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African American Doctor Honored for 50 Years of Service

Dr. Spencer Disher was a trailblazer in South Carolina

Dr. Spencer Disher says it was not always easy being a doctor in Orangeburg, South Carolina, especially a minority physician during the civil rights era.

"I don't like to emphasize or talk about it," Disher said. "When I came here, segregation was in full force, including the hospital. There were no blacks on the medical staff here."

Disher recalls having to fight to get on the staff.

"They did not make it easy," he recalled, noting the hospital's staff had to be part of the local Edisto Medical Society. "The hospital was getting federal funds and they had to be careful how they denied me access to the hospital."

But Disher said the feds had no control over the Medical Society, "so they kept me out of the Edisto Medical Society and so they told me I couldn't join the hospital staff."

Despite the challenges, Disher eventually got on the hospital's medical staff in 1970.

Now, after 47 years of practicing medicine, Disher has retired from his family/internal medicine practice. He closed the practice in January 2010.

Disher was recognized by Regional Medical Center trustees on Tuesday for his "commitment as a professional servant in the healing arts and improving the health status of the community."

Disher expressed his appreciation for the recognition.

"I hope somehow I have helped," Disher said. "If I have helped someone with a deed or a song, if I have helped someone as I came along, then my living would not have been in vain."

Helping people is what Disher says being a doctor is all about.

"Medicine has changed quite a bit," he said." I don't think money was as important when I got into medicine. They treated folk and did not worry too much about whether they got paid."

And then there are the rules and regulations.

"Medicine is about the only profession where the government tells you what you can charge and when you can charge," he said.

Disher was on the hospital's Medical Executive Committee in 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1989. He served as the medical staff's secretary in 1975 and chief of staff in 1988.

Currently, Disher is the director of student health at Claflin University.

Disher received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from South Carolina State College in 1955 and went on to receive his medical degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn.

He has established the Spencer C. Disher Jr., M.D. Endowed Scholarship to enable students from South Carolina to pursue their dream of studying for a medical, dental or doctorate degree in the biomedical sciences at Meharry Medical College.

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