“This contribution is in honor of the impact that my entire family has made in public health in Georgia. Giving back to my alma mater this way will help the careers of young people who care for our communities and want the best for the public.”
Patricia Payne-White’s (AB ’57) remarkable family of healers and health care professionals has saved lives and reduced suffering in Georgia and beyond for three generations.
“My father, Rufus Payne, played a key role in helping the state of Georgia control the scourge of tuberculosis,” says Payne-White. “My mother, Ruth, was one of nine children; all the girls but one became nurses. And my two siblings and I all attended the University of Georgia with interests in the medical field.”
Rufus and Ruth with baby Patricia.
The Payne family made a generous donation to the Jere W. Morehead Honors College naming initiative last year in honor of Rufus and Ruth Payne. The fund will support the ambitions of “bright students with an interest in public health.”
“This contribution is in honor of the impact that my entire family has made in public health in Georgia,” Payne-White says. “Giving back to my alma mater this way will help the careers of young people who care for our communities and want the best for the public.”
Enhancing public health has long been a family affair for the Paynes.
Rufus Payne graduated in 1933 from the Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine (MCG). He and Ruth met during his subsequent fellowship in Portsmith, Virginia, where she worked as a nurse supervisor in the operating room. In 1939, Rufus Payne earned a Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. The family then returned to Georgia, where the newly minted Dr. Payne became superintendent of the Georgia State Tuberculosis Hospital in Alto, Georgia.
Rufus with his children: Penny, Patricia, and Peter.
Dr. Payne’s legacy began with his work with tuberculosis. He pioneered surgical and medical treatments for the disease, and he guided the transformation of Battey General Army Hospital in Rome, Georgia, to Battey State Tuberculosis Hospital.
In 1952, Georgia governor Herman Talmadge (LLB ’36) asked Dr. Payne to oversee planning and construction of Talmadge Hospital, which was completed in 1956. Today, the facility is known as Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics.
“During the planning phase, Dad’s big-picture thinking and advocacy for statewide health care—not just in Augusta, where the hospital was built—made him a logical choice to become the college’s first medical director,” says Patricia.
Dr. Payne worked for the next 10 years at the facility, then for five more as director of hospital research and development. For 40 years, he led tuberculosis control efforts as director of the Richmond County Health Department. Dr. Payne also was instrumental in creating a residency training program in thoracic surgery at MCG.
A collection of newspaper clippings featuring Dr. Rufus Payne, kept by Patricia.
Rufus and Ruth brought three children into the world, and each has left a legacy in health care.
Patricia Payne-White graduated with a degree in sociology and holds a certificate in education. She taught children who suffered from polio and faced long hospitalization in a revolutionary program provided by the Richmond County Board of Education and Talmadge Memorial Hospital. Peter Payne (BS ’60) became a physician. He worked as an OBGYN in Atlanta and at the University of Georgia’s student health center in Athens before becoming an instructor for MCG in 1995. Penny Payne Hughes (BS ’62) worked with the Tuberculosis Index in Denmark in the 1960s before returning to Georgia to join MCG.
“It’s been a family privilege to serve our communities and the people of Georgia,” says Patricia Payne-White. “Whatever we’ve given to others, we’ve received in return a thousand-fold.”
For the Payne family, it’s clear to see that giving is good medicine.