Johnson City doctor no longer delivering babies

By Julie Fann
Star staff

JOHNSON CITY -- After 25 years of delivering babies, Dr. Thomas W. Jernigan has decided to focus his attention on completing his thesis for a master's degree in history and spending time with his grandchildren.
   On April 21, Jernigan helped bring his last infant into the world, a girl named Isabella Grace Brown, daughter of Melissa Lee Brown, at the Johnson City Medical Center. He estimates that he has delivered nearly 5,000 babies since he began his work as an obstetrician.
   He has performed deliveries at Sycamore Shoals Hospital and the Johnson City Medical Center.
   "The thing I'll miss most is the adrenaline rush. In my opinion, I don't fly planes, but there's nothing like delivering a baby. God's hand is there, and that's what I'll miss, that intimate contact with new life," he said.
   Dr. Jernigan moved to Johnson City after finishing his residency in July, 1979 at Akron City Hospital in Akron, Ohio. Originally from Fort Bragg, N.C., he grew up in Lexington, Ky., and graduated from Dennison University in Grandville, Ohio in 1971. He then graduated from the West Virginia School of Medicine in 1975.
   Jernigan said many factors contributed to his decision to stop delivering babies, though he will continue to work as a full-time gynecologist and also do operative procedures. One factor, he said, is the current prices for malpractice insurance.
   "The last three years rates went up 25 percent, and the last two years they went up 15 percent each year," he said. "Also, I thought it was time to move on to other things. The long nights had taken their toll, and I just said, 'enough is enough'."
   Now 55 years old, Jernigan celebrated his 50th birthday by changing his name and going back to school to pursue a master's degree in history. "My great-grandfather's name was T. Watson Jernigan. My name had been Thomas W. I changed my name in honor of him," he said.
   Instead of getting up at night to deliver babies, Jernigan said he may work on lectures on the history of medicine.
   Jernigan has delivered many Carter County babies, including the children of Charles Robinson, publisher of the Elizabethton Star.
   Now, Jernigan will spend more time with his two grandchildren, Gabriel, 3, and McKinley, 8 months.
   "And I also plan to spend time with my lovely, supportive wife of 21 years," he said.