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‘It was meant to be’ | Cortney White shares how her clinic got started and why her patients are ‘like family’

by Danielle Dupree | April 30, 2022 at 4:00 p.m.
Nurse practitioner Cortney White, owner of White's Family Clinic in Ashdown, Ark., poses for a portrait at the clinic.

It all fell into place. A health care provider with unwavering dedication, an office manager with years on the job, and a small town's original hospital -- where a good portion of its population came into this world -- all became available around the same time.

"It was meant to be," said nurse practitioner Cortney White of the building blocks that would become White's Family Clinic in Ashdown, Arkansas.

"I always wanted to get my own practice, but I wanted to work somewhere for five years -- learning everything -- before I ventured off," said Cortney, who spent years in home health before becoming a nurse practitioner.

And at that five-year mark, the former Ashdown Hospital building was put up for sale.

"The nurse practitioner who was here went to where I was working. That's when she told me it was for sale and I bought it," Cortney said.

Miriam Machucho, who would become the new clinic's office manager, had spent more than a decade working for Dr. Khoa Nguyen, a local physician, until his death.

"She had worked for him for years, and I needed somebody to help me get it started ... so she came with me," Cortney said.

"A lot of Dr. Khoa's patients, after he passed away, had kinda fallen through the cracks and weren't getting care. After (Miriam) came with me and they found her, now pretty much all of them are here, so I have all of his patients and my patients."

As for the former hospital turned clinic, "There's a lot of history in this building. And that's why I like it," Cortney said.

Some of that history, including glass syringes and other tools of the trade, are on display in one of the exam rooms.

Construction of the Ashdown Hospital started in the fall of 1945 and the building opened in July 1946. While a brick structure was originally called for, a material shortage -- much like now -- meant plans had to change.

A single-story, frame hospital was built instead. It boasted 19 beds, an operating room, nursery and a number of offices.

"A lot of my patients were actually born here, and they tell me stories. Dr. (Norman) Peacock delivered babies here years ago. When my patients come in, they are like, 'I was born in this room,' and then I'm seeing them here years later. That is pretty neat," Cortney said.

Though White's Family Clinic is a relatively new addition to the community, Cortney has known her patients for years.

"A lot of my patients I've seen for 20 years and they are just like family -- like I've taken care of them from their home, from my home health days, until now."

When asked how she balances everything, she smiled, and, without hesitation, answered "My husband. That's it."

The high school sweethearts, both from Nashville, Arkansas, have been married since 2009 and have three children -- Cayden, 12; Asher, 4; and Avery, who is 3.

"One reason I transitioned from home health to this is the call area got so big and it got so hard with kids. I just wanted something where I could work just five days a week and be home with my family," she said.

Though her practice is growing, Cortney said she doesn't have plans to add more providers.

"For me, just being the only one that sees (patients), I feel like I can take care of their needs better. I try, although I couldn't do it without my staff."

That staff includes Krystal Walker, medical assistant, and Janet Sumrell, biller.

"Krystal has been with me about a year, and Jan, my front office person, she's been here two years. It was just me and Miriam that started and we've just slowly built it up."

The clinic recently expanded its services to include tattoo removal, laser facials and hair removal.

"I'm starting to do more of the aesthetic side. On Fridays, I close my family practice side at noon, and after lunch from 1 to 5 p.m. is when I usually do aesthetics."

White's Family Clinic is very much hometown-oriented, Cortney said.

"I literally do house calls on patients because some of them can't get out. And it's not a big deal to me because, like, everything is within five minutes. I've got a lot of patients who are wheelchair-bound and can't get out and so I'm just like, 'On my way home, I'll see you,' and I just stop and do my visit."

"If somebody gets a laceration, I'll sew em' up, or I've come here at midnight before with people having to be sewn up."

"I usually see between 20 to 35 patients a day. But I don't ever turn anybody down. If they call, I tell my staff to work them in because, if you feel bad, who wants to wait three weeks to come in and see you?," Cortney asked.

Working in a small town can have its challenges as well as it's perks.

"From what I've learned from living in a rural area, you've kinda got to be the specialist and the primary provider because it's hard for a lot of patients to make it to see a specialist because a lot of times you have to go to Little Rock or Hot Springs and some people don't have transportation to get that done."

"My patients know to come to the back and ring the doorbell. A lot of them are on walkers or in wheelchairs so I've got a little waiting area in the back so they come back there and I'll get them worked in.

"I honestly try and treat every patient as if I would treat my own family. Because I worked in home health for so many years and when patients would get home they would be in tears not knowing what any of the doctors said, what medicines to take, etc. That is where I would come in and explain it all, and would actually go daily until they felt comfortable with adjusting to their new diagnosis and medicines.

"I think the medical profession forgets it is people's lives we are dealing with and emotions. Our world has gotten wrapped up in meeting deadlines instead of patient care. I know there has to be a happy medium, but the patient is always the priority. I always keep a copy of the Nightingale Pledge in my room and read it before I start my day.

When asked if she worried about burn out, Cortney paused for a second. "I do, but I don't. I've got good help and so they help take care of me and my husband."

"I can't think of anything else I'd rather do. I love my job. I don't ever wake up and think, 'Oh, I've got to go to work.' I do worry a lot because ... all my patients are like family so I take it home with me. And it is a big responsibility and a big job because you just always ... It's never the end of the day. Even though it's 5 o' clock, it's still not the end of the day."

photo Nurse practitioner Cortney White, owner of White's Family Clinic in Ashdown, Ark., poses with Miriam Machucho, office manager for the clinic, in the front waiting area.

Print Headline: ‘It was meant to be’ | Cortney White shares how her clinic got started and why her patients are ‘like family’

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