Wallace put ‘family’ in family practice

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Longtime Harriman doctor retiring

By Cheryl Duncan, Assistant Editor

The mountains and lakes are what drew Dr. Marty Wallace to establish her family medicine practice in Harriman in 1993.
She is retiring on Dec. 2, so now she might have time to enjoy them.
“I hate to go. It is just so hard to tell the patients,” Wallace said. “A lot of them are just coming in squalling.”
Insurance companies’ control of the medical profession, mounting paperwork and rising overhead are all behind her decision to hang up her stethoscope.
One thing that bothered her was the short time that they wanted her to spend with each patient.
Wallace said many of her patients are dealing with significant issues and need a friendly ear.
Her employees praise her dedication to giving patients the time they need and compare her to an old-time doctor who did house calls.
“Dr. Wallace is a unique doctor because she cares for the whole patient — not just the symptoms,” said Connie Bingham, who helps with billing and other duties.
“If the patient needs an hour of her time, she will take an hour with that patient,” Bingham said. “Her patients know that. If it runs into their appointment they will sit and wait because they know they’ll get as much time as they need.”
Receptionist Lisa Jolly said Wallace works hard with her patients to help them pay for their care.
“I’m just looking any day for someone to bring her a chicken or goat to pay the bill,” Jolly quipped. “She’s fantastic. She should have practiced centuries ago.”
Patient Mariann D’Alessandro and her husband, Ed, brought food just to share recently, a regular occurrence at the practice.
D’Alessandro embraced Wallace when asked her thoughts on the doctor closing her practice.
“I love them more than anything in this world, she said. “It says family practice, and it really becomes your family.”
Bingham, Jolly and medical assistant Rhonda Wolfe feel family is the best way to describe the relationship they’ve built with Wallace.
“She is my friend. She listens to us and she helps us through our problems,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe said she told Wallace she’ll always be in her life even after the office closes.
“I’ll miss the patients. We have some really good patients; They are real sweethearts,” Wolfe said.
“There won’t be another Dr. Wallace. They broke the mold when they made her.”
Doctoring is the sweet-spoken physician’s third career.
She worked in the post office for 10 years before returning to nursing school after losing one of her children  — a 3-year-old. She then worked as a nurse on a paramedic helicopter before she enrolled in medical school.
She attended medical school in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, and did her residency at the University of Florida Medical Center in Jacksonville.
She shares her adventures on the island, including her experience with corruption. She rode her motorcycle everywhere.
Wallace said after her residency, she almost went to North Carolina, but she was asked to do one more interview.
“When I came here, it just had everything I wanted. It had all the water; it was rural, and it had really nice people,” Wallace said.
Spending time on the water and with family, including her husband, Carl Stump, is her immediate plans.
“I’m going to enjoy getting to know my hubby — my sugar. Because I’ve worked the whole time since we got married. We’ve had very little time together,” Wallace said.
She said she won’t be going far and will be doing community work.
Wallace expressed interest in organizations such as Court-Appointed Special Advocates, where volunteers advocate for children in the court system.
It’s a natural transition for a doctor who gets aggravated when thinking of those in the community who abuse drugs.
“The first two or three years here, I got tried by every one of them. They would get furious and scream and holler in my lobby threatening me because I would not give them narcotics,” Wallace said.
“Look at all the kids not taken care of because of the parents taking drugs or cooking meth or something. We get the 75-year-old grand parents in that are raising their grandchildren. This generation has got to wake up and start taking care of their children,” Wallace said.