Portrait of Dr. Caleb Zumbro
Dr. Caleb Zumbro is a pediatric and internal medicine resident.
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People of the U: Caleb Zumbro

Published on Wednesday, August 5, 2020

By: Ruth Cummins

When you’re a new chemical engineering grad and realize you don’t want to sit in front of a computer all day, you go to medical school.

At least, that was the plan for Dr. Caleb Zumbro, a University of Mississippi Medical Center resident seeking dual certification in internal medicine and pediatrics. He’s about to start his third year of a four-year residency.

“I wanted to do something to help people that was also scientific and involved problem solving,” the native of Bude in Franklin County said. “I wanted to do that for people instead.”

He’s getting plenty of opportunity at the Medical Center after graduating from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine as a two-year participant in the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program. Zumbro recently finished a night rotation and launched into a 6 a.m.-6 p.m. cardiology stint. After that, he will do a rotation in the pediatric Emergency Department.

That experience is helping the Mississippi State University graduate narrow down what he wants his practice to look like.

“There are several specialties that I like, but primary care makes more sense for me,” Zumbro said. “I enjoy pediatric hematology, and I feel like I have a connection to patients at end of life and those with chronic diseases.

“I was on palliative care last month, and that’s the roughest rotation,” he said. “We were having to call families and have difficult conversations. We had to explain how sick the patients were, and give bad news over the phone as opposed to in person, which we would rather do.”

The more rotations he does, Zumbro said, “the more I want to incorporate everything into a primary care practice.”

Zumbro was nominated for the Medical Center’s Front and Center feature by the relative of a patient, who said Zumbro had shown them kindness and empathy during the patient’s recent hospitalization.  When the patient had a problem with a medication after his evening discharge, Zumbro picked up his prescriptions at the pharmacy and brought them to his house during stormy weather, then gave him instructions on how to administer them.

Portrait of Dr. Zeb Henson

“One of the things that’s most impressive about Caleb is how well he connects with his patients and their families,” said Dr. Zeb Henson, associate professor of medicine and program director of the combined internal medicine/pediatrics residency program.

“Whether they’re geriatric age or a toddler, Caleb just has that ability to find something to talk to them about that makes patients and families know he’s interested in them as people.  He reminds me of that quintessential town doctor that knows everybody’s health history, but also knows their life stories.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for many UMMC caregivers, including Zumbro. “I’ve taken care of a few COVID patients myself,” he said. “It’s a lot more emotionally exhausting. It can be hard to coordinate getting patients home when you don’t have their family members at the hospital.”

The pandemic didn’t play a central role in Zumbro’s recent marriage, but tying the knot as the virus swept into Mississippi will always be memorable.

He and his wife, Bonnie Sessions, “had a planned elopement,” Zumbro said. “We got married on March 14. It was Pi Day. My wife is a math teacher at Hinds Community College, and we are both math nerds.”

They said their vows at MSU’s Chapel of Memories. “We showed up and hoped nobody had the chapel reserved,” Zumbro said. “We had a couple of close friends as witnesses, and my wife’s priest from college married us.”

Zumbro and his new wife, Bonnie Sessions, pose outside of the Chapel of Memories at Mississippi State University.
Zumbro and his new wife, Bonnie Sessions, pose outside of the Chapel of Memories at Mississippi State University.

Pi Day is named for the mathematical constant of Pi, or 3.14159. The most serious math geeks celebrate the day at exactly at 1:59 p.m. or a.m. That encompasses 3.14, the month and date, and 159, the rest of the first six numbers. The next two numbers are 26.

 “We said ‘I do’ at 1:59 p.m.,” Zumbro said. “We made sure we finished the Lord’s Prayer in 26 seconds.”

Their post-ceremony plans were derailed by the virus, though. “We were going to go to a MSU baseball game afterward and take pictures, but it was canceled,” Zumbro said.

When he’s not working, Zumbro enjoys gardening at his Fondren home. “We have corn and squash and watermelon. We’ve got flowers, butterflies and hummingbirds,” he said.

Post-residency, he won’t be practicing in the metro. “I’m not made for city life,” he said.

“I want to be a small-town country doctor who does everything and anything,” Zumbro said. “I want to work with a 20- to 25-bed hospital and nursing homes. I want to work high school football games and do sports medicine.

“I like the slow pace of Mississippi. I feel like I should give back to the community and the state where I grew up.”

“Most people don’t know it, but he’s really a renaissance man,” Henson said. “There are some people who can just fit in and contribute to any conversation, and Caleb’s one of those people.  It’s been amazing to watch him grow from a student to a resident and know he’s the type of doctor UMMC should be proud to train.” 

Every institution is rich with personal stories. We want to know ours.

Do you know a student, staff, volunteer or faculty member at the University of Mississippi Medical Center whose story would make an interesting feature or deserves to be recognized?

Know someone who you think more people should know about because of his or her commitment to his or her job and/or the people he or she works with or for? Who has a fascinating hobby? Who participates in a remarkable group? Who has accomplished something amazing?

We want to learn more about each individual who makes up our extraordinary UMMC Family, and we want to share what makes each person unique and special in the Front and Center section of our dynamic new UMMC Intranet.

To nominate someone to be considered for a Front and Center feature, just complete and submit this short form. If that person is picked for a feature, a member of the Communications and Marketing staff will contact him or her to learn more about his or her personal story.

Soon, the rest of the Medical Center will know why your nominee is an outstanding reminder of what makes this place so special – the Front and Center.