LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A tribute to Dr. Jack Wallace

Published 8:56 am Tuesday, December 22, 2020

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Dr. Jack Wallace passed away last month, age 89, living at the beach he loved.

He was a man who had a profound impact on the health of much of Stanly County in the era of the 1960s to 2000s. He was the first pathologist to serve at the old Stanly County Hospital and then on to Stanly Memorial Hospital. Pathologists work behind the scenes for most people, therefore are often unrecognized, but have a profound influence on the healthcare of a community.

A pathologist is a medical doctor who is highly trained to analyze a patient’s tissue obtained as a surgical specimen or a tissue biopsy, often to determine if cancer is present or not. He also evaluates PAP smears, tests on body fluids (blood, urine and other fluids), blood typing for transfusions and autopsies to list a few duties. Being the first pathologist (laboratory director) in our hospital, Dr. Wallace had to organize the laboratory and train and oversee the many technicians under his responsibility.

Subsequently, Dr Wallace could have a tissue report back to one of our surgeons very quickly with great accuracy. In fact, if requested, he could evaluate a specimen and have a diagnosis for the surgeon while the patient was still in the operating room.

Dr. Wallace also set up our own blood bank for our hospital, something that was not done in Charlotte or any of the surrounding hospitals. He could depend on reliable screened donors in the community (sometimes with rare blood types) to donate blood on request. This is in contrast to outside blood banks that may rely on paid donors. There was never an incident of transfusion-borne illness (such as Hepatitis) using this system in over 30 years.

On occasion, when faced with a diagnostic dilemma for a patient, I could call Dr. Wallace for recommendations for which laboratory tests could help in establishing a diagnosis. This was a great asset in providing care for a difficult case.

Another duty that Dr. Wallace performed was to provide guidance for the medical staff at our meetings and conferences. In that era, many of the hospital functions were under the responsibility of physicians on staff and Dr. Wallace was very knowledgeable about the by-laws and regulations that we had to follows that we would adhere to rules and regulations.

Therefore, any of you or your family who were patients in the emergency room, had babies, surgery or other hospitalizations, Dr. Jack Wallace had a small or large impact on that episode.

In summary, I wish to pay tribute to a man who dedicated his career to providing top quality performance above and beyond his call to duty.

Dr. Eric M. Johnsen