On Wednesday, Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle announced that Dr. Jamie Martin had been elevated to the position of chief medical officer.
On the surface, there seemed nothing extraordinary about Martin’s promotion. At age 45, Martin had served as a hospitalist at Baptist since 2014, working his way up during that time to lead the department. Hospitalists are doctors who serve patients throughout their stay, from admittance to discharge.
But in many ways, Martin’s ascension to one of the most prominent positions in the hospital is remarkable.
As recently as seven years ago, Martin wasn’t even a doctor: He was a 39-year-old paramedic without even a bachelor’s degree.
“It would be fair to say my path to being a doctor was unusual,” Martin said.
When Martin graduated from Riverside High School in Greenville in 1993, medicine wasn’t even on his radar. That fall, he enrolled at Mississippi Delta Community College in Moorhead with no real idea of what he wanted to study.
“I just took general classes that you would need for any major,” he said.
His path to medicine began there, pretty much by happenstance.
“Delta had an EMT program, and I met a guy who had gone through the program and was an EMT at Delta Medical Center while also taking classes,” Martin said. “He told me he was going to college and working for an ambulance service and was making good money. I thought, ‘That’s something I can do while I’m here.'”
Martin enrolled and completed the one-year EMT program while at Delta, but at age 19, he couldn’t find an EMT job. Instead, he transferred to Delta State University, again taking general classes. In 1995, at age 20, he landed an EMT job at Delta Regional, working nights as he attended college.
“During that time, I decided I wanted to be a paramedic, so instead of going back to Delta State the next fall, I went to paramedic school in Monroe, Louisiana,” he said.
A new career
For the next 12 years, Martin worked as a paramedic. He married his wife, Terri, and had two children. He appeared pretty settled.
Yet somewhere during those 12 years, he began to entertain thoughts about going to medical school.
“Where I was working, the paramedics were attached to an emergency room and I got to know a lot of great ER nurses and doctors,” Martin said. “They kind of took me under their wings and encouraged me.”
Martin also realized that working as a paramedic might not be the best career for a young father and husband.
“What drove me toward medical school was that as part of an ambulance service there was always talk about it going private, so there was the job security question,” he said. “You don’t make much money to begin with and there was always talk about moving to really long shifts. That’s tough when you have a family. At some point, medical school became an option I thought I had to consider.”
Martin resumed taking classes at Delta State, this time taking the prerequisite courses for admission to medical school.
“I probably never got a true bachelor’s degree, but I did get everything I needed to apply to medical school,” he said.
What followed was a leap of faith.
After applying to a handful of medical schools, Martin was accepted at St. Matthew’s University School of Medicine in Grand Cayman.
“We had just bought a new house, but we packed everything we could carry in five suitcases and the four of us went to Grand Cayman,” he said.
He spent the first two years in Grand Cayman, then finished medical school in south Florida. Although about 10 years older than most newly-minted doctors, Martin believes the life experiences and maturity helped him meet the challenges of the long journey to becoming a doctor.
“When I was at medical school, I had a family to support,” he said. “I had a lot of people depending on me, so I took it very seriously.”
He completed his residency in Shreveport, Louisiana, as chief resident, then moved to Columbus to begin his career as a doctor.
A new role
Now, almost six years later, his role has changed again as he replaces Dr. Ashely Harris, who moves to the hospital’s flagship facility in Memphis as associate chief medical officer.
Instead of working closely with patients as they proceed through treatment, Martin’s new role as CMO means he’ll be working mainly as a liaison between hospital administrators and the doctors and nurses.
“There are times when administration has ideas about what is best for patient care and the CMO has to relay that to medical staff, to get the administration and doctors on the same page,” he said. “Of course, that flows in the other direction to, bringing ideas from doctors to the administration.”
Baptist Administrator and CEO Paul Cade said the hospital’s administration was pleased Martin has assumed such an important position.
“He has exemplified impressive leadership skills in the more than five years that he has been a part of our medical staff and we know that he will do an outstanding job of providing medical oversight, expertise and leadership as a key member of our senior leadership team,” Cade said in a hospital press release.
As for his unorthodox path to his new position, Martin believes his story is applicable to others in one respect.
“A lot of people don’t know what they want to do when they’re young,” he said. “In fact, I’m going through the same thing now with my daughter. She’s in her senior year of college and she still isn’t sure what she wants to do. I find myself telling her she needs to make up her mind, then I remember my own story. I think the bigger thing is to make sure that when you know what you want to do, you commit to it. It’s never too late to do that.”
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]