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Physician’s real estate gift will advance rural health care

The late J. Roy Rowland, MD, was a family physician, congressional representative, author and soldier, but what he wanted to most be known for was helping others.

“I hope I’ll be remembered as someone who tried to help other people. I think I’ll be remembered more as a physician for helping other people,” said Rowland in an interview from July 2020.

Rowland was born and came of age in Wrightsville, Georgia, but lived in the small town of Dublin for more than 60 years where he practiced medicine for 28 years. During his time in practice, he said he delivered more than 2200 babies. That’s a lot of babies and a lot of families who have a personal connection to Rowland.

“Medicine was my first love,” he explained, “Being a family physician my patients were part of my extended family. I was a confidant to so many people in so many respects. So, I developed very close relationships with my clientele.”

Rowland served people for most of his life. Before becoming a physician, serving in the state Legislature and going to serve in Congress, he was in the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II. He was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery on April 30, 1945, for his role in helping to locate two severely wounded soldiers while under heavy enemy fire.

After his military service, Rowland resumed his college career (he first attended Emory University at Oxford before the war) attending South Georgia College (1946), University of Georgia (1946-1948), and graduated with a medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia in 1952.

Not long after, he began his medical practice in Dublin. He was the sixth doctor in Dublin at the time. When his practice first started, it was a solo operation. Later, he formed a partnership with another doctor and eventually grew to six physicians in their small group practice.

In 1976, Rowland ran for the Georgia House of Representatives and served three terms from 1976 to 1982. He gave up his medical practice in 1982 to serve as a U.S. Representative for Georgia’s Eighth Congressional District. He was in the U.S. Congress for 12 years, serving on the Veterans Affairs Committee and spearheading bipartisan legislation to create a network of community health centers to provide care to Medicaid, underinsured and uninsured patients.

Rowland was later approached by Selby McCash, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution political editor and Macon Telegraph political writer and Rowland’s assistant in Congress, to write a book of memoirs. The book, House Call, A Doctor’s Time in Medicine and Government was published in 2017 and tells the story of Rowland’s life from early childhood to his career as a physician and his time as a prominent political figure.

That same year, Rowland was recognized with the Vessel of Life Award, presented by Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, during the 2017 Alumni Weekend. The Vessel of Life Award is given in recognition for significant and distinguished service to the Medical College of Georgia.

Rowland attributed much of his success to his wife of 76 years, Luella.

“I don’t think I could have accomplished anything I did had it not been for my wife. Really, she has been with me every step of the way,” he said.

Throughout his lifetime, Rowland gave back to the rural community he grew up in and wanted to make sure there would always be quality physicians in rural areas.

“I just think there’s not enough medical care in the rural areas now, physicians especially – so I wanted to do what I could to make a contribution to that program (MCG 3+),” said Rowland. “I made the decision to make a contribution in my will of some property I own that came from my father.”

The J. Roy Rowland M.D. Medical Excellence Endowment was created to support the MCG 3+ program and other initiatives to address the physician shortage in rural and underserved Georgia. Rowland passed away in April 2022, and his endowment gift was realized in May 2023 following the sale of the property.

For information about how you can support MCG 3+ or other scholarships, please contact Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement or make an online gift directly to the J. Roy Rowland M.D. Medical Excellence Endowment.

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Written by
Valerie Emerick
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