Family tradition: Brewton Medical Center legend

Published 9:02 am Wednesday, August 16, 2006

By Staff
celebrates memories after half a century
By LYDIA GRIMES-Features writer
August 27, 1956, was a red-letter day in Brewton when the Brewton Medical Center opened its doors for the first time. The practice of medicine has changed a lot since then. Dr. Robert Low, the only surviving member of the original team of physicians at the center when it opened, is now retired but his former patients remember him fondly. He has also left a much more important part of himself at the center in the form of his daughter, Dr. Elizabeth Jean &#8220Betty Jean” Low.
Brewton Medical Center is celebrating its 50th anniversary next week and Dr. &#8220Bob” has many memories of his years working there.
Fifty years ago Dr. Frank Phillippi, Dr. Eric Strandell, Dr. Emile Scharnitsky and Dr. Low were all practicing medicine in their own individual offices in Brewton when Dr. Phillippi came up with the idea of combining their practices under one roof.
Dr. Robert Low was born in Addis, La., in 1923. His dad was a &#8220railroad man” and the family soon moved to Alexandria, La. and then to Fort Worth, Texas. He had one brother who grew up to be a chemical engineer with an oil company. He attended Paschal High School and graduated from there when he was 16 years old.
He began college during World War II and he was made a part of the military and graduated in three years rather than the normal time of today. It was while he was in medical school in Tulane that he met Frank Phillippi who would play a big part in his life later on. He also met someone else that would be even more important, his future wife, Estelle. She was working in New Orleans as a nurse and the first time he saw her he told a friend that he was going to marry that girl which is just what he did in 1945.
He graduated from medical school in 1946 and did a one-year internship at Sacred Heart Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, delivering 12 babies in one night. He later went to Fort Benning where he was a medical officer. He was in Fort Benning until 1949 when he finally left the military.
He heard that his old friend, Frank Phillippi, had a practice in Brewton and he suggested that Low join him. He had another incentive to come to this area as his wife's people lived in Walnut Hill just south of Atmore.
At that time the other doctors in Brewton were Dr. Holley, Dr. Strandell, Dr. Mason, Dr. Phillippi and Dr. Tippen. Dr. Low's office was located upstairs over what is now the Book and Bean. He shared the floor with Joe Sowell and Lee Otts. The rent was $30 per month and there were no third-party payments.
Later his office was relocated upstairs at 218 Belleville while The Brewton Standard was located downstairs. It was during this time that The Brewton Standard office caught on fire and burned both the newspaper and his office.
Dr. Billy Whittle joined the group, along with others over the years and today there are eight family practitioners, one cardiologist, one pediatrician and &#8220soon to be” two ob/Gyn doctors in the Brewton Medical Center. One of the eight is Dr. Betty Jean Low.
After his retirement, Dr. Robert Low did some work at Providence Hospital in Mobile, but these days he is enjoying retirement. He and his wife have three daughters, Betty Jean, Julieanne and Melanie. There are also seven grandchildren, one great-grandson and two more on the way. He loves to spend time with his family, travel and catch up on his reading.
Betty Jean enjoys a good practice at The Brewton Medical Center following in her father's footsteps. Although the two never practiced medicine at the center during the same period of time, she learned many things from a father who has become a legend in the area.
The family tradition may continue in the Low family. The elder physician has a granddaughter who is traveling down the same medical profession's path as a student at University of South Alabama.
Yes, practicing medicine has changed quite a bit. There are more high-tech ways to deal with illnesses, but one also misses the days of having a close relationship with his doctor and, surprisingly, doctors miss that too.

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