickets and tree frogs,” he said.
One of their first outings was to a 4-H steer show and auction at Haralson County High School.
“The auctioneer was talking so fast and funny that we did not understand any of what he was saying. Remember, our first language was French!” said Dr. Morin, who also recalls their first cook out with the community. “This was a meal heavy in Southern calories – fried hushpuppies, fried catfish, fried vegetables, French fries… fried everything!”
Attending school in Buchanan and learning English were significant adjustments for the young family.
“Louise and I sent our children to Buchanan elementary and middle schools by bus. Our children were learning English in school but, unfortunately, they learned some bad words first. Keep in mind that Louise and I didn’t know the meaning of these new vocabulary words ourselves either. But we knew something was wrong and we got nervous when a teacher threatened to wash their mouths with soap! We finally took control of the situation, and I am happy to report that they are all doing fine these days and are very successful. Three of them live in Carrollton with their families and the fourth lives nearby in Augusta,” said Dr. Morin.
The decision to become part of the community endeared the Morins to their new neighbors and his soon-to-be patients, recalls Norma Norton, who was director of nursing at Higgins Hospital at the time and assisted the family with the transition to their new lives.
“I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Morin. Despite his French accent and foreign origins, he intended to blend into our community, and he did just that. In fact, the whole family did! That said a lot to people here in Buchanan about his character. His patients loved him. The town of Buchanan needed a doctor and had been without a doctor for many years,” said Norton.
“Dr. Morin and his wife Louise were looking for a good place to raise their four little boys. They came in with the intent to make the practice and their new life successful, and they did. Mrs. Morin doesn’t get the credit she deserves for their successful acclimation to a doctor’s life in Buchanan. It had to be hard for her, but she was always smiling and full of grace for the community, and they loved her back.”
A country doctor’s routine
Morin’s first office was in downtown Buchanan, behind the Shell Station.
“Higgins General Hospital was very helpful, both professionally and financially. They guaranteed me a low rent and a yearly minimum salary for the first two or three years. I stayed there for about three years. I built my second clinic across the street from the Carroll EMC building and practiced there for about 10 years. Then, I built a bigger clinic right next door to that clinic and stayed there for about 23 years. I am now practicing medicine in this superb facility in Buchanan, courtesy of Tanner Health System,” said Dr. Morin.
Morin quickly settled into a new routine as a country doctor.
“My early days as a physician in Buchanan consisted of going to my office from Monday to Saturday in the early afternoons after making hospital rounds with my patients at Higgins in Bremen in the mornings and being on call for the Emergency Department (ED). There were no permanent ED doctors at that time,” he said.
“My first patients were on Saturday mornings – probably because other doctors were not working! Through word of mouth, my practice has grown exponentially,” recalls Morin.
“Sometimes I wondered where all those patients were coming from. When I went to the post office every day to get my mail, I always saw somebody that I did not know. I realized then that my job as a doctor in Buchanan had a future,” Dr. Morin added.About 25 years ago, both Higgins General Hospital and Morin became a part of Tanner Health System. Even before that, Tanner and its President and CEO Loy Howard were a part of Morin’s medical practice experience.
“A key figure in my tenure here has been Loy Howard and I am grateful for his leadership. Since I started practicing medicine in Buchanan, he never stopped helping me by delivering and improving medical services for our population. Under his guidance, the quality of the health care system in Haralson, Carroll and the surrounding counties has grown tremendously. We simply could not find better health care anywhere else. On a personal note, I have also experienced firsthand, several times, the excellent care provided by this organization,” reflects Dr. Morin.
The admiration and respect are mutual, according to Howard.
“Dr. Morin has made an indelible mark on the Buchanan and Haralson County community. His care and love for this community and its people have been a constant throughout transformative change in the practice of medicine in general as well as in Buchanan and Haralson County over the past 39 years. He is retiring with a full medical team in place to continue the outstanding legacy of care. Dr. Morin will be missed,” said Howard.
Dr. Morin’s legacy continues
Dr. Morin is very confident in the team of three outstanding healthcare providers that will continue to run the Buchanan Medical Clinic as a part of Tanner Medical Group after his retirement.
Tim Pardoe, PA-C, a primary care physician’s assistant, has worked with Dr. Morin for more than 21 years.
“Tim is an exceptionally dedicated and knowledgeable provider. Together, we have been able to provide medical care to this community – some days caring for more than 80 patients. We never said ‘no’ to a sick patient who called for an appointment on the same day,” said Dr. Morin.
Johannes Engelbrecht, MD, has been on Dr. Morin’s team for nine years.
“Dr. E, as our patients know him, is an exceptional doctor. He is smart, listens well, communicates skillfully with patients, and has a well-planned treatment to address any medical problem,” said Dr. Morin.
Tiffanie Turner, NP-C, a primary care nurse practitioner, has worked with Dr. Morin for two years but previously worked in the ED at Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton.
“She has seen very complicated medical cases and is able to address any kind of medical situation,” said Dr. Morin.
Rounding out the team is Tina Tucker, a certified medical assistant (CMA), “my dedicated nurse who provides excellent follow-through care for my patients,” said Dr. Morin.
“The Buchanan community is very fortunate to have all of them here to provide their care. They have been a joy to work with. We are all privileged to have a staff so dedicated to the well-being of the patients. I am grateful that I can retire and leave Buchanan with a team of providers as qualified as Dr. Engelbrecht, Tim, and Tiffanie because of Tanner. My plan was to leave Buchanan with healthcare providers. We have a well-established and respected clinic that will continue to serve our medical needs for many years to come,” said Dr. Morin.
“I will greatly miss practicing medicine in this great town of Buchanan. You have welcomed me and my family with open arms and have encouraged me all these years. I am so glad that we made the decision to move here. This was my best decision,” he said.
Learn more about Buchanan Medical Clinic at tanner.org/buchanan-medical-clinic.
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