Upstate doctor returns to rural area to serve the community

Upstate doctor returns to rural area to serve the community
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 6:34 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Healthcare in rural areas is in critical condition and it’s happening right here in the palmetto state

According to data from the Center of Rural and Primary Healthcare at the University of South Carolina several areas in the state are in high need of primary care providers. The Kaiser Health Foundation reports about 2 million people in South Carolina live in healthcare professional shortage areas.

Dr. James Gragg is a family physician for Spartanburg Regional Healthcare in Woodruff. His cabinets are lined with old medicine bottles and books. He says his patients love to bring him medical memorabilia. That’s because he takes the time to get to know his patients personally.

“They get to know my interest and I get to know theirs,” Dr. Gragg said. “We talk about a lot of those things before we get to the medical visits.”

His co-workers are no different. He says many of them have been at the practice for years. Dr. Gragg grew up about a half hour south of Woodruff in Laurens. He says his primary doctor as a child was his role model.

“My whole family went there and the whole community went there,” Gragg said. “He was the only doctor in Laurens at the time.

Gragg attended medical school at USC School of Medicine Columbia. He says during his clinical training he got the chance to work in a rural area.

“I really enjoyed being in that community,” Gragg said. “It inspired me to come back here and do the same sort of thing.”

Gragg starting working in Woodruff about two decades ago.

“There are only two primary care doctors here,” Gragg said. “When I came to Woodruff there were more, but it has kind of dwindled over time.”

Gragg says the closest hospital is 30 minutes away and it’s why they provide a critical role in Woodruff. He hopes young doctors recognize the importance of rural healthcare and the difference they can make.

“I think they would find it rewarding to be a part of the community and get to know the patients,” Gragg said. “Even if you don’t practice in a rural area, practice in an underserved area.”