BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Dr. Loretha King, a primary care physician at Florida Health Care Plans in Daytona Beach, knew she wanted to be a doctor at a very young age.
King, who has an extensive career in health care – having been a nurse and doctor – most recently worked in Washington, D.C. She moved to Daytona Beach about a year ago. She was born in Chicago but her parents later moved to Greenville, Mississippi.
“I knew at 5 years old. I’ve always cared about people. It hit home one time during a visit to Mississippi when my cousin told me that he never saw a Black doctor,” King told the Daytona Times.
“I know this is my calling. It’s not about being a doctor but the doors that open. People trust me with their lives and their family members’ lives although I’m a stranger. I’m sensitive and thankful.’’
The trust factor
Her experience as a Black doctor in Daytona has been rewarding, but she is concerned about health disparities.
“I always wanted to be in a community where you can be a presence, educate and give the care needed. I grew up in the inner city,” she explained. “A lot of Blacks go to the doctor and want someone who talks to them and not at them. I had never been to Daytona. I lived and worked in Miami. I had no idea this place had such history, especially African-American. The people have been nice so far.”
King is aware of the health disparities facing the Black community. There are people who won’t go to the doctor. There also are too many dying from conditions like heart disease, hypertension and high cholesterol.
“We have this because of our history. We were used as guinea pigs in experiments that we didn’t know anything about so we couldn’t trust a doctor. The trust factor is first. Second, we are talked at and not talked too. Many other factors are income, community, upbringing, education, etc.,” she mentioned.
Set her own prices
While practicing in Boynton Beach, she found ways to help her patients who were struggling with their medical bills.
“I loved it. I did it for five years. When I worked in the ER, I saw so many people using the ER for their primary care physician so I started treating people who didn’t have health insurance. It was easier to set my own price, she noted.
“Most individuals can’t afford $200 to $300 doctor visits without health insurance. It was easier to pay $40 to $50. They would come back and follow up. I could give samples and send them to labs and specialists for a good price.’’
‘I share their pain’
Her career has been enjoyable, but it can take a toll emotionally.
“I meet so many people. Everyone can teach you something. I love that aspect. People share their lives with me. It’s a blessing. I share their pain. I cry with patients and take late-night calls. It’s not always good, but it comes with the job,” she remarked.
“On the other hand, people don’t know the depth of my sensitivity. It’s who I am. I must be strong.
I hurt, feeling what my patients go through at times. I want to make their lives better. Seeing a hurting world or person gets to you. At the end of the day, you’re tired and must come to terms with it. You pray and move on.”
High cost of care
She admits that there are times when health care seems more about profit than care.
“Medicine is a business. That’s what it is. It’s not government run. People have to get paid. The difference is we can do business and quality care. I don’t know anyone who works in a hospital that doesn’t get a paycheck,” she commented. “You can still be compassionate, take care of patients, give proper care, and it don’t have to cost as much. Some have looked at the profits more. Hopefully, we can shift it back the other way.”
King believes in affordable health care but thinks it needs fixing.
“We should have it. Right now it needs to re-hauled. A person paying $400 per month is better off without it. There’s also too much paperwork. If medicine is a business and everyone making huge profits are getting their piece of the pie. – when you take that out, it becomes medicine again. Then we go back to taking care of the patients,” she explained.
“Some hate the Affordable Care Act until you’ve been in an emergency room or clinic where your patient doesn’t have insurance but has a large tumor but you can’t help. Then you get to understand.’’
The road to success for King hasn’t been easy.
“I didn’t always know what to do. I got frustrated. There were days that I wanted to quit,” King told the Times.
The third child of five siblings was the first to go to college.
She has a bachelor’s degree from Mississippi Valley State in biology pre-med (1988), a doctorate of osteopathic medicine from Nova Southeastern (1998), along with a master’s in business management from the University of Phoenix (2011).
“My parents worked hard. They worked the cotton fields in Mississippi and factories in Chicago.
They dropped out of high school but later got G.E.D.s. They instilled education into us. When they took us to visit family in Mississippi, we saw people working in the fields that weren’t educated. We saw the struggle and learned to respect it. They all worked to give us better opportunities.”
“Chicago showed me that I had unlimited possibilities. You may be in the inner city, but you’re not far from downtown, big business, corporate people and other things as well as the finest restaurants, stores and businesses,” she expressed. There you are exposed to what life could be. I was taught if you worked hard enough you can have it.’’
King said she appreciates the civil rights leaders and others who have paved the way.
“I am grateful for those who struggled before me and made it possible for me to get into the classroom. They protested and went through harsh treatment for me to do that. It’s my job to take it a step further,” she commented.
The physician said she also has seen discrimination and racism throughout her career.
“In regards to gender, there are people who will judge me. I make sure that I am prepared. You must know two to three times as much. I’m open, nice and compassionate. Also, you never know a man’s situation. When it comes to race, I have worked in the emergency room,” she explained.
“People will judge you but when they are dying, they just want someone who will keep them alive. I found more trouble when it came to our own people. Many don’t accept the fact that we’ve come a long way, but we all don’t have to be athletes and entertainers. It also helps that my name is Dr. King, which is famous and easy to remember.’’
King also wants to see more young people look at careers in health care.
“This is a hot career field and you will always have a job. Medicine is very wide. We have IT, graphics, website, supplies, construction, security, cyber security, administration, legal, etc. It’s not just doctors, nurses and nurses’ aids anymore,” she added.
Dr. Loretha King is taking new patients at the Florida Health Care Plans facility at 350 N. Clyde Morris Blvd., Daytona Beach, phone (386) 238-3294.