Healing Profession: Decatur doctor honored for serving the community for almost four decades

By Deborah Storey | Living 50 Plus

Dr. Roger Moss remembers the days when the family doctor had to do pretty much anything local folks needed, from delivering babies to setting broken legs.

“When I started residency, family medicine was still doing gallbladders and appendices and some surgeries,” he recalled.

The routine of the family practitioner has changed dramatically in the almost four decades that Moss has practiced in Decatur, but he still enjoys every day.

“It’s what I love to do,” said Moss, a recipient of Decatur Morgan Hospital’s Caddell-Grisham award.

Hospital officials said he is being honored for his steadfast support for the hospital over the decades, where he has been instrumental in its growth and success. Moss has been a member of the medical staff for nearly 40 years. He served on the medical executive committee for several years and was medical staff president in 1999.

Moss’ patients say he is a wonderful doctor, using words like “respectful,” “honest” and “caring” to describe him. Many consider him a friend. His colleagues say that his outstanding contributions to patient care, hospital support and medical education have left an indelible mark on the community and a positive impact on countless lives.

“We are grateful to Dr. Moss for his contributions to our hospital and for his dedication to nurturing the next generation of medical professionals,” said Noel Lovelace, president of Decatur Morgan Hospital Foundation.

Moss was born in Illinois and moved to Texas with his family when he was 6 months old.

“We moved to Alabama in the 1960s,” he said. After medical school, “I ended up moving to Fayette, Alabama, for about two years and practiced down there for about 22 months.”

He came to Decatur in 1985.

“I’ve been here ever since,” he said.

While many physicians pursue narrow specialties, Moss chose family practice because he really enjoyed helping patients with a variety of issues. He is a board-certified family medicine doctor.

“I looked at a lot of different things, including surgery, and I liked doing so many of them,” he said. “Family practice was a place where you could do a lot of them.”

Years ago, Moss delivered babies, did C-sections, circumcisions and even a little dental work.

“Over the years, little parts of that piece of medicine have been chopped away,” he said. “I’ve finally become more of a gerontologist internist than anything else.”

Although he’s technically still a family doctor, Moss said he doesn’t really treat children anymore.

“When you get into a bigger town, most of the patients want to take the kids to a pediatrician,” he said.

In his Fayette practice years ago, the whole population was only about 3,000 and the town had no pediatricians.

“We got to take care of all the kids and deliver all the babies,” he recalled.

Even in his early days in Decatur he attended to a wide variety of medical needs.

“When I moved here, I was even doing orthopedics,” he said. “I was setting bones and putting on my own casts.”

One young patient was fed up with the itchy old cast after about six weeks and “tore it off himself,” Moss recalled, somewhat amused.

Casts were plaster back then. Now they’re fiberglass and “you can’t do that so easily,” he said.

Moss gave up orthopedics, which saved on his malpractice insurance.

“There was enough other work to do with general medicine,” he said.

Moss hasn’t seen a pediatric patient in over a decade, he said, and now most of his patients skew much older. He’s not sure how many patients he has these days, but at one time it was almost 8,000.

Health care in Decatur has changed a lot since Moss came to town, particularly at the hospital.

Many people go to Decatur Morgan Hospital even if they don’t have insurance.

“The hospital has to accept those patients and take care of them,” he said. “We’ve got to have physicians that will do it.”

As Moss turns 70 this year, he decided it was time to give up on-call hospital duty.

“With hospitalists there’s somebody there all the time,” he said.

Hospitalists — physicians who work only inside the hospital — are a fairly new specialty.

Decatur Morgan Hospital is the north Alabama core site for third- and fourth-year medical students from the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“Dr. Moss consistently has a medical student rotating with him in the hospital and in his clinic,” said Lovelace. “He is extremely generous to the students, sharing his knowledge and skills.

“That kind of care and attention is vital to ensuring that we have physicians to care for future generations.”

Looking back, Moss believes that “we’re a lot better off” these days with the types of care available to Morgan County area residents.

Frankly, Moss said, 10 years ago, the hospital was struggling like many other hospitals across the South.

“We didn’t know if it was going to survive or not,” he said.

“I think if we’d have just stayed by ourselves, we would have been in trouble. Huntsville Hospital has kept this hospital going.”

Many people, even those with insurance, don’t have a regular doctor — particularly younger ones, he said. As a result they go to the hospital for treatment.

“There’s not, unfortunately, enough physicians to take care of all the needs so you’ve got to have that hospital and you’ve got to have that emergency room,” Moss said.

Many Decatur medical practices are full.

“If I really wanted to open up completely I could be here 24/7,” he said. “There’s enough patients.”

As north Alabama’s population increases the need for doctors does too.

“Decatur is going to be growing and with that there’s not enough physicians,” he said. “We need to bring some in.”