By Keysha Drexel
The pediatrician has been a fixture in the community since he started Mayfair Medical in Homewood 42 years ago, and well after most of his peers have retired, Amason shows no signs of wanting to hang up his stethoscope.
“I’m seeing the grandchildren of children I took care of, and I feel so blessed to still be able to do what I love every day,” Amason said. “I have no plans of retiring anytime soon.”
Amason said the key to his longevity in a field that is constantly changing has been his love of practicing medicine and helping children.
“The love of what I’m doing keeps me here. That’s what I always tell younger people–find something that you love to do and make that your life’s work,” he said.
Amason, who grew up in Ozark, said he knew early on that he wanted to be a pediatrician.
“My mother had a private kindergarten and so I was around children growing up and saw the good my mother did with her work. In high school, I volunteered at a camp for underprivileged children,” he said.
Amason’s own physician also played an important role in shaping his career path, he said.
“My GP was Dr. A.T. Matthews, and my mother always said the A.T. stood for ‘always there.’ That was back when the physicians would come out to your house. He made a big impression on me,” he said.
Before attending medical school, Amason worked in the operating room at what was then Children’s Hospital.
“I worked there the first year it opened. In medical school I did all the rotations, but I knew from the get-go that pediatrics was what was on the horizon for me,” he said.
Amason first practiced medicine in New York but moved back to the Birmingham area in 1971.
Shortly thereafter, he founded Mayfair Medical with doctors Harry Register, Frank Waldo and Harry Bagby.
During his long career in medicine, Amason said he’s witnessed so many changes that it is difficult to say which have had the most profound effect on the field.
“One of the most positive changes I’ve seen is the change in the role of women in the medical field. When we started Mayfair Medical, there was one female pediatrician in Birmingham, and she was an allergist,” he said. “Now our practice has six female physicians, so that’s been a progressive change.”
Another progressive change is the improvement in medicines and treatments for children over the years, Amason said.
For example, doctors have learned not to over-prescribe antibiotics, he said, and have a whole new arsenal of medications to help children compared to those available when he first started in medicine.
“What we can do to help children has certainly improved, and I feel really blessed to be a part of the medical field at a time when we are making these kind of strides in care,” he said.
Another major change physicians have had to embrace is technology in the workplace, Amason said.
“One of the biggest hurdles has been computers. Everyone in the medical field was scared to death of what all this technology would do,” he said. “But I started in May of 2012 transferring everything to electronic records and I love it, to my great surprise and delight.”
While computerized records have not necessarily sped up the operations of his practice, Amason said he thinks incorporating new technology has made record-keeping more accurate and easily accessible.
Embracing the new is something Amason said he feels has been important in his long career as a pediatrician.
“That willingness to change what I used to do to what’s the current practice is so crucial. If I were to use the same treatments I used when I first started out, I’d be a relic and I wouldn’t be giving my patients the best care,” he said.
Amason said patients today are much more educated about medicine than when he started in pediatrics.
“I encourage that knowledge. I tell my patients to look on WebMD, to Google their medical questions,” he said.
Amason said he also finds it important to carefully consider new advances in medicine and to stay abreast of the latest in the field.
“In any profession, you have to be vigilant. In the medical field, you are constantly required to keep learning through continuing education programs. That has been something I’ve always enjoyed and embraced,” he said.
While he has seen the medical field undergo a lot of change during his career, Amason said some things about practicing medicine stay the same.
“We may have a larger practice now, but I still get to know my patients. When you are someone’s pediatrician, you become a part of their lives and they become a part of your lives,” he said.
Amason now regularly sees the children and grandchildren of some of his very first patients.
“Knowing who the parents are and the grandparents are helps me tremendously. It helps me know how to approach the child’s care, and it helps me be a better physician because I know that history,” he said.
Amason said his wife of 44 years, Yates, often kids him about the vast amount of details he can instantly recall from his patients’ lives, sometimes long after those patients are grown and have children of their own.
“My wife laughs that I can recall these details, but I remember things about the families I have been involved with, no matter how long ago it was,” he said.
Amason said by constantly learning and challenging himself, he feels like he’s been able to stay on top of his game. He said living a healthy lifestyle has also been an important factor in his longevity.
“I started working out in the 1970s, and I haven’t stopped. Now, I work out with my 12-year-old grandson, and I want to show him how important it is to stay active, to keep the body moving and to keep the mind strong,” he said.
In addition to spending time with his two adult children and three grandchildren, Amason said that if he ever cuts down on his office hours at Mayfair Medical, he would likely spend more time involved with his other passion–gardening.
A board member at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens for many years and a former board member of the American Horticulture Society, Amason said gardening is something he has always loved and a hobby he can share with his wife.
“Our garden started out as my garden, but it has been our garden for the last 20 years. It’s something we really enjoy doing together,” he said.
Amason said he would also like to develop his painting skills.
The pediatrician took lessons as a young man and painted regularly up until his second child was born.
“It’s really something I’d like to get into again if I ever slow down. I still have an attic full of my old paintings, and some of them are hanging here in the patient rooms,” he said.
Amason, whose own father worked until he was 88 years old, said he can’t imagine not being involved in medicine in some way.
“After this job, I’ll probably find a job in medicine where they appreciate some gray hair and a little bit of wisdom. I’ll still be involved in medicine in one way or another,” he said.