Pediatrician to celebrate 30 years of
practice in Fulton

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2006 Healthcare Hero
Dr. James Campbell

Thomas Benjamin was 11 years old when he was struck in the head by a puck that had deflected into the stands at a SUNY Oswego hockey game. After being seen in the emergency room at Oswego Hospital, Thomas was sent home with what was thought to be a minor concussion. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Thomas' parents — Patricia and the late Richard — were unsatisfied with the diagnosis, and consulted with James Campbell, a pediatrician in Fulton. Campbell asked Thomas' parents to meet him at University Hospital in Syracuse on his day off. Campbell later helped diagnose Thomas with a fractured skull, bone chips in the brain and possible blood clots.

He was rushed into surgery, which was successful.

Campbell continued to follow up on Thomas throughout the years.

"The surgery left an arched scar on my forehead. However, this is minor in comparison to what I may have suffered had Dr. Campbell not intervened," Thomas wrote while nominating Campbell for a "Healthcare Hero" award. "For his keen perception and attentive concern, I owe my life to Dr. Campbell. Without his help, I might not be here to write this letter today," Thomas said.

"I like to keep close tabs on people," Campbell said while reflecting on the Benjamin episode. "I'm more inclined to follow up. You're more or less always on call when you're a doctor," he said in regard to his availability during the Benjamin ordeal.

Campbell is not only familiar with sports-related injuries, he is an expert in the field. Campbell entered the sports medicine arena when that specialty was in its infancy. He became a member of the American College of Sports Medicine in 1978. He was an Olympic-qualified physician throughout the 1980s, and was responsible for world class performers such as gymnast Mary Lou Retton, known for her exceptional gold medal performance in 1984. He also worked with performers for the U.S. luge and bobsled teams.

He is still currently a member of the United States Gymnastics Federation, the Lake Placid Sports Medicine Society, the United States Sports Acrobatics Federation and the United States Olympic Sports Medicine Society.

Campbell hasn't traveled with the Olympic squads for a while, but still acts in a consulting role for non-surgical and non-orthopedic issues. His advice mainly centers on managing injuries and post-operative training measures.

Campbell, who operates a private practice in Fulton, specializes in pediatrics and young adult medicine and attends to patients up to 25 years of age. When he first came into the practice 30 years ago, most pediatricians attended to children up to 12 years of age. Campbell decided to broaden that age range, seeing patients through their high school years. He saw a niche, however, in treatment for those young people who go onto college and continue into adult life with no retained healthcare provider.

Campbell said young people are a fairly healthy group, with most problems being associated with developmental and emotional issues as opposed to illness. Real health needs, however, arise through injuries sustained in sports and recreational activities as well as driving, he said.

Why did Campbell choose pediatrics as a specialty? "There's a certain informality about it that is fun," he said. "Kids are fresh and honest, and are more spontaneous," Campbell noted. "A pediatrician has to make more adaptations. I also enjoy the funny things they come out with.

Campbell also has the pleasure of watching young people grow and develop, and is now taking care of the children of patients he had years ago. He said caring for members of the same family over the long term has its advantages. "It's a lot easier to get to the nitty-gritty because you know a lot about the circumstances and what to expect," he said. "I just enjoy it and I think the kids can sense that. The first person I greet in the waiting room is the child.

Communicating with children is always a challenge, Campbell noted. "The more information you can get from a child, the more you are able to work comfortably with them," he said.

Campbell said he has always had a knack for adapting to different and challenging circumstances. Before medical school, he spent time overseas and traveled to countries such as Greece and France. He was able to learn languages enough to achieve a conversational level, and prides himself on this ability to adapt to a different mode of communication. "I've always had an objective to learn.

Campbell was born in 1945 in Rochester. He attended medical school at SUNY Health Sciences Center in Syracuse and became licensed to practice in New York state in 1974. Campbell became a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1980. He has been widely published and became heavily involved in a study that linked phonetic reading failure with attention deficit disorder.

In the mid-1980s, he was also instrumental in defusing the myth that young people cannot experience disc problems along their spinal columns. This was made even more difficult as CT scanners were in their introductory phases. He corresponded with world-renowned orthopedic surgeon Robert Salter in Toronto to help identify a disc problem with a 12-year-old child. The child was later operated on in Canada and is now a chiropractor in Central New York.

Nature and science commanded the most attention by Campbell when growing up as a youth, and he grew particularly fond of biology. He enjoys continuing to learn, and approaches all patient encounters as a learning experience.

Campbell noticed that children come up with creative ways to deal with illnesses or disabilities. "There's more positive attitudes about what can be done," he said.

This summer will mark Campbell's 30th year of practice in Fulton. He has been a longtime associate of Dr. Stuart Trust. Although they run separate practices in the same location on South First Street, they are virtually inseparable from a personal and professional standpoint.
"We have one of the most durable partnerships in the county," Campbell said. The key to the relationship has been "mutual professional respect" and being "devoted to the practice," Campbell said. "We work well together and this crosses over to the personal level."

Campbell, a Minetto resident, is single with two adopted children: Brent, 40, who resides in Albany; and Todd, 37, who lives in Las Vegas. He enjoys reading and writing, particularly political and philosophical commentary. Campbell also enjoys playing the piano.