OConnor and Langston Retire from Hospital
Posted on Friday, January 11th, 2013
Caption: Ann Langston, center, celebrates with Dr. J.T. O’Connor, Jr. and his wife, Karen. Langston and O’Connor retired in December after a combined 77 years at the hospital.
Two notable retirements at the end of 2012 have left a profound legacy on Mercy Health/Love County Hospital, Clinic, and EMS.
The careers of Dr. J.T. O’Connor, Jr., physician, and Ann Langston, executive assistant, covered almost the entire 40-year history of the hospital, with O’Connor affiliating in 1973 and Langston in 1974.
Such kind people in such key positions for such a long time eventually set the tone for employee and patient relations within the institution, according to their colleagues.
“I never saw either one of them angry,” said Richard Barker, administrator and CEO, who served alongside them both for just about as many years.
“Both brought a calm assuredness to their ability to assess a situation and take action with the other person’s well-being at heart. They were mentors to many. Their thinking was valued and welcomed,” he said.
“It’s sad to lose them at the same time after so many years, but we know them and that they will still be serving with zeal and enthusiasm in the community.”
O’Connors Put Out the ‘Gone Fishin’ Sign
Karen and Tom O’Connor have plans for the camping, kayaking, and family fishing trips they often had to set aside during his 39 years as a physician.
“We’re headed for the Blue River,” Karen O’Connor said at a farewell luncheon at the hospital.
“We’re tent campers,” Tom O’Connor added, “so we thought we should retire while we can still climb into the tent.”
Many family vacations and time with his own children during the first dozen years of his career were interrupted to return to the hospital to deliver babies, he said.
But that helps account for three generations of satisfied patients, about whom, his fellow retiree Langston says, “the way they talk about him, they love him, nothing short of that.”
O’Connor’s medical interests followed the aging of his clients.
“I started out doing a lot of pediatrics and obstetrics and then as time went on and my patient group aged, my interests then changed.”
For the past two years, he confined his practice exclusively to long-term care, treating patients in Lake Country Manor nursing home and other nearby nursing or assisted care facilities.
He expressed deep pride in the hospital.
“It’s kept pace with medicine, technology, and leadership,” he told his colleagues, adding, “I’ve had fun here. My friends are here, by which I mean you and patients. Now I plan to be a patient instead of a provider.”
O’Connor arrived in Marietta in 1973 as a new, 27-year-old physician.
His diminutive size and youthful appearance caused some patients to ask longtime registered nurse Marie Ross, “Who was that little boy?”
“It was the end of my hippie days and my hair was long,” O’Connor explained at his retirement party. “I was just glad they weren’t asking, ‘Who was that little girl?’”
Over the years, O’Connor has been a sought-after mentor in the hospital and a state and national leader within the profession.
For over 30 years, starting from the time Oklahoma’s physician assistant program was launched, physician assistants have rotated through the clinic and hospital under his supervision.
“He’s the reason I’ve been here 30 years,” said Tad Hall, one of those students and now emergency services director.
In appreciation, the Oklahoma Academy of Physician Assistants honored O’Connor in 2009 as their “Physician of the Year.”
In the past decade, O’Connor served a 5-year term on the Oklahoma State Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators, including three years as chairman.
The Board licenses and disciplines more than 800 nursing home administrators.
Govenor Brad Henry also appointed O’Connor to state committees charged with establishing quality standards for medical direction and pain management in long-term care.
Nationally, he was a Fellow of the American Osteopathic College of Occupational and Preventive Medicine.
He served on the college’s board of directors and edited its web site and newsletter.
Locally, O’Connor served as medical director of the hospital, the Health Department, the nursing home, and the EMS, and was a consulting physician to Mental Health Services of Southern Oklahoma.
He volunteered at Good Shepherd, a charitable clinic in Ardmore, and served on the Board of the American Red Cross.
As a licensed ham radio operator, he helped establish emergency telecommunications that will keep the EMS in contact with the emergency room if conventional shortwave radio or telephone communications go down.
In addition to his D.O. degree from Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1972, O’Connor earned a master of health from OUs College of Public Health in 1992.
The department named him its outstanding student.
Karen O’Connor, whom he met and married in college, taught school to help pay for his medical studies.
The couple has a daughter Jennifer Burk, Frisco, TX, and two sons, Brian O’Connor, Marietta, and Kyle O’Connor, Oklahoma City; and two grandsons, Devin O’Connor, 15, and Logan O’Connor, 12, the sons of Brian and Cynthia O’Connor.
Langston Devoted to Hospital Duties
At Ann Langston’s retirement reception, longtime coworkers described deep friendships with her.
“She’s always there,” said Connie Graham, business office director. “We’ve laughed, cried, fussed and cussed, we’re closer than friends.”
“She’s meant a whole lot to me. We go back a long ways,” said Marie Ross, director of nursing, before tears, speaking for themselves, brought further conversation to a standstill.
“Ann trained me on the switchboard when I came here,” said Connie Barker, clinic director.
“Her support for new employees knows no bounds. She has mentored several generations of us. Her open door policy and easy manner put everyone at ease.
“She was matron of honor at my wedding, my good friend.”
“We laughed at work, away from work, we’ve gone through so many changes, we could write a book,” said Linda Dixon, health information manager, and, along with Dr. Virgil Smith, the only current employees who were already around when Langston started on the switchboard in 1974.
“We will miss her. She always made things easier. She could handle any situation and make it better,” Smith said.
By 1976 Langston had been promoted to executive assistant to the administrator, and she served three of them: Walter Lake, Jerry Cole, and, for the past 20 years, Richard Barker.
Never overstaffed, the hospital relegated to Langston alone just about every administrative requirement outside of fulltime finance.
She’s been liaison to the Board of Control and the Love County Health Center Foundation for purposes of agendas and recordkeeping, and she handled insurance and licensing issues for the boards and physicians. She was check clerk for various non-profit entities affiliated with the Foundation, and she handled the ambulance billing.
As assistant to the hospital administrator, she helped with correspondence and appointments, and kept up with statutory filings and reports.
For years, she took on-call duties at night and weekends, frequently returning to the hospital to sign off on an administrative need.
The hospital was never far from her mind, even when the family vacationed.
“My dad stopped the car so she could call work and see if everything was OK,” her daughter, Shannon Scoggins recalled.
“I may be retired but part of my heart will stay here,” said Langston, who, not surprisingly, cited “interaction with coworkers” as the best part of her job.
Ann Fuller started life in Buffalo but graduated from high school at Thackerville.
She married Dutch Langston in 1964. They farmed and raised cattle, and he spent 20 years at Michelin.
In addition to their daughter, they have a son, Jeff Langston of Marietta, and six grand- and step-grand children, Dylan Scoggins, Newt Langston, Call Langston, Shelby Langston, Ryan Rife, and Dusty Rife.
Langston said she will be reading more novels and histories. A lifelong crocheter, she plans to learn to make quilt tops, as well.
Dutch said he had bought her a hoe and a lawnmower, but he must not have heard her say that her plans were to travel with him to scenic areas of the western and northwestern United States.