Doctors celebrate 20 years in Cassville

Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Democrat Photo/Lindsay Reed Serving Cassville with a smile This month, Cox Cassville Medical Center physicians Dr. Michael Payne and Dr. Norman Tullis are celebrating 20 years of service in the Cassville community. Several collages of photos collected over the last 20 years are on display at the medical facility on Smithson Drive in Cassville.

This month, Dr. Michael Payne and Dr. Norman Tullis are celebrating 20 years of service in the Cassville community. Several collages of photos taken over the last 20 years will be on display at the Cox Cassville Medical Center.

Dr. Payne and Dr. Tullis came to Cassville in 1993 after first practicing together at Arroyo Grande Community Hospital and then operating solo practices located in close proximity on the central coast of California for a number of years.

"While the California coastal area was beautiful, medicine had become a turmoil of managed care, hospitals buying private practices and large institutions dominating the care of patients," said Dr. Payne. "Dr. Tullis and I knew each other well at that time and in fact had offices that were next to each other. We often discussed what it would take to make us leave California and find new opportunities elsewhere."

The pair even sat down and compiled a list of about 20 items that would be required to entice them to leave their homes and practice elsewhere.

"Over a couple of years, we casually visited a multitude of places in the western United States but none seemed satisfactory," said Dr. Payne. "I remember the list included a rural lifestyle, a small community with a diversity of employers, near a recreational body of water such as a river, a lake or an ocean and the area must have a relatively short winter because neither of us much liked the cold."

Although the doctors were not unhappy where they were living, practicing medicine in that area had become less enjoyable over the years, said Dr. Payne.

"On pretty much a spur of the moment one day, we decided to visit Branson to see what all the discussion about that place had been," said Dr. Payne. "We had no interest in living there, but of course everyone had heard about the place."

Although the doctors came to Missouri to see Branson, they were sidetracked in Barry County.

"On our way, we drove through Cassville and low and behold noticed that it met every one of our wish list items," continued Dr. Payne. "The city had recently lost one doctor and another was leaving, the match seemed perfect and the rest is history."

"We drove through the community and surrounding area," said Dr. Tullis. "In Roaring River an eagle swooped down and snatched up a large trout and casually flew away. The hills were beautiful, trees everywhere, Table Rock Lake sparkled and people were friendly. The list we made for what we desired in a rural community fit exactly. Our decision was made."

The men closed their practices in California, said good bye to their patients and friends and moved to southwest Missouri. They rented offices from the South Barry County Hospital and joined the Cox Health System, but functioned independently.

"For 10 years, we maintained a pretty much traditional practice working with the hospital," said Dr. Payne. "During this time, we gradually envisioned forming a clinic in which we could offer virtually all medical services under one roof. Living one and a half to two hours away from a large hospital was a great inconvenience for most patients, and we wanted to be able to provide most medical tests and treatments locally."

The doctors approached Cox with their ideas, which were approved, and in 2003, the clinic opened on Smithson Drive with the ability to provide a wide variety of services, including X-ray, CAT scans, MRI, ultrasound, physical therapy, minor surgical procedures, colonoscopies and upper endoscopies.

"Our goal was to provide first rate care as conveniently as possible to our patients," said Dr. Payne.

After practicing medicine for 40 years, neither doctor has intentions of retiring soon. They plan to continue serving patients as long as they able to provide quality services.

"My plans include continuing to care for patients and work with a great staff," said Dr. Tullis. "CoxHealth continues to search for a third physician in the near future, which will make a great addition to the facility."

"I certainly have no plans to retire in the near future," said Dr. Payne. "The greatest honor I have received is the honor of being able to share the most sacred moments of so many people's lives. In medicine, we share the joys, the heartbreaks, the beginnings and the end of life emotions with many different people. We share their happiness, their sadness, their joys and their fears with them and their families. It is a great honor and a deep responsibility to have such an integral part of the most emotional aspects of peoples lives."

"Today, and 20 years ago when we moved to Cassville, I sincerely love to take care of patients," said Dr. Tullis. "It has been an honor caring for so many wonderful people in the community and surrounding areas. It gives me joy to care for those who need us, to laugh with them and to cry with them and for those who have passed, you are missed but never forgotten."

Dr. Payne earned undergraduate degrees in biology and chemistry from San Diego State University and completed four years of medical school training at the University of California at Irvine. He served his internship and completed his residency in internal medicine at the Los Angeles County Hospital associated with the University of Southern California.

In his free time, Dr. Payne enjoys boating, traveling, shooting, reading and completing educational courses. He has 16 grandchildren, who he loves spending time with, and enjoys riding his motorcycle trike during warm weather.

Dr. Tullis is a graduate of San Diego State College and Creighton University Medical School. He has a degree in chemistry, zoology and biology. He completed his internship in internal medicine.

In his free time, Dr. Tullis enjoys fishing with JD Fletcher and the Fletcher family. He also enjoys spending time with his family, including his wife, Jan, and their grandchildren.

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