Dr. William “Bill” Newman has touched hearts in Sampson County and across North Carolina, and that’s not a simple colloquialism.
An interventional cardiologist, Newman’s specialty revolves around the heart and his impact on lives cannot be understated. Newman is the 2017 Tree of Love honoree, an effort sponsored by the Sampson Regional Medical Center Foundation recognizing his commitment to Sampson County and his contributions to healthcare in this community.
The annual lighting ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, on the lawn of the Woodside Professional Building, followed by a reception in the front lobby of the hospital.
Born and raised in Sampson, Newman is well known in the community for his experience as a cardiologist and the impact his work has had on others. With his practice situated in Raleigh, Newman has returned every Tuesday for the past 15 years to care for patients in the town where was raised and to provide consultation at Sampson Regional.
“There’s a gratification about being recognized for what you are doing,” a modest Newman said when asked about the honor. “When I’m in a quiet room by myself, I can think about that and have a certain amount of satisfaction.”
About 35 years ago, Newman and two other physicians started Wake Heart Associates, which became the largest independent cardiology practice in the state and is now known as North Carolina Heart and Vascular Associates. The practice now has 20 locations in nine different counties.
An article recently published in the News & Observer about physicians in the Triangle rated Newman as the most outstanding interventional cardiologist with the best outcomes, fewest complications and services at the lowest cost of all cardiologists at WakeMed, Rex, UNC and Duke. He scored in the “excellent” range, according to an analyst company whose data on doctors was used for the story.
Humble to a fault, Newman concedes there are a handful of cases that stand out in his mind where he really feels that he made a difference.
Newman recalled a female patient from Smithfield who had suffered cardiac arrest multiple times, both in Smithfield then as she was transported to Raleigh. Paramedics were performing CPR all the way up until the moment they wheeled her into the catheterization laboratory, where Newman awaited.
“If ever the cards were stacked against you, that was it,” he said. “I was able to get an artery open and I cooled her body to save brain function.”
And Newman did what he has done so many times before. He saved a life. That emergency surgery was on a Friday. Two days later, the woman’s husband came in, cried and hugged Newman. His wife was at home a week later and at work just three weeks after suffering what could very well have been a fatal cardiac episode.
“There’s a personal gratification in that,” Newman said, “that you’ve impacted someone’s life in a positive way. That’s what makes it all worthwhile. You don’t want to beat your chest about it, but you’re happy.”
Amber Cava, vice president of marketing and executive director of the SRMC Foundation, said honoring Newman was a no-brainer, a perfect confluence of events and a fitting tribute to someone who has kept his roots in Sampson even though his accomplishments span the eastern part of the state.
Sampson Regional recently expanded the availability of cardiology services to include full-time consulting specialist Dr. Robert Kastner, who joined Newman in September for inpatient and outpatient services. Through its collaboration with UNC Rex Healthcare, the growth of inpatient cardiology services at Sampson Regional will also mean improved access to outpatient cardiology care at North Carolina Heart & Vascular’s Clinton office, officials said.
That access is five days a week, with Kastner working locally Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, while Newman makes his Tuesday rounds.
An effort started in 1989, the Tree of Love is illuminated on the first Sunday in December, and the lights continue to burn for the rest of the year. Hand in hand with recognizing a person or couple who have been instrumental in Sampson Regional’s success, the effort helps raise funds for various hospital needs. This year, donations will be designated for the purchase of cardiology equipment to support the hospital’s expansion of inpatient cardiology services.
After some nominal expenses, the annual Tree of Love effort usually nets between $20,000 and $25,000. It is one of the foundation’s top two fundraising events, its golf tournament being the other.
“It just happens to be a perfect alignment of expanding inpatient cardiologist services and introducing Dr. Kastner, while recognizing Dr. Newman for his contributions to the community,” said Cava. “Whether literally or figuratively, there are probably not that many hearts that (Newman) hasn’t touched.”
After graduating from Clinton High School, Newman went to Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., for a year before going on to Princeton University, where he earned a B.A. in biology. While the Ivy League undergrad experience was a departure from the Duke degrees that his father and two older brothers earned — “I was the young, rebellious one,” Newman stated — he attended med school at Duke University, following in their footsteps.
“I’ve been blessed in a lot of ways,” said Newman. “To be able to have the career that I’ve had, and maintain a connection with my hometown, I feel so fortunate. What that has allowed for me is to hear stories about my mom and dad — stories I’ve heard for 30 years and I still enjoy hearing. Very few physicians go away to school and come back and practice their specialty. I’m just a hometown boy.”
Newman’s father died 40 years ago this year, when Newman was in his mid-20s.
“Even up to your teens and in your early 20s, you don’t know your parents on a human, personal level — they are your parents,” said Newman. “These stories have helped me really know who my parents were. I can’t underscore enough how satisfying it’s been to me to stay in Clinton and hear these memories. Those are priceless to me. I would have missed out on that had I not been part of this community.”
Fifteen years ago, when he was looking for office space in Clinton, he settled in at Woodside. He soon discovered that his office was once occupied by an internist named Glenn Newman — his father.
Glenn was a doctor after World War II, before Sampson Memorial was even opened. Glenn and Peggy Newman had three boys, William being the youngest. All three boys went into the medical field, the others into radiology and nephrology.
“We saw he enjoyed what he did,” said Newman, who has two children of his own with wife, Artemis. “Hopefully, if my kids have any interest in this field, they’ll see how much I love it.”
At 66, retirement may not be far away for Newman. Until then, however, he will continue to do what he loves and impact lives for the better.
“The only regret I have is that I’m not five years into my career — as opposed to 35 years into it — so I could do it all over again,” said Newman.
Cava cited Newman’s “humble spirit,” and said there are few more befitting of the Tree of Love honor.
“He loves what he does and he loves his community,” she said. “He often says he wishes he could go back and do it all over again. I think that speaks loudly about his passion and the love for what he does. We just want to recognize that, and the impact he has on patients’ lives.”
The public is invited to the Dec. 3 event. Contributions may be made in honor or in memory of family and friends or in honor of Dr. Bill Newman. All contributions are tax deductible to the extent the law permits. All checks should be made payable to: SampsonRMC Foundation, P.O. Box 260, Clinton, N.C. 28329. Credit cards accepted. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.