A ‘rewarding career’: Longtime Mitchell physician Theresa Campbell retires after decades in medicine – Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL – Theresa Campbell faced many challenges on her path to becoming a doctor.

But thanks to a few, whom he calls his “angels,” the longtime Mitchell physician overcame the obstacles and enjoyed an illustrious career spanning nearly three decades.

After more than 30 years in the medical field, Campbell is hanging up the white coat and entering the next chapter of his life: retirement.

“I don’t know how I would have gotten through this without my angels. I loved what I did, but I’m ready to retire and spend more time with my grandchildren,” Campbell said.

Reflecting back on his career, the longtime Avera physician cites his relationships with his patients and colleagues as “one of the most rewarding experiences” he’s had over the years.

When Campbell entered the medical field in the early 1990s, female doctors were somewhat uncommon, she said. But that didn’t stop him from pursuing his dream of becoming a doctor.

After opening her own practice in Mitchell nearly two decades ago, Campbell was one of only a handful of female doctors in the Mitchell area. While she recalls encountering subtle signs from others who were less than inviting on her journey as a doctor, Campbell breaks down barriers to show that female doctors are here to stay.

“I remember some of the looks and comments being made by my doctor. It wasn’t easy for some people to doubt your ability because of your gender, but I found that some patients preferred a woman for different reasons,” Campbell said.

The recent promotion of Hilary Rockwell, tabbed as CEO of Avera Queen of Peace, was a proud moment for Campbell. She said Rockwell’s promotion is a sign of continued progress for women in the medical field. And that progress was advanced by Campbell and some of her longtime colleagues, women.

U.S. Sen. John Thune spoke Friday with Dr. Theresa Campbell at the Avara Family Health Center, which was completed nearly a year ago.  (Sara Barts/Republic)

In a file photo, Dr. Theresa Campbell speaks with U.S. Sen. John Thune at the Avera Family Health Center.

Republic file photo

Campbell’s ability to overcome life’s challenges on his way to becoming a doctor was a trait he inherited from his late mother, Patricia Campbell.

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After all, his mother survived the horrors of World War II and managed to escape her London home after it was leveled during the Nazi-led Blitzkrieg campaign in the late 1930s. Patricia’s daring journey to America as a young teenager inspired Theresa to follow her dreams no matter what the obstacles.

“She was a fighter. I learned a lot through her, and she was always there to support me,” Campbell said of her mother, who died in November at age 94.

When Campbell was in the middle of medical school at the University of South Dakota, she was raising her first child as a single mother and maintaining good grades. During his schooling and residency, the first angels came into his life, credited with playing a major role in helping him become a physician.

While she was completing her residency, Campbell met her future husband, Chris Lippert—who is now director of the operating room at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital. Lippert took a huge responsibility off Campbell’s shoulders, giving him more time to focus on his studies.

“He did everything. After we got married, he did all the cooking, cleaning and taking care of the kids when I wasn’t still in residency,” Campbell said of her husband. “I used to get up at 6 am every day and study for an hour. Then I would wake my son up and take him to daycare until my friend volunteered to pick him up.”

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Lippert was in the process of becoming a nurse when the two began dating. The couple bonded over their passion for the medical field. Little did they know, years later, they would go to work for the same healthcare system as Mitchell.

Coming from humble beginnings, Campbell was determined to become the first doctor in his family.

Before meeting Lippert, Campbell’s residency role in Sioux Falls was made possible by a friend who let her stay in a house near Colton, whom she described as another archangel.

After completing his residency, Campbell decided to open his own practice in Mitchell, which he said brought its own unique challenges.

“We have to sit down every month and figure out what we need to charge for insurance and what staffing we need. Working on the business side started to burn me out,” Campbell said.

As he became more eager to change, Avera Health came knocking. Campbell jumped at the opportunity to practice family medicine with Avera Health Care System.

As the medical field has developed and implemented new technologies such as telemedicine, Campbell has adapted. Campbell said some of the new technology provided a comprehensive medical history of each patient, which was an important advance in the field.

“When I first started, everything was still handwritten or typed. We would use a dictaphone and have someone type everything. The great thing about the changes is you can look at their charts and see what medications they took, what tests were done and what physicians they saw,” Campbell said. “Technology was constantly changing.”

Just when Campbell thought he had seen it all, the pandemic hit in 2020.

Caring for patients amid COVID-19 was difficult in itself, but Campbell said the fact that “people don’t believe the severity of the virus” stood out as the most challenging part of navigating through it.

The severity of the epidemic hit close to home for Campbell, as the deadly respiratory virus killed his brother at its peak.

“The hardest part was the severity of it, and a lot of patients dying and some people not believing it. It’s been really, really hard and frustrating,” she said of battling the pandemic. “I’ve had some people tell me it’s all fake.”

What were supposed to be in-person visits and checkups with his patients suddenly became virtual using telemedicine technology amid the pandemic. Like many in the community, Mitchell was hit hard and forced older doctors like Lucio Margallo and Campbell to virtually quit the practice at one point.

“The only patients we were seeing in person were emergency cases or emergency-related things. I was seeing about one to two people daily during COVID-19 in person and the rest via telemedicine,” he said.

Despite the difficult times brought on by the pandemic, Campbell said he “wouldn’t change a thing” about his decision to become a doctor in a community he loves.

“It’s been a blessing,” Campbell said of his medical career.


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