Like Father, Like Daughter
Dr. Betsy Richwine Bolton honors her dad, Dr. Sam Richwine, with the first-ever named lectureship in surgery.
Dr. Betsy Richwine Bolton (‘06) never had to wonder what she wanted to be when she grew up. She just had to look to her dad, Dr. Sam Richwine (‘77), a plastic surgeon with the Aesthetic Center of Gainesville in northeast Georgia.
“I knew in middle school that I wanted to be a doctor,” said Bolton, who herself is a dermatologist at Marietta Dermatology & Skin Cancer Center. “Some people like their job; my dad loves his job.”
The elder Richwine never tried to cajole his daughter into medicine, but the joy, passion and dedication he had for his chosen profession spilled over into their homelife.
As a middle-schooler, Bolton remembers sitting side by side with her father, watching surgical videos that would gross out most preteen girls. She recalls how concerned families would stop him at church or during high school football games to ask medical advice. Or how he’d rush out on an emergency visit for a child who’d busted open a lip and needed sutures. Most of all, she admires his love and compassion for patients. “People reach out to him and trust him,” said Bolton.
As a student and later a resident at the Medical College of Georgia, Richwine also had a reputation as bit of a prankster. “Dad is a very funny, outgoing person,” said Bolton. “He had all these stories about medical school and his classmates. It just sounded like a great place.”
Memorably, Richwine once had to present to the combined GI medicine/GI surgery conference, and Dr. Francis J. Tedesco, then section chief of gastroenterology and later MCG president, was a stickler for wearing ties. Sure enough, “Dr. T got all over me for not wearing a tie to present the case at this very important conference. You know how fond I am of ties,” said Richwine.
Richwine excused himself for a moment. When he returned, he had put on a western bolo tie with a huge agate as a slide. The room erupted in laughter, and Tedesco put his head in his hands. The punch line: “He never mentioned ties to me again.”
But it wasn’t just the camaraderie. “It was a place that gave you strong clinical training so you could come out and feel confident in your skills to practice medicine and surgery,” said Bolton. “I didn’t need to look at a lot of other medical schools — I was laser-focused on getting into the Medical College of Georgia.”
During her time at their shared alma mater, Bolton would often get the question when attendings heard her last name, “Are you related to Dr. Sam Richwine?” Turned out her dad taught many of them — and they all had powerful memories of the difference he made in their lives.
Teaching, after all, was just as much a part of his practice as patient care. During her growing up years, Bolton also recalls potential medical students shadowing her dad at his practice — and how he would often wake up at 3 a.m. to drive into Augusta to assist residents in the operating room. During her own medical school years, Bolton’s dad traveled with her on a medical school mission trip — and continued to do so on his own for several years afterward.
It’s that love of teaching that led Bolton to establish the first-ever named lectureship in surgery to honor her dad and “preserve his lifelong love of learning, teaching and educating.” The Samuel W. Richwine Jr., MD Lectureship in Surgery was announced to a packed room at this past year’s Alumni Weekend — “Dad was extremely surprised and definitely overcome with emotion,” said Bolton.
The first of the annual lectures will happen in winter 2017, and Bolton hopes the series will inspire current students by enabling the Department of Surgery to bring in internationally renowned speakers. She also hopes it inspires other alumni. “We would love for people to do something — to give back to the medical school and residency that trained them — even in just a small way. That’s what we’re trying to do.”