Healthcare visionary sets sights on the next generation of imaging professionals

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Joshua May, Joe Barron, Jerrod Hampton
Joshua May, Joe Barron, Jerrod Hampton

Late last year, the Assistant Vice President of Heart, Vascular and Imaging Services, Joe Barron, retired from Archbold Medical Center after forty years of visionary leadership. When he first came to work in Thomasville in 1977 as a young Radiologic Technician, Archbold didn’t yet have an ultrasound machine. But even that early on, Mr. Barron says that the administrators and medical providers had a progressive vision of bringing the very best in care to South Georgia. “For a small country hospital, we were on the cutting edge an awful lot. We had a lot of firsts. As a team, we were always rowing the boat in the same direction: aiming towards providing the best for our patients.” In the past forty years, he has witnessed the center’s groundbreaking radiology program introduce Ultrasound, MRI, and CT technology to the region.

Technology has tremendously evolved,” Joe says of the tools that his team have utilized to help diagnose illnesses in their patients over the past decades. As important as progressive technology is to the field of radiology, Mr. Barron always believed that well-trained, compassionate, and dedicated healthcare providers are the vital other half of the equation. “Local people caring for local people. That is what this is all about.”

Joe Barron completed his Radiologic Technology training in a hospital-based radiology program at Grady Memorial in Atlanta. At that time, there was no Radiologic Technology program available for students in South Georgia. With the lofty goal of raising up the next generation of successful radiologic professionals, Joe Barron worked with Archbold and the former Thomas Tech (now Southern Regional Technical College) to help develop a local Radiologic Technician training program.

The first class was held on the sixth floor of Archbold, graduating six students in 1985. “It was a good plan. We hired people out of that first class, and some of them are still with Archbold to this day,” Mr. Barron says, as he reflects on the hundreds of graduates that have completed the program that he was so instrumental in beginning. “I am proud to think back on all the folks who have graduated from this program through the years. It has given local people a real opportunity to make a good living in a great career.”

Mr. Barron credits Archbold’s healthcare providers with much of the success of the curriculum. “From the beginning of this program, the radiologists have been dedicated mentors and trainers to the upcoming Radiology Techs.” Archbold’s health care providers joined SRTC instructors to create a program that combined traditional classroom instruction with frequent and widely varied practical learning experiences for students. Students have opportunities to earn clinical hours in medical facilities all across South Georgia and North Florida.

For Archbold’s part, Mr. Barron says that the program allows the medical center to have a continual source of highly qualified radiologic techs from which to choose. He estimates that over 90% of the Radiology Techs who work at Archbold now have come through the Radiologic Technology program at SRTC. “We do hire the cream of the crop, because they will join our team effort to provide the best possible healthcare for our patients.”

One of those people is Mrs. Buffie Spencer, SRTC’s 2018 Teacher of the Year. She was one of those early “cream of the crop” students that Mr. Barron hired upon graduation. She is now a member of the Radiologic Technology faculty at SRTC, aiming to pass on the excellence that she learned by watching Mr. Barron at work. “He is a master at his craft and a legend in our field. Joe Barron could out x-ray any of his staff that he supervised.” Mrs. Spencer said that alongside technical excellence, Joe Barron exemplified extraordinary patient care. “He taught me the art of becoming an effective communicator and observer of your patient’s needs. He demonstrated a genuine love for caring for the patients and he expected his staff to give the best quality care to their patient.”

Dr. Cary Newman of Red Hills Radiology has worked with Mr. Barron since 2003, and has found his support and leadership-by-example to be vital to the success of Red Hill’s Radiology. “Joe Barron is hands down the most effective department manager I have ever worked with, and one of the finest people I know. He dedicated himself to Archbold and his department. Joe is widely admired by the physicians, techs, and employees and certainly served as a role model and mentor to several generations of techs and tech students.”

When Dr. Newman learned that Mr. Barron would soon be retiring, an idea began to form. Inspired by Joe’s enduring principle of “local people taking care of local people,” Dr. Newman and his partners at Red Hills Radiology decided to surprise him with a new legacy scholarship in his name. “We wanted to do something for him that would have a lasting impact, and let him know how much we appreciate him. Endowing a scholarship in his name to help the next generations of tech students seemed a perfect fit.”

While Mr. Barron was humbled by the scholarship in his name, he is delighted by the opportunities that the scholarship will present to radiologic technology students for years to come. "I would like for people to know that radiology is special. Over the 40 years that I have been doing this, radiology has become better and better, and the end result is better care for our patients. That is the bottom line. From the very beginning, the purpose of this program has been to train up local people to take care of local people, and in my view, it has been very successful."

The Joe Barron Scholarship will benefit up to three Thomasville SRTC students annually. The Foundation of Southern Regional Technical College will award $500 scholarships to students each semester, based on both merit and need. For more information about SRTC Foundation scholarships available to SRTC students, including the new Joe Barron Scholarship, please visit online at southernregional.edu/scholarships.

SRTC offers over 150 degree, diploma, and certificate programs that are designed to get you quickly into your desired career, and 27 general education courses that transfer to the University System of Georgia institutions and 19 private colleges and universities in Georgia. SRTC has instructional sites located in Ashburn, Cairo, Camilla, Moultrie, Thomasville, Tifton, and Sylvester for the convenience of our students. The College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). SACSCOC is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. For the most up-to-date information on registration, class dates, and program offerings, log on to www.southernregional.edu or call (888) 205-3449.

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