PINEHURST – If not for some college exposure to medicine or the great respect he had for the pediatricians who treated his childhood asthma, Stephen King, M.D., might have become a physics instructor or an engineer.
Radiation oncologist Stephen King, M.D., accepts Moore Regional Hospital’s 2012 Physician of the Year Award from Cheryl Batchelor, R.N., interim chief nursing officer. The award is presented annually by Moore Regional’s patient care staff.
But a history of tutoring and the collegiate brush with medicine convinced him that his future would involve caring for people.
For the past two decades, Dr. King has been a radiation oncologist at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital where the patient care staff has just recognized him with its 2012 Physician of the Year Award.
“It’s a great honor,” he says. “I feel very fortunate, because the people I work with in oncology and in the hospital throughout are remarkably qualified. They are always incredibly caring and kind to people.”
Dr. King grew up in Atlanta, where both of his parents were educators and where they still reside. College brought him to North Carolina and Davidson College outside Charlotte. Inspired by his father, an engineering professor at Georgia Tech, he majored in physics with an eye toward a possible career in engineering.
“In college, I had some exposure to medicine and thought I wanted to work with patients,” he says.
Medical school took him to Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina. He did his residency in radiation oncology, the specialty in which he is now board certified, at Duke University Medical Center. He says his work allows him to combine his physics background with the love for teaching that he inherited from his parents and developed while tutoring college classmates.
“A big part of my job in this field is educating patients and staff and helping them understand the details of their cancer problems and treatment,” he says. “A big part of what I am doing today is educating, which I have always enjoyed.”
Dr. King’s Physician of the Year nomination specifically mentions his gift for teaching. “Dr. King enjoys the art of teaching, whether it involves patients, staff or the community,” the nomination says. “He is able to share his knowledge in a manner that is very easy to understand. He is very patient and answers all questions. He provides detailed information about his patients when needed and is frequently engaged in teaching, formally or informally. He takes every opportunity to explain procedures and possible outcomes for his patients and staff.”
The nomination also points out Dr. King’s approachability and his patients’ confidence in his abilities. “He takes time to answer questions for patients, family members and staff,” the nomination says. “He is very patient and considerate of the social and emotional aspects of his patients’ care. He recognizes each patient as an individual. His patients seem to feel safe and secure under his care. They seem to trust him to help them make the best possible decisions about their care. He is able to deliver difficult and sometimes dismal information about potential treatment outcomes in a very compassionate manner.”
Dr. King is part of a three-physician radiation oncology team with more than 40 years of combined service to Moore Regional. With his own 20 years, Dr. King is the senior member of the team that also includes Jeffrey Acker, M.D., and Sushma Patel, M.D.
However, when Dr. King first came to Moore Regional, it was as a Duke faculty member who was part of a rotating group of radiation oncologists in a university-operated satellite program – then the only one of its kind in the area. Dr. King and his mentor, Gustavo Montana, M.D., lobbied for the more consistent approach that is now the program’s hallmark.
“Our goal has been to be a stable presence so we are available to the physicians and patients in the community,” Dr. King says.
Radiation oncology is also a central part of a multidisciplinary team that meets routinely to discuss specific patient cases and treatment plans. “We work every day in a collaborative way that is really beneficial and has advanced cancer care quite a lot,” he says.
Dr. King and his team have pioneered the use of High Dose Rate (HDR) brachytherapy for the treatment of prostate cancer in North Carolina and have the greatest experience in the Southeast with the approach.
“This is an advanced and very precise technique using implanted radiation treatment to treat prostate cancer with a high success rate and low risk of after-effects as compared with traditional treatments,” he says.
Away from work, Dr. King enjoys spending time with a family that includes two high school-aged sons and two young daughters, ages 9 and 7. The family lives in a restored house in the Historic District of Southern Pines.