The country girl's quest to become a hometown country doctor would take her on a sixteen year journey with many detours and obstacles along the way.
Today, a crisp white sign, above a rural mail box, on Proctor Creek Rd., in Celina, Tennessee reads: Doctor Joyce E. Scott, Family Practice and Geriatric Medicine.
The doctor's office, adjacent to her rustic log home, is reminiscent of a set from the popular nineties television show, Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman; and on occasion, Doctor Scott's practice has been about as varied and unpredictable as Doctor Quinn's frontier practice.
"One night, a fellow came to the back door with a cut on his leg," the doctor began. "He didn't want to go to the emergency room, because he didn't have any insurance. I told him I didn't have any numbing medicine; but he told me that didn't matter because he'd had a couple of beers and he could take it. I poured alcohol in the cut, and he didn't seem to mind that; so I sewed him up with eight sutures, right there on the kitchen counter! He said later he should have had a few more of those beers," the doctor laughed.
Joyce Scott was a Clay County High School Home Economics teacher when she first became interested in health care. Encouraged by her students' interest in a broader scope of home economics topics than cooking and sewing, she developed a child development, and fetal health care curricula. While teaching full time, Joyce enrolled in evening and summer classes at Tennessee Tech University. Driving the ninety mile a day trip to Cookeville, in her little 1972 Volkswagen, it took Joyce six years to earn a Masters degree in secondary education, supervision and administration. After earning her Masters, she still wanted to become a doctor.
The ambitious young teacher enrolled in undergraduate classes at Tennessee Tech, and earned forty five hours beyond her Masters, taking pre-med courses such as biochemistry, organic chemistry, and anatomy.
Gaining acceptance to medical school is tough and competitive, even for young ambitious applicants who are fresh out of college pre-med courses.
The med school applicant's grade point average and score on the MCAT (the test for med school) are evaluated, along with other characteristics and traits that are considered predictors of ability to complete the program.
Joyce Scott was repeatedly told, by physicians and professors, she would never make it because she was a woman, and she was too old. She was told she had three kids, no money, and didn't have the academic background to make it through med school. Joyce was even told she wasn't smart enough to pass the MCATs.
Already pushing thirty, Joyce applied to med schools, but was not accepted. Discouraged, but not defeated, she made a difficult decision. Back to school she went, to earn a second Bachelors degree. This one would be in nursing.
"I didn't even fit in with the other students," Joyce recalled. "They were all wearing jeans, and all I had to wear were the dresses I wore to teach school! I finally bought a couple pair of Levi jeans," she confessed.
Struggling with one particularly challenging class, Joyce sought help from the professor, but received more of the same negative attitude, and discouragement.
"I just stood there and told him that he thinks just because I am a Clay County Home Economics teacher, all I can do is make biscuits and fry chicken! He admitted that's what he thought, and I dropped the class," the doctor said, recounting the infuriating experience.
After earning her BSN, 'Nurse' Scott continued to teach, while holding various nursing positions, both in and outside of Clay County. She was still determined to become a physician, some way, some day, but in the mean time Joyce used her teaching position to affect some changes that would benefit future Clay County female students interested in science.
"I created a Science Initiative Program. I worked with the Carl P. Perkins Act, and I wrote a grant to promote awareness of females in science classes and eliminate gender stereotyping," Doctor Scott explained.
"Soon, Tennessee Tech professors were driving that ninety mile trip here, to teach chemistry in Clay County," the doctor recalled with great satisfaction.
Joyce Scott was invited to Purdue University, in Indiana, to address the Chemistry Society and present information about the grant she had written. Having done what she could to pave the way for young women with an interest in science related careers, Joyce decided it was time to renew her quest to get into med school.
"I wasn't accepted by any med school when I was 27; I don't know what made me think my chances would be any better at 38, but I had to try," she explained.
While in Indiana, Joyce decided to make a brief detour and fly to Missouri and visit Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. The rest, as they say, is history.
Finally, in 1988, Joyce Scott received word that she had been accepted to Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. Thus began the fulfillment of a dream; but the next few years would require temporarily uprooting the Scott family from their beloved Tennessee hills and 'hollers', while Joyce endured the grueling, and competitive, demands of med school and
On June 5, 1994, at age 44, Joyce E. Smith became a doctor! As might be expected, there were more than a few bumps along the road to establishing and maintaining a practice. At one point the new doctor was actually thrilled to be hired as a school nurse!
In her book, "Are You Nobody from Nowhere, going No Place", Doctor Scott tells her inspirational story in vivid detail, through laughter and tears. She candidly shares stories of the financial hardships associated with living her dream of being Clay County's first native female doctor, as well as the account of the tragic death of her beautiful 19-year-old son Rowling, in a 1999 one vehicle crash.
In addition to filling the roles of doctor, nurse, receptionist, and office manager for her family practice, with a focus on geriatric medicine, Dr. Scott conducts community health fairs and she is a motivational speaker.
After trying a number of other locations, Dr. Scott has returned to her practice 'on the creek', in the office she and the family built with timber from their land.
"I do every job here, but that means I can see one patient at a time, and each one has my undivided attention," she explained.
Doctor Joyce Scott's inspirational message is one of hope and determination at any age, against all odds; and she credits her ability to hang in there, to the unconditional encouragement and support of her husband and children.
The dedicated hometown country doctor's book tells a story worth reading, and she concludes the work with a passage from Romans 8:28 that reflects her positive spirit, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his
As a hometown country doctor, Doctor Joyce Scott pours her heart into following her calling to serve the health needs of the community she calls home.