Coleman named to Hall of Fame

Published 3:53 pm Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dr. Bill Coleman, right, receives his certificate from Hall of Fame committee member, Dr. Neil Christopher.

A Jemison native was inducted into the Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame in July.

William H. “Bill” Coleman, M.D., Ph.D., of Scottsboro, was named to the prestigious group after dedicating almost 40 years to improving healthcare in rural Alabama.

Coleman retired from private practice in family medicine seven years ago and is currently a faculty member at the UAB School of Medicine Huntsville campus, where he is director of the Office for Family Health, Education and Research.

“It kind of snuck up on me,” Coleman said of the Hall of Fame. “I am extremely humbled and extremely honored to be included in this group of people. God has certainly blessed me.”

Coleman was born in Birmingham in 1940 and was raised on a 47-acre farm in northern Chilton County.

He graduated from Jemison High School in 1958 and enrolled at the University of Montevallo, then Alabama College, as the first member of his family to attend college.

“I didn’t set out to be a doctor,” Coleman said. “My upbringing was rural. My first job was picking strawberries in Jemison, Alabama.”

Coleman graduated from the University of Montevallo with a bachelor’s degree in biology with intentions to teach, but the more time he spent in school, the more he felt his true calling was in practicing medicine.

After he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in anatomy from the University of Alabama Medical College, Coleman pursued a medical degree at the UAB School of Medicine and completed his family practice residency at the University of Alabama at Huntsville School of Primary Care in 1977.

“After my residency, I just realized that the need was so great in rural Alabama, that that’s where I needed to be,” he said. “I realized I really had a love for taking care of people.”

From the strawberry field to the medical field, Coleman has used his rural upbringing as a foundation for helping provide healthcare to citizens in rural areas, as well as mentoring pre-medical and medical students with rural backgrounds who are interested in practicing family medicine with that mindset.

“I love working with the pre-medical students and the medical students,” Coleman said. “It’s great to see those young people mature and develop into young physicians. Many of them do go back to their hometowns.”

In 1984, Coleman served as president of the Alabama Academy of Family Physicians, and 10 years later, he became president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. He is also on the Alabama Rural Health Association Board of Directors.

Coleman retired from his private practice in Scottsboro after 28 years of seeing patients. He and his wife, Johnnie, have a daughter, Sharon Sue Royal, and a son, William Hardin Coleman, Jr.

“One of the joys of my life is that my son took my practice,” he said.

In his spare time, Coleman enjoys traveling, reading and gardening. At age 72, he said he still has a lot of energy.

“I haven’t slowed down yet,” he said. “My goal is to do everything I can do as an individual to help with rural healthcare and having family physicians in rural areas to give everybody in Alabama a family doctor. If that happens, I will have accomplished my goal for the rest of my life.”