ELLISVILLE –Rod Moring, M.D., was looking for a change of pace when he took a position with the Ellisville State School two years ago. Change and variety are two things readily embraced by the Mobile, Ala., native who began his medical career in ob/gyn then changed to emergency medicine.
“I heard about the Ellisville School through a friend and inquired,” he said. “It has been in operation since the 1920s. It’s like a cross between a nursing home and a hospital, but it’s not like working in a hospital where everyone is acutely ill. It’s not the kind of place you’d start out in medicine and it’s the opposite extreme of emergency medicine.”
He says in emergency medicine he’s seen everything that comes through the door. “At some point in life you want to step back from that,” he said. “It’s exciting but after a period of time, I’d seen everything.”
Not able to give up emergency medicine entirely, Moring works a few shifts a month in the emergency room of the Covington County Hospital in Collins. “It’s hard to get away from it, but it’s not like what you see on TV,” he said. “I got into emergency medicine thinking I would do it for a while and go back to ob/gyn.”
He notes that two-thirds of the members of his ob/gyn residency class dropped out of the high-stress specialty. “I completed the three-year residency in Pensacola and tried a solo private practice,” he said. “It was hard.”
Moring moved from Montgomery, Ala., to Hattiesburg 15 years ago and worked in emergency medicine at Wesley Methodist Hospital before joining the staff at Ellisville.
Into the field
An only child, Moring’s parents are now both deceased. His dad worked at Brookley Air Force Base and his mom went back to school and got a nursing degree when Moring was in junior high. He says perhaps that influenced his decision to go into the medical field.
“I’m not sure why I became a physician. There was never one thing that pointed me into it but I was encouraged to go to college,” he said. “I always liked science and I had an interesting science teacher in the seventh grade who got me involved. ‘This is nice and something I could do,’ I thought.”
The family’s physician was also very encouraging and even gave Moring his first little black bag. “He said I was the first baby he delivered that went to medical school and he wanted me to have his bag,” Moring said. “I had a lot of respect for him and for the profession and the security it has. I have no regrets.”
He says there wasn’t one particular turning point in his life but he was always encouraged by his parents to be persistent and do his best. He graduated from Mobile’s Murphy High School in 1965 and went on to Spring Hill College where he earned a bachelor’s degree.
“Spring Hill had a reputation for being good in pre-med so I thought I’d try it,” he said. “It’s a small Jesuit school and very academically oriented. I liked it and stayed with it.”
Moring is glad he went to Spring Hill and says the 12 semester hours of philosophy he took there taught him to think. He graduated in 1969. Then came a year of graduate school at the University of Mississippi before he entered the University of Kentucky Medical School in Lexington.
An entrepreneurial side
A person who thrives on variety, Moring has had several businesses and says he would have been a businessman if he hadn’t entered the medical profession. “I’m not sure what kind of business but that’s what I would have done,” he said.
His résumé includes a stint as a nightclub owner — something he thinks most people would be surprised to know about him.
It was during the 1970s when disco reigned and he was doing his residency in Pensacola.
“I got the idea on TV and out of curiosity called to find out about it,” he said. “It was before the John Travolta/Saturday Night Fever thing but was just the beginning of the lighted dance floor disco clubs. Everybody at that age is always looking for something to do and I thought it might work.”
Moring and his partners rented 10,000 square feet of space in a shopping center to open their first club and were shocked when around 900 people came on opening night.
“It was an absolute success. I did not know what I was getting into,” he said. “I was naïve and got swept up into it.”
He says it was fun pulling the nightclub together. He and his partners opened a second club in Mobile and a third one in Nashville. He stayed with it 10 years until he sensed that the disco craze was over and the liability was growing.
“I learned a lot about business and persistency,” Moring says. “It was fun and it was a long time before I could go to bed without calling to see if anyone came in to the club.”
While living in Montgomery, Moring designed a pre-tied necktie and got a patent on it. He designed it to look better than a clip-on tie by making a standard tie, then cutting the back and using a hook and loop to fasten it.
“I got a patent on it and did demonstrations in stores,” he said. “A patient helped me with it. I had the ties made and got them into a number of stores.”
Wembley Manufacturing bought the patent from him and marketed the invention as Easy Tie.
Moring and his wife, Lisa, were also in the food business for a while. They developed a chili seasoning mix based on one of Lisa’s father’s recipes. The mix was blended in Hattiesburg and has been taken over by Lisa’s dad.
‘A real challenge’
Considering the challenges of working with the special needs patients at Ellisville, Moring says all of the 600 clients have an IQ of 72 or less.
“Working with them is almost a real specialty in itself,” he said. “All who are there cannot live on their own. Some can’t talk to you at all. Finding out what’s going on with them is a real challenge. It’s like pediatrics.”
The clients are all ages and are divided by age groups to live in units of 160 to 180 each. They are cared for by 1,200 employees made up of nurses, social workers and counselors of all kinds.
“I depend on the nurses very much because they are with the clients and notice any changes in behavior,” he said. “The clients are very well taken care of. Mississippi has one of the best programs in the country.”
Because he likes to try different things, Moring says he can see himself stopping emergency room work at some point, but he knows he’ll always be busy.
“I’m not sure what I will do. Will I go out and get in the nightclub business? Probably not,” he said. “However, I learned about myself doing it. I like the challenge of developing the idea and bringing it to completion more than managing the day-to-day operations of business.”
Moring and Lisa are the parents of a 15-year-old daughter, Kayleigh, and he has an older daughter, Julie, who teaches in Orlando, Fla.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.