New physician loves small-town practice

By CHARLIE SMITH,

The exact moment Dr. Cody Choate decided to pursue medicine came while he was repairing a barbed wire fence on his family’s cattle farm near McComb.
“I decided I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life,” he says with a laugh.
But there was more to it.
“I ran into a friend of the family. He was looking for my dad, came down a little gravel road,” Choate recalls. “He stopped and he was asking about my dad. I noticed some issues with him and I said, ‘Why don’t you go to a doctor and get that checked out?’ His response was along the lines of he doesn’t have a whole day to spend in a doctor’s office. The typical response you get from a person who needs care but doesn’t ever seek it.”
Just a sophomore in high school, Choate knew then that that was the type of patient he wanted to help. And now he is.
The 31-year-old is two months into being the newest physician at the Columbia Family Clinic on Broad Street, which is part of the Hattiesburg Clinic.
“I love it. It’s everything I thought it would be,” he said in an interview in his office last week. “I finally get to see the people that I got into medicine for.”
Choate, who is engaged to be married Nov. 11 and lives in Bellevue, prefers a personal approach. He wears scrubs most days and talks to patients about their families. That interaction is part of what brought him to Columbia. In Hattiesburg, where he did his residency, he said patients were used to having an abundance of doctors.
“You get over here, and it’s a completely different world because we don’t have a GI clinic here. We don’t have an orthopedist; we don’t have any of that right here. … I had a certain population in mind, and I’ve seen a lot of that here. That leaves me fulfilled at the end of the day,” he said.

Growing up in South Mississippi
Choate is the son of Wayne Choate, a beef cattle farmer who formerly ran a heat-and-air company, and Dell, an administrator for Camellia Hospice, who live near the Pike/Amite county line.
“My mom was always encouraging academics. She pushed for A’s. She wanted me to be in Mu Alpha Theta and probably she wanted me to pursue college more so than my dad did,” he said. “And my dad always encouraged critical thinking and problem solving without having the right tools to do a job.”
He is a graduate of Parklane Academy in McComb, Southwest Mississippi Community College and LSU, where he received his undergraduate degree. While in Baton Rouge, his dad told him about the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program. It pays for the number of years of medical school that a future doctor agrees to practice in a rural community in this state. With that being what Choate wanted to do anyway, it sounded too good to be true.
Dr. Luke Lampton, a family medicine doctor in Magnolia, let Choate shadow him and both encouraged him to attend medical school and inspired him to pursue family medicine in this region.
“I think there’s a culture here, and it’s not a Mississippi culture or Louisiana culture. It’s an area thing,” Choate said. “It basically draws itself from Baton Rouge all the way over to Slidell. You come up to Hattiesburg and then up to McComb. And inside that rectangle there’s a friendly type of air about everyone that’s just not there in other parts of the world. That’s why I chose to be here.”

Medical Philosophy
Choate became part of the first class at the new William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Hattiesburg. Previously the University of Mississippi Medical Center was the state’s only medical school, but William Carey’s program has doubled the number of physicians the state produces each year. He graduated in 2014 with a class of about 75.
Next he began the Forrest General Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program, which was also just beginning with his cohort.
“Medical school breaks you. That’s the best way I know to explain it,” he said. “It breaks you down and then residency builds you into the physician that you are.”
Choate is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. His special practice interests include routine health maintenance, such as screenings and immunizations, tobacco cessation and high blood pressure. He said he tries to give patients the information they need to make the best decision for themselves.
“I’m not here to tell them what to do or how to live their life. I’m here to teach them, give them information,” he said. “I’m not paternalistic when it comes to medicine. I’m very much a shared-decision-making-type physician.”