Last surviving Forrest General founder, surgeon passes away

Pine Belt

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WHLT) – Richard H. Clark, Jr., MD, a Forrest General surgeon, the last surviving founder of Hattiesburg Clinic and one of the founders of the Southeast Mississippi Air Ambulance District, passed away Sunday, September 5.

In 1963, Clark was one of 10 local physicians and 14 employees who started Hattiesburg Clinic, which would become the state’s largest privately-owned, multi-specialty outpatient medical facility.

Eight years after the founding of the clinic, Clark and a group of men which included Lowrey Woodall, CEO of Forrest General Hospital from 1962-1996, recognized the need for an efficient emergency services system in south Mississippi, especially in rural areas. In 1970, using a test program implemented by the Department of Transportation, which studied the impact of using helicopters to transport critically injured patients from rural areas to the closest major hospital, the men formed the Southeast Mississippi Air Ambulance District (SEMAAD).

Clark, who served as president of the board when the service started in 1971, served the organization for the next 25 years as off-line medical director. He was honored when his initials, RC, were placed in front of the identifying numbers on the helicopter.

Clark, who had a particular interest in thoracic and vascular surgery, joined Forrest General’s medical staff in 1961. In 2009, he was inducted into the Forrest General Healthcare Foundation Doctors Hall of Fame.

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