By Jeffrey Hyatt
It’s an age-old expression “Is there a doctor in the house?” The Nesmith family relates all too well.
For five generations there has been a medical professional in the Nesmith family—physicians, medics and nurses make up a unique legacy, one that is quite remarkable in its longevity.
Literally born into the medical profession, Dr. Richard Nesmith is a well-respected physician specializing in plastic and reconstructive surgery. His Nesmith Plastic Surgery Center has served the Gainesville community for 20-plus years.
Joining Dr. Nesmith on the family tree of medicine are his father, Dr. Marsh Arthur Nesmith – a now-retired Gainesville heart surgeon; his three sisters—two who are nurses, and the other a radiology technician; grandfather, Marsh Nesmith – a former U.S. Army medic who served in Germany during World War I.
Add in great-great grandfather Samuel Nesmith, a corpsman for the confederacy during the Civil War, and the concept of a “family business” is difficult to overlook.
A graduate of the University of Florida, Dr. Nesmith recalled that there was never any pressure from his father to become a doctor. But he said he always admired what his father did for a living—even in earlier days when his thoughts of possibly becoming a doctor were fleeting.
“When I started college I had no idea I wanted to go into medicine—because I saw how hard he worked,” Dr. Nesmith said of his father, with a chuckle. “In fact, I had a couple of different majors in college and actually went to dental school before I went to medical school.”
The admiration would soon develop into a special appreciation for his father’s work, a very personal insight that would benefit Dr. Nesmith as he began shaping his own career in medicine.
Now, with his own practice thriving, Dr. Nesmith continues to draw upon the lessons learned by following his father’s example.
“I have always tried my best to treat people like my dad treated people,” he said. “He always tried to do the right thing, and I assume that’s where I got that from—so just watching him, how he dealt with nurses, support staff and patients… I think I learned a lot.”
The latest addition to the family legacy is Dr. Brad Nesmith, Dr. Richard Nesmith’s son, who begins a plastic surgery fellowship this summer at Shands hospital.
Just as his father did – or in this case, did not do – before him, Dr. Nesmith chose not to guide his son into medicine, or any field for that matter. With the healthcare industry undergoing vast changes, combined with a variety of new career options, it is still somewhat remarkable Dr. Nesmith’s son eventually found himself aspiring to become a doctor.
“I am pleased and honored he decided on this career path,” Dr. Nesmith said, “but I never pressured him. I never pressured any of my children to go in any specific direction.”
For any number of reasons, particularly the fast transformation affecting the medical industry today, it’s not likely we’ll see as many multigenerational families of medical professionals like the Nesmiths again.
Dr. Nesmith puts it rather succinctly: “The practice of medicine is much different than it used to be.”
There’s likely no special wiring in the Nesmith family DNA that magically has produced so many medical professionals for more than 100 years.
But there is a constant that can be found interwoven between generations of the family that might help to explain the why and the how of their distinctive legacy in medicine.
Put simply, they like to help people.