They work in hospitals nearly 200 miles apart and practice medicine in two different areas of expertise, yet Drs. Nick Dedman and Jack Hamman have one significant thing in common: The word “retirement” doesn’t seem to be in their vocabulary.
Dedman, an internist and chief medical officer of James B. Haggin Memorial Hospital, has spent his entire career of nearly 35 years in his hometown of Harrodsburg. Hamman, a vascular surgeon at Baptist Health Madisonville (formerly Trover Clinic), has been practicing medicine for six decades, all but four of those years in Madisonville.
They are considered stalwarts of their respective communities, saving countless lives while educating future physicians, nurses and technicians. What we discovered in talking with Dedman and Hamman is their modesty about just how vital a role they play in their community.
Dr. Nick Dedman
He goes by many titles—internist, family physician, chief medical officer, chief of staff. However, Dedman, 63, sees himself as one thing: a doctor.
“I’m sort of the jack-of-all-trades, but it’s not because I’m any good,” Dedman said. “It’s because they can’t find anybody else to do it. They just say the oldest guy here has to do it, and I’m the oldest practicing physician now in Mercer County.”
Still, Dedman treats each day in the office and hospital as if it were his first.
“The fire still burns for medicine,” he said. “I’ve always had a passion for medicine. I love seeing patients. I love the hospital I’m standing in right now. I’m still happy as a hound dog doing what I’m doing.”
Dedman’s ancestors have called Harrodsburg home for generations. The city’s famous Beaumont Inn has been in Dedman’s family for five generations. It’s now owned by his identical twin brother, Chuck, and Chuck’s son, Dixon.
Dedman’s wife of 42 years, Elaine, also was born and raised in Mercer County. So there was no question that he would return to Harrodsburg to practice once he completed study at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and finished his residency at the former Louisville General Hospital in July 1982.
“Soon as they said, ‘Son, you can go,’ I loaded up my U-Haul and wife and two kids [Amy and John] and came back to my hometown, and been here ever since,” he said. “I’ve never left Kentucky. No, ma’am, I can’t leave my state. There’s no better people than in Mercer County. You can’t beat them, and I’m not sure anybody else would have me …”
Local banker, lifelong friend and one of Dedman’s many patients Art Freeman said he’s glad Dedman came home.
“I would never brag about him in front of him because I like to give him a hard time, but he’s a great guy,” Freeman said. “I’m probably a little biased, but I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love Nick Dedman.
“I can tell you from experience the hospital staff loves him. He’s been good to the hospital and good to the community, and he’s helped bring other doctors and medical professionals to town.”
Aside from his work at Haggin Hospital, Dedman also runs a walk-in clinic where he consults with primary care physicians as well as still seeing 12-15 patients a day. Over the decades, caring for those patients has changed, mostly for the better.
“When I started, there were about five or six general practitioners here that were my role models,” Dedman said. “And I came back here and, man, I thought I knew something and, well, I found out really quick I didn’t know anything.
“These old-time, rural, country docs were the rocks. They didn’t have the resources that big-time docs had, but these guys were unbelievable. [So] I’ve had a lot of good people that have surrounded me and a lot of good mentors.”
With the growing dominance of insurance and pharmaceutical companies, Dedman admits to seeing changes that have created “pessimism and burnout” among fellow doctors, but he holds to his love of the field.
“If you ask anybody around here: Patients come first, doctors come second, and hospitals come third,” he said. “Then there’s a big blank area, and then way down, you get down to the government and the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies.”
In his time off—when he actually has some—Dedman enjoys a good game of golf. But with Dedman, his game is serious. Just ask Freeman.
“When he [Dedman] was in high school, I took him and his twin brother out to play golf one day, and on the very first hole, that rascal got a hole in one,” Freeman recalled. “I swore I’d never play golf with him again.” He has.
A self-proclaimed bibliophile, Dedman has a basement full of books to satisfy his avid love of reading. He also has picked up a new hobby: playing with his three grandkids.
With plenty to occupy his time outside his career, retirement would seem logical. When he was hit with cancer of the spine four years ago, his friends and family urged him to go ahead and put down the stethoscope. He didn’t. He powered through radiation treatments and is now in remission. And of course, he’s back at work.
“You do what you got to do and keep on truckin’,” he said. “What am I going to do? Sit home? No. I like doing what I’m doing … I enjoy helping the family docs and nurse practitioners figure out what’s going on.
“Every patient is different. Every patient is a puzzle. That’s what makes it so nice. You never know what you’re going to see when you open the door.”
Dr. Jack Hamman
Though he wasn’t born in Kentucky, it didn’t take long for Jack Hamman to call the Bluegrass State his home.
Originally from Jonesboro, Arkansas, Hamman obtained his medical degree from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Medicine in 1957. He then spent the next 11 years at hospitals in Memphis and Roanoke, Virginia, studying and practicing non-cardiac chest surgery and vascular surgery.
“There were not many training programs for that at the time, so you learned OJT [on-the-job training],” he said.
During his early years, a Madisonville group practice known as the Trover Clinic was growing exponentially, attracting physicians from around the country and eventually becoming one of the largest group medical practices in Kentucky.
Hamman’s expertise garnered him an invitation to join the clinic in 1968.
“I wondered whether or not there would be enough work, so I made several trips before I decided to come,” he said. “I worked all night and have been busy ever since. It’s a career that you could have never in your boldest imagination figured that there would be so many opportunities.”
One of those opportunities is to pass on his knowledge gained from his years of experience to future doctors completing their residency in Madisonville and to students obtaining degrees in the medical profession from Madisonville Community College.
Dr. Dan Martin, who helped establish the local educational programs, said students who have had Hamman as an instructor are fortunate.
“I think of him as a wonderful teacher,” Martin said. “The lectures he gives to students and residents and faculty are just wonderful to hear because not only does he take up whatever the topic he’s asked to speak about, but he almost always weaves in some history having to do with that topic.”
Martin said Hamman would never boast, but he considers Hamman a top-notch physician. Apparently, Martin isn’t alone: There’s now a cardiac center named for him adjacent to the hospital—the Jack L. Hamman Heart & Vascular Center.
“He’s such a remarkable person in all the respects that you can think of,” Martin said. “I think of him as a fine surgical technician, and he has a great touch as a surgeon.”
Even though Hamman no longer performs surgeries, he continues to see patients—some of whom have been seeing him for the past 20 years. At 83, retirement isn’t in his future.
“People look forward to retirement for things that please them and entertain them, and sometimes retirement is very disappointing,” Hamman said. “Their activities, after a short while, are no longer pleasing and entertaining.
“This [practicing medicine] pleases me and entertains me, and you feel like you can still make a contribution to some patient care—not enormous—but some patient care and education, and that’s why I keep working.”
While some physicians aspire to lofty, powerful positions in big cities, Hamman considers his smaller-town career an enormous success, giving credit to Martin and others, and not himself.
“There are a lot of things that have touched my career, and I’m just a small part of the big picture,” Hamman said. “It’s been a very rewarding practice all the way through, including even through these latter years.”