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Dr. Stimpson retires, reflects on 40 years

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 5/30/23

As one of the few small-town primary care physicians left in Shelbyville, Dr. Charles Stimpson is officially retiring this week. Though, he’ll still be around to help for a while.

Through …

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Dr. Stimpson retires, reflects on 40 years


As one of the few small-town primary care physicians left in Shelbyville, Dr. Charles Stimpson is officially retiring this week. Though, he’ll still be around to help for a while.

Through over 40 years of practicing medicine in the area, Dr. Stimpson, who is 70, said he cannot emphasize enough how much he has enjoyed the work he has done.

“Sometimes I wish I was 10 years younger so I could keep working. But I know I need to slow down,” he said.

Working in a small town like Shelbyville has always been Stimpson’s goal since he decided to become a doctor while at college. He was a sophomore at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville learning biomedical engineering on a co-op scholarship from the Arnold Engineering Development Complex.

“I knew I didn’t want to be a lawyer and I didn’t think I wanted to be a dentist. I knew I wanted to work with people and be able to interact with people. And that’s when I decided I wanted to go into family medicine in a small town,” he said. “My dad (Charles Stimpson) wasn’t really happy with me deciding that I wanted to go to medical school because I was going to get an engineering degree and I was going to have a good job. But it worked out.”

Stimpson got accepted — which is arguably the hardest part — into UT-Memphis, where he earned his medical degree, before going on to his rotation in family medicine at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul where he graduated in 1982.

Ahead of him by one year was also his wife, Dr. Carol Magnuson, who received her medical degree from Memphis and her residency internship in pediatrics in St. Paul. She retired in 2018.

After leaving St. Paul, the new doctors moved to a small town in northern Wisconsin. But, after two years and with a growing family on the way, the couple looked south — to warmer weather and small-town life.

After applying across the state, Dr. Stimpson ended up back in Shelbyville, where he was born and raised.

“I didn’t know I was going to end back up in Shelbyville. I didn’t plan that.” 

Through the years, Dr. Stimpson has seen many changes in the medical industry — chiefly, medicine itself.

Interestingly enough, when Dr. Stimpson first began practicing in Wisconsin he asked an older doctor getting ready to retire what he saw as the biggest changes in the field. Remember, this was the early 80s, so the older doctor had begun practicing in the 1950s and knew physicians who were retiring at that time too. Dr. Stimpson said the physician’s answer was “antibiotics.”

“The older physician was ecstatic because he was able to treat patients he couldn’t treat before. Before we had antibiotics, somebody might get pneumonia, they could easily die. If they get a strep infection, they could die. Get a urinary tract infection, they might die. Now, patients came in with infections he used to not be able to treat and now he could treat them. Everybody got better,” Dr. Stimpson said.

“And my answer is something like that. We have so many more good medicines to use now than we did when I started. Most medicine that we use now didn’t exist when I started, for diabetes, elevated cholesterol levels.”

Because of this, Dr. Stimpson said he doesn’t see as many patients with congestive heart failure as he did when he began.

“I have nothing but admiration for the physicians who practiced before we did. I don’t know how they did it,” he said.

But what hasn’t changed for him in the medical industry is his love for patients and working with people.

And part of that adds to why he was known to work well one-on-one with patients. “You have to be realistic about what’s possible and what’s not. I learned really early that you have to tailor the treatment to the patient because patients are different,” he said.  

The family practice physicians are now staying in more heavily-populated areas and they do more supervising than they used to, according to Stimpson. “Medical practice all over the United States has evolved, so it has been very difficult to get doctors to come to small towns.”

Now Stimpson’s office, located at 200 Dover Street, will go under the care of two nurse practitioners, one being Hayley Webster. “I wanted to introduce her to the patients and get the patients comfortable with her. And I think we’ve done that. She’s doing a real good job.”

For now, Stimpson said he plans to travel out west to Wyoming with his wife to visit their son and daughter. “Carol has a list of things she wants to do. She’s been very patient with me as I keep working,” Stimpson said with a laugh.