Finding His Place
The agony of the digestive condition diverticulitis was sending Patrick Davis to the hospital several times a year. Though he was fearful of undergoing corrective surgery, he was no longer willing to put it off.
They call him a friend.
Sandra Botsford needed emergency surgery for a blocked bowel. Her body racked with pain so badly that she recalls being barely able to speak.
Connie Herbers had suffered three years with gastroparesis, a condition where paralyzed stomach muscles and the misery of constant, painful nausea forced her to spend most of her time lying on her side so her stomach would empty into her intestines.
Three people with very serious conditions who have one thing in common: James R. Scott, DO, a surgeon at The Nebraska Medical Center.
Growing up in Wichita, Kan., Jim Scott thought about being many things. Becoming a surgeon wasn’t one of them.
His father, Louis, had earned a degree in psychology and then sold insurance in New York before moving to Wichita where he bought a restaurant named, ironically, Doc’s Steakhouse.
“My mother, Lucy, worked in the restaurant as a hostess,” Dr. Scott recalls. “My dad managed the place. It’s known for its ‘garlic salad,’ a specialty that still draws people in.”
After graduating from high school in 1985, he wasn’t sure college was right for him. “I thought about being an electrician,” he says. “I had horrible grades in high school. I was interested in sports, friends and girls. But I really liked gym class. My P.E. teachers and coaches had a big influence on me even going to college.”
Starting as a physical education major, he switched to business, then to anthropology. After changing colleges and his mind several times, he left school and was working at a lumberyard and as a bartender in the family restaurant when his girlfriend became pregnant.
“We were on food stamps living in a mobile home,” he recalls. “I knew I had to do something. I was still taking some classes part time and I started doing way better. I put more effort into it, and I started becoming responsible.”
That’s when he made another decision.
“I realized being an anthropologist probably wasn’t realistic considering the job market,” he says. “So I switched to pre-med.”
Returning to school full time, he continued working two jobs to pay for his studies. He also started delivering the college newspaper. In 1992, he graduated cum laude from Wichita State University in Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in general studies.
That difference makes Dr. Scott special, Botsford says.
“He listens,” she says, “and he understands.”
He enrolled in the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Des Moines University in Iowa, where he earned his doctor of osteopathy degree in 1996. He returned to Wichita for an internship at the Riverside Health System, then moved to Stratford, N.J., for his general surgery residency at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
“Everyone has a story of ascension,” Dr. Scott says. “I don’t think mine is so great. But whenever I feel like complaining now, I remind myself that this is so far from a mobile home in Wichita, Kansas.”
He left Wichita but stayed in close contact with his daughter, Brandi. “When she was 6 and 7, we stayed super close,” he says. “Even when I was in Des Moines, I was able to get back to Kansas and see her. But when I left for surgical residency in New Jersey, she was 13 or 14 and it was hard to get her to come there and visit. She was too busy being a teenager.”
Now 24, Brandi studies nursing at Clarkson College in Omaha.
While serving as a resident in New Jersey, Dr. Scott met an intern named Judith Dosch. They dated and were married in 2002, the same year he accepted a position as general surgeon at The Nebraska Medical Center.
Judi Scott, MD, completed her residency at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and is a board-certified OB-GYN physician in Omaha. They have two children, Zachary, 9, and Ashley, 6. As a family, they like to swim at their home and ride bikes along the trails in west Omaha.
The Scotts have become fond of the city — despite what friends back in New Jersey had said. “They’d come up to me and ask, ‘How can you possibly be a surgeon in Nebraska?’” he recalls. “They honestly think Nebraska is a great big pile of cow manure in the middle of nowhere. They are so wrong.
“It’s a wonderful place to raise a family and to practice medicine. There is such a push here (The Nebraska Medical Center) to advance and improve. Patients already get fantastic care, but it’s a tribute to our administrators that they try to make it a place where people get even better care.”
People like Patrick Davis, Sandra Botsford and Connie Herbers.
After years of enduring gastroparesis, Herbers was referred to Dr. Scott. She had lost 93 pounds and was spending all day lying on her side because the muscles in her stomach could not contract and force its contents into the intestines.
“I couldn’t eat,” she says. “The pain was so bad I couldn’t even stand and pick up my granddaughter when she reached up to me. I couldn’t take it anymore.”
Last November, Dr. Scott implanted a device to stimulate the stomach muscles. “After three years,” Herbers says, “I’m finally able to eat and enjoy any kind of a normal life.”
The 49-year-old says Dr. Scott was “a Godsend.”
“I feel so good that I can lead other people with my condition to Dr. Scott,” she says. “I know he’ll find a way to help them.”
Botsford, 71, says she found comfort in Dr. Scott’s caring personality. “I don’t know how to explain it,” she says. “It was like he was someone I had known for a long time, yet we had never met. He’s that personable.”
Davis says he and Dr. Scott have formed a unique friendship.
“He’s one cool customer,” he says. “I’ve met his family and he’s met mine. We’ve gone to his house to swim. We shoot each other texts every now and then.
“Looking at us, you’d think we were complete opposites. But I think that what he’s been through, how hard he worked to get here, makes him a better person.”
And though he has earned academic and teaching awards, Dr. Scott says the relationships he builds with his patients rank high among the most gratifying aspects of his work.
“Plaques are nice,” he says, “but I’d rather have my patients say, ‘He’s a really great doctor.’ That’s the only award that matters.”
His friends wholeheartedly agree.