Dr. Kermit Eston White never has been a follower. However, trailblazers were at the root of White’s optimism.

His father, K.E. White, was a dentist in ’60s-’80s in Elizabeth City, N.C., superintendent of public schools and chairman of the board of trustees at Elizabeth City State University.

“My father’s ability to deal with people professionally and personally made him a successful person,” White said.

His uncle, anesthesiologist Willard S. Holt, was chief of staff at Grace Hospital in Detroit. Grandmother Annabelle Bagwell had a Baltimore, Md., physician who made house calls in the ’50s — something that was few and now fewer. Plus, White’s childhood doctor made quite an impression.

“You get all of these physicians together and it gave me a montage of what a physician should be,” White said. “It also provided me with a precept of values showing me why personal care was so important.”

Elizabeth City, where White grew up, was a town of 14,000 or fewer. So, working at Riverview Hospital’s Lapel Family Medicine allows the doctor to know his patients and access their needs.

“The character of the practice for Lapel appealed to me because I come from a small town,” he said.

Although the family practitioner doesn’t make house calls, White intends to preserve doctors’ integrity of the days of old.

“We’re trying to generate the good old-fashioned doctor who knows everybody by their first names,” White said. “It’s a concept people are missing today because they go into a setting where it’s a rush and anonymity and you get a different doctor each time. There’s no sense of continuity. It goes back to the roots of medicine as we all see a general practitioner. ”

The family doctor likened the service to that of patrons going to a restaurant hoping to get the same great waiter. He said, “It’s about service. This is a service profession.”

James and Rose Hall are faithful patients through and through.

“He’s super,” Rose said. “I don’t know what I’ll do without him (White).”

The Halls go to White for check-ups and blood work and rang for an occasional prescription refill — even on a Saturday — needing only to wait no more than 20 minutes for a return call.

“Now that’s unheard of,” said Rose, who occasionally gets hugs from the doctor.

The family doctor’s abilities reach far beyond the scope of medicine.

“This is a great country,” he said. “It has its imperfections, but I grew up with a sense of pride and patriotism. I had no aversion to it.”

His father, the dentist, went to Meharry Medical College under the GI Bill. White, who also attended Meharry, had a scholarship to the U.S. Air Force Academy and served as captain until 1984.

If it weren’t for the Vietnam War, White probably wouldn’t be at 299 E. Pendleton Ave. today.

Initially, White studied to become an attorney; he went to Hampton University on a scholarship. The ’60s war prompted White to dive into pre-med.

Eventually, he earned enough credits for two degrees — psychology and biology. He graduated from Nashville, Tenn.-based Meharry Medical College in 1981. He trained in psychiatry for 1 1/2 years, was called to active duty and returned later to work as a general practitioner.

Meanwhile, he worked in several cities and states and served more patients.

In 1996, White received board certification from the American Academy of Family Physicians.

White was part of an urgent care and primary care pool from 1998 to 2002 where he would fill in at Lapel Family Medicine and other health care facilities. For nearly two years during that period, he was the medical director of Madison County Community Health Center.

Now, the bulk of his 12,000 patients stem from a tri-county area — Madison, Hancock and Hamilton.

It appears White was destined for medicine no matter how one looks at it. White, who was adopted as an infant, met his biological parents for the first time in 2003. Both are doctors, Dr. Henry Courtenay Clarke and Dr. Katherine Smith.

Despite the role models who helped form his character, White’s remedy for success descends from a higher power.

“I have to tell you that everything is...by my faith in God,” White said. “I credit my strong Baptist upbringing for being able to navigate through life’s challenges.”

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