By Mary Catherine Gaston
A native of rural Louisiana, Dr. Jessica Brumfield Mitchum felt right at home when she arrived in Moultrie four years ago to begin her residency. She's grown so fond of the place and people, she's decided to make Moultrie her home and where she practices family medicine as part of the Georgia South Family Residency Center.
Rural roots: Known as Dr. Brumfield to her patients in the Moultrie area, Dr. Jessica Brumfield Mitchum grew up in a town much smaller than her current one, but in Louisiana. She knew from an early age that she wanted to practice medicine, so after high school, she attended Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans. Aside from being the only Catholic, historically black college or university (HBCU) in the U.S., Xavier stands out year after year as the national leader in placing African-American students in medical schools. After completing her medical studies at the Suwannee campus of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, or PCOM, she knew she wanted to find a residency in the Southeast to be near her then-boyfriend (now husband), Damon, who was in Atlanta. “When I interviewed for residency in Moultrie, it felt like home and was my top choice.”
What makes her a hero? Born prematurely, Jessica spent her first months of life in a hospital, receiving special care from an army of medical professionals. Once she was old enough to understand this, she made up her mind to one day help people the way she had been helped, and she was especially interested in bridging the healthcare gap in rural communities like the one where she was raised. “As I grew up I realized it wasn’t ‘normal’ to have to drive such long distances just to get to a doctor,” she recalls. So she decided to use her training in a rural area—not a decision most young physicians are willing to make. “I identify with my patients here,” she says of her rural clientele. “I know what life is like in a place like this, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
A cause that’s close to her heart: While she admittedly has many passions, Jessica says improving rural medicine is actually one of the top causes she cares about. “From my perspective in healthcare, more often than not, rural areas are often the last on the list of priorities for resources,” she says. “Education, employment, healthcare—the social determinants of health—in all these areas, better resources will lead to better health, and I’d love our leaders to keep that in mind.” We can be a healthier population, she believes, but it all comes back to resources.
Something she wants every rural Georgian to realize: No matter where you came from, you can become anything you put your mind to becoming. “Having grown up in the middle of nowhere, Louisiana, and being told what you can and cannot do because of who you are or where you’re from, I can say with certainty that no matter where you come from, that does not define where you will go.” As proud as she is to be a physician after all the hard work it took to become one, she’s just as proud to have chosen to practice in a rural area. “I want to tell young people, make your hometown proud! Make the people who look like you proud. Don’t be limited by where you grew up or where you come from.”
Where she sees hope for rural communities: Now that she’s spent nearly four years living and working in rural Georgia, she has a better understanding of the importance of agriculture and all the resources and products that come from the less-populated parts of our state. “People don’t think about what the land provides when they don’t live in rural areas,” she says. “There are so many rural people who are using and making the most of what the good Lord gives us through the land, and all of Georgia benefits from the work they do.”