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Dr. Blair E. Batson was the first chairman of pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in Jackson and served in that role from 1955-1989. He is often referred to as the grandfather of pediatrics in Mississippi.
Batson grew up in Pearl River County in the sawmill town of Orvisburg, where his grandfather, Ran Batson, owned the mill and his grandmother, Mary Bryan, was principal of the three-room, eight-grade school. For three years of his childhood, at the start of the Great Depression, Batson's family lived in West Point, Mississippi, where the local librarian, Miss Lucy Heard, cultivated his life-long love of books and learning.
He earned the MD and BA from Vanderbilt University and completed a residency in pediatrics at Vanderbilt. While an undergraduate at Vanderbilt, he was president of the Student Council and of his fraternity, Sigma Chi. He served as chief resident at Vanderbilt from 1949-50 and had a faculty appointment there from 1949-1952.
He completed a one-year residency at Johns Hopkins and was on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine from 1952-1955. He also held a master of public health from Johns Hopkins University.
He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1946-1948 in Giessen, Germany as ward officer for contagious diseases and pediatrics for the 388th Station Hospital.
At 34, he was named chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at UMC just two months after the Medical Center opened its doors to patients in 1955. He officially retired in 1989 although he still taught for years afterward. During his long career, he taught more than 3,500 medical students and 240 pediatric residents.
Batson was honored often for his contributions to the health of children in Mississippi. In 1986, the American Academy of Pediatrics presented him with the Clifford G. Grulee award. He was recipient of the 2000 Humanitarian of the Year tribute from the Epilepsy Foundation of Mississippi. In 1996, he was Vanderbilt's Distinguished School of Medicine Alumnus of the Year. In 1995, he was inducted into the University of Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame. He received awards for outstanding service from the March of Dimes, the National Easter Seal Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, District VII, and an award for leadership and devotion to child health care from the Mississippi Academy of Pediatrics.
He was an examiner for the American Board of Pediatrics from 1963 until 1990, a member of the executive board of the American Academy of Pediatrics from 1974 to 1980, elected a Fellow of the American Public Health Association in 1969, a member of the American Pediatric Society and president of the pediatric section of the Southern Medical Association.
In 1997, the state's only children's hospital was named the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in recognition of Batson's lifetime contributions to the health of children in Mississippi.
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