Much has changed since Dr. Gaston McGinnis, 83, began practicing surgery in Anniston 50 years ago. But what has remained constant is his desire to serve his community.
McGinnis, who still performs skin surgeries on a limited basis, was honored for his 50 years of service Monday during the Medical Center Memorial Foundation’s annual spring gathering. Also honored was Dr. Warren Sarrell, who helped create the foundation 35 years ago.
The foundation is a nonprofit volunteer organization uses donations from the community to support Regional Medical Center.
While many of his contemporaries have since retired, McGinnis said he sees no need to quit.
“I’m just not ready to sit in a rocking chair,” McGinnis said with a laugh. “I believe I can still provide some service, although limited.”
McGinnis, who has a private practice on Christine Avenue, said despite his age, is still capable of performing certain skin surgeries.
“I’m very blessed that my hands are still good,” McGinnis said.
Before moving to Anniston, McGinnis, who has a wife, four children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, served two years as chief of surgery at Sandia Base Hospital in New Mexico as a captain in the United States Army Medical Corps Reserve. He spent most of his career in Anniston as a general surgeon.
“He was a wonderful surgeon … at one time he was known as the best hand surgeon around,” said Vera Jordan, chairwoman of the foundation, who regularly interacted with McGinnis for 35 years as medical staff coordinator at RMC.
Jordan said McGinnis routinely saved patients from potentially crippling hand injuries.
“He was able to put people back to work,” Jordan said. “And he did that when we didn’t have anyone else here who could.”
Sarrell, also known for founding the Anniston-based Sarrell Dental Clinic, which serves low-income children, created the foundation in 1977 because of his dissatisfaction, at the time, with how RMC was managed. Back then, the city managed the hospital, which was called Anniston Memorial Hospital.
“We started it in an effort to separate it from the city that controlled the hospital at the time,” Sarrell said of the foundation. “I’m just tickled it has done as well as it has and that the future of it is unlimited.”
Jeff Parker, CEO of Sarrell Dental, said the community and RMC owe much to Sarrell’s efforts, which also include creating one of the first cardiac catheterization labs in Alabama.
“RMC wouldn’t be what it is today without him,” Parker said. “I’ve never met anybody in my life that I admire more.”
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star