NEWBERRY — Lisa Heichberger finally broke her “non-attendance” record to Newberry County Memorial Hospital’s Doctor’s Day Soiree, just to be presented with the title Doctor of the Year on March 27.
“Every time, every year, something would always happen to me on my way to the event,” Heichberger said. “So, after five years of this, I finally gave up and always RSVP’d no.”
Heichberger works for Lovelace Family Medicine in Prosperity. When Oscar Lovelace, Heichberger’s colleague, learned of her being awarded, he enlisted the aid of a nurse to be sure she was in attendance this year.
Unfortunately, this was not an easy task. One of Heichberger’s daughters, Grace, was being recognized that night at an event held at Spring Hill High School.
“I just assumed that was why I wasn’t supposed to go yet again,” Heichberger said.
What happened next, Heichberger said was very non-characteristic of Lovelace.
“Oscar called me and said ‘You have to go, Mark (husband) can take Grace’ and then he hung up the phone.”
That’s when she said she knew something was off. Because she said she does not handle public speaking very well, Heichberger said it was good that she had a little bit of preface to the event.
The Doctor of the Year is chosen by the employees of the hospital, according to Brenda Williams, director of marketing for NCMH.
Williams said the employees take a survey online, listing the physicians they’d like to see win the award. Heichberger was favored by many of the employees, Williams said.
From about the age of 10, Heichberger said she thought she wanted to be a doctor. Growing up in a town a little bigger Prosperity, Heichberger lived in Gowanda, N.Y.
One of the first reasons Heichberger said she began thinking about medicine as a career was because of her experiences with a family doctor, who was the orthopedic surgeon she had seen since the age of 5.
As she was completing medical school at the University of Buffalo, Heichberger said she also considered a career in radiation or orthopedics.
“I didn’t really have the upper body strength for orthopedics,” she said.
It was a rotation she completed with a physician of her parents’ that helped her to consider going into family medicine.
“He did a little bit of everything,” she said. “I found that I liked that sort of thing.”
Heichberger also completed another rotation with a family physician in the Amish Country. The minor surgeries and constant change from patient to patient was something she said she really enjoyed.
Moving to Newberry
Heichberger completed her residency in Erie, Penn., where she met William “Chip” Dixon. Dixon was a year ahead of Heichberger in school. At this time, she said working in South Carolina was not even on her radar.
Dixon had attended the University of Virginia, where he met Lovelace who was there completing his residency.
After opening his practice, Lovelace gave Dixon a call to extend an invitation to join him in Prosperity. By this time, Dixon was heading for a job in Texas, but gave Heichberger’s information to Lovelace instead.
When Heichberger received a call from Lovelace, she believed it to be a joke.
“I thought someone was playing a trick on me,” Heichberger said. “He (Lovelace) left this thick Southern accent on my answering machine.”
In February 2002, Heichberger came to visit the area. “We hit it off and made the decision to come back here later that July,” she said.
Heichberger describes every day at her job as different, but that’s just what makes it right for her.
Seeing a patient gain control of their health, and grasping that is what she said makes her job the most rewarding.
“The joy they have from succeeding and getting themselves on track is great,” Heichberger said.
This August marks Heichberger’s 12 year anniversary with the family practice.
Together, Heichberger and her husband Mark have two children, Grace and Eliana. Grace is 10 years old, while Eliana is 7.
Grace was born here in the United States, while Eliana was born in China. Both of the girls were adopted by the Heichbergers.