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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

Dr. Francis Amos retiring after 39 years
Local historian looking forward to new ventures
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Photo by Morris Stephenson: Dr. Francis Amos gives his thoughts on retiring from practice 39 years after opening Family Physicians with Dr. Jack Bumgardner, his partner and long-time friend.

Friday, August 8, 2014

By MORRIS STEPHENSON - Special to the News-Post

Fifty-five years ago, two Rocky Mount teenagers (16 and 13) talked about their futures in the band storage room following a class at Franklin County High School.

They agreed that after finishing high school they would go to college, then medical school and "return home" to open a family practice.

And that's exactly what they did.

Dr. J. Francis Amos, the older of the two, is retiring today after 39 years as a partner with Dr. Jack Bumgardner Jr., his long-time friend and next-door neighbor. Their practice, Carilion Family Medicine (formerly Family Physicians), is located at 195 Maple Avenue in Rocky Mount.

The son of the late Jesse and Helen Hutcherson Amos of the Sontag community, Amos earned biology and pre-med degrees at the College of William and Mary in 1965. He then entered the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

One year earlier, Bumgardner had entered the University of Virginia as an undergraduate. The two roomed together while Bumgardner was completing his undergraduate degree and Amos his medical degree.

After completing a residency at Roanoke Memorial Hospital, Amos assisted the hospital in converting its residency program from general practice to family practice. Amos was named the first director of the new residency program in 1972, a position he held for three years.

During that time, Bumgardner enrolled in RMH's family practice residency program. Amos was the program's director and an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Amos was teaching in Roanoke.

In addition, Amos was actively involved in the Virginia Academy of Family Practice and served numerous offices as well as state president.

When Bumgardner finished the program in 1975, the plan the two friends had made in high school finally came to fruition.

"We became partners and opened our practice in July 1975," Amos said. "I had bought a house on Lawndale Street for my wife, the former Laquita Ramsey, and I started restoration in 1971. It was the ironmaster's house of the Washington Iron Works, and we restored it and moved into it a year later."

Amos said he and Laquita started dating when he was in college and she was still a student at FCHS.

"We were married a week after I graduated from med school," he said. "We were on our way to the beach for our honeymoon and came upon a horrific wreck. A car full of family members, six or seven, on their way to church ran under a tractor-trailer."

"One was killed and I started work treating the survivors. I tried to stabilize all of them before the rescue squad arrived," he added. "I surely got my baptism on the job that day."

In the meantime, "Jack (Bumgardner) and his wife had been looking for a house to buy for some time and ended up buying the one next door to us in 1974," Amos said. "So not only have we practiced together, our families have grown up together."

The Amoses had four children. Frank Amos II is the director of imaging at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. Previously, he spent 13 years at Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital. He and his wife have two sons.

Daughter Susan Chrisley is a housewife, and her husband Dave is a sales representative dealing in artificial hip and knee replacements. They have two sons.

Daughter Chris Brown is married to Daniel Brown, a native of Glade Hill and real estate agent. She is a housewife, and the couple has two boys and a girl.

Son John is the youngest of the children and he still lives at home while attending college.

Amos also has an older brother, George Thomas Amos, who operates a dairy farm in Sontag.

Leading up to his planned retirement, Amos never gave up the blistering pace he's devoted to his practice since the beginning.

"I only see my wife about 45 minutes each weekday because I usually stay here at the office working until after midnight and even longer," he said. "I didn't leave the office this morning until 3 a.m."

In the past 39 years, Amos said many changes have taken place in the medical profession. It now takes longer to get everything done with all of the new laws and never-ending changes in requirements and regulations by both the government and the insurance companies, he added.

"Individuals need papers filled out of every description each day," he said.

And some days Amos also has 45 to 50 prescriptions to call in to the pharmacy.

"Things we were able to do before have changed so much that now doctors have to fight to get tests approved and medicines the patients need," he said. "More often than not, the cost of the medication is far more than the insurance will cover."

"The only thing we can do is appeal on behalf of the patient, and that takes time," Amos added. "Yesterday, a patient had three medications that cost $850 a month with prescription insurance coverage. I worked with the pharmacist to find an alternative, again time-consuming."

"The insurance companies keep denying more and more procedures, and what you can get that is covered is not appropriate to treat patients," he said. "There's no relief in sight. It's getting worse and worse."

"Common sense doesn't mean anything these days," he added.

And although he loves his patients and would do anything for them, he said, "I think it's a great time for me to get out of medicine."

"However, I thank God for the opportunity to practice medicine when I did, to have a wonderful staff (Deborah Trail, his secretary, has been with him for 39 years), to have my best friend as my partner and to serve such great people as we have in Franklin County," he added. "It's been an honor and a privilege to serve."

The family practice he began with his friend will continue to provide the same level of care, Amos said, with the addition of Dr. Sarah Stubbs last June and Dr. Allen Maxey, formerly from Franklin County, on Aug. 1.

"He (Maxey) is happy to return home to practice medicine," Amos said. "We are particularly fortunate to have such outstanding doctors here with Dr. Bumgardner, who has not made a decision on retiring."

After his retirement, Amos will still have plenty to do as an "unofficial" local historian. Many of his projects that preserve the county's history have never been publicized. Amos also helps preserve historic structures and will have more time to devote to his current project -- restoring an old chapel church that is 245 years old, dating back to 1769. It's the oldest standing frame structure in the 27 counties in Southwest Virginia, he said. It is one of four pre-Revolutionary War frame Church of England structures still standing in Virginia.

"I bought the church when there were no alternatives for saving it," he said. "Over the years, community volunteers are making the restoration possible."

Amos also was involved in the restoration of the Halesford Academy, Jubal Early homeplace, Washington Iron Furnace and old Rocky Mount train depot, which was saved by last-minute talks between Norfolk Southern and the town.

"I was friends with the executive from Norfolk Southern who came here to tell the town that the station would be torn down," Amos said. "I asked, and got, more time and eventually the depot stayed."

Amos served as chairman of the 1968 Franklin County Bicentennial Commission during a year-long celebration. He produced the county's history, "Bicentennial Reflections," for the commission and directed the production of the official Franklin County history by John and Emily Salmon.

Amos is frequently seen on Cable 12 discussing many topics related to local history.

Although he will miss his patients, Amos said he is looking forward to new ventures, as well as continuing his work to preserve the county's history.

"It's been a wonderful experience," Amos said of his medical career. "I now look forward to new horizons."

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