by Tom Speed
Dr. Ed Hill (BS 61, MD 64) is probably best known for his nightly news segments “60 Second Housecall” on WTVA in Tupelo. But while that role is perhaps the most public component of his work, his career has literally taken him across the globe in his ongoing efforts to improve health and health education.
Since 2006, Hill has been chairman of the World Medical Association, an organization that represents health care professionals in 97 countries throughout the world. The total number of physicians represented by the group exceeds 10 million. In his capacity as chairman, he has traveled extensively and experienced first-hand the challenges facing global health.
“The biggest challenge we face is the inadequate work force in health care,” Hill said. “There are so many very poor countries throughout the world—in sub-Saharan Africa, some of the Asian countries and some in South America—where they are just in dire need of healthcare and a medical workforce. It’s the number one issue in the world today.”
The WMA works to address those issues, but another major element of its mission is to advance medical ethics worldwide, and to set a standard for things like human research. “We have 25 declarations covering everything from research to torture to prison care and abuse of women and children,” he said.
A third goal involves health and medicine initiatives worldwide. “We have smoking cessation projects in countries where smoking is much worse than it is in this country,” he said. “We have a multi-drug resistance tuberculosis project going on in countries where TB is a big problem.”
Here at home, Hill feels like he provides a great community service with his nightly “housecall.” Whereas his global work focuses on weightier topics that involve geo-political and economic factors of a large magnitude, here Hill says his best tool is simply education.
Each weekday at the noon and 10 p.m. news broadcasts, Dr. Hill educates the viewing public about a variety of health topics in his brief and informative segments. For each segment, he consults with specialists to make sure they are in agreement with his advice. Then he works with the TV producers to get the timing down so that it is indeed, 60 seconds. “We get it pretty close,” he said. “Within a second or two.”
Hill says the topics are drawn from various medical professionals of different specialties as well as viewer suggestions. “We had someone call just the other day and ask us to do something on the effects of caffeine, so we’ll do that,” he said.
The topics of his “housecalls” are also often tied to the season. “Around Halloween we talk about safety because more children are killed on Halloween night than on any other day of the year in the US due to children running in front of cars,” he said. Warnings about house fires and flu prevention are common during winter months, and allergy topics in the spring, for instance.
Hill started his career as a family practitioner in Hollandale before moving to Tupelo to help found the family medicine residency teaching program at North Mississippi Medical Center in 1995. He served as director of that program for eight years before being called on to lead the American Medical Association, then the World Medical Association. Now, with his WMO term expiring in April, he’s back in his previous role as interim director while the Medical Center seeks a new full-time director.
Now, as then, his goal is education first. “Our goal is to populate our state with physicians since we have one of the lowest physician to population ratios in the country,” he said. “I’m pleased that about 80 percent of our graduates stay not only in Mississippi but in our market area in north Mississippi.”
Throughout his illustrious career, the one touchstone of his practice has always been education. As a doctor, a TV personality, an educator and an administrator, health education has driven him, and continues to do so.
“My passion has been childhood health education,” he said. “We’re making real progress in this state. Knowledge doesn’t change behavior but habit does, and habits are built before kids are nine years old. We can solve our health issues, but it will take a long time and a lot of commitment.”
Ed Hill is a lifetime member of the Ole Miss Alumni Association.
Ed, Ole Miss thanks you.