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Dr. Ernest Cochran thought he was headed to a staff meeting when he traveled to Texas Oncology – Paris on Thursday evening, making the party in honor of his 30 years of practice a big surprise.
“I’m pretty speechless,” Cochran said after he walked in the door to dozens of congratulatory, smiling faces. “I don’t know what to say, but thank y’all for being here and supporting us. I’ve tried not to make much of a mess of a things. We’re blessed with a great staff, great partners and a great community.”
Dr. Chris Prakash noted that Cochran’s remarks sounded like a retirement speech.
“I’m not retiring yet. I don’t know how to do anything else,” Cochran said. “I guess we should party, huh?”
“We’re still going to have our meeting afterward,” Prakash said.
Center administrator Ewell Byrd got party plans going after he reviewed some records and realized Cochran had entered his third decade in the business. Cancer center employees and wife Pat Cochran spent better than two months putting the celebration together — all without Cochran’s knowledge.
“It wasn’t hard until today. He was off, and he loves to spend time on his tractor and out at our cabin,” Pat said. “Everyone was wonderful planning the event. It was definitely a team effort.”
She helped put the party’s display boards together, and said it was fun watching his career evolve throughout three decades.
“We went through a lot of albums and clippings and scrapbooks,” she said. “It’s neat to see the growth over 30 years. It’s quite a legacy for him and everyone here.”
Cochran earned his medical degree in 1978 from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He also worked on his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in medical oncology at UTMB in 1983. He was recruited by Texas Oncology right away.
Before Cochran came on full-time in Paris, a team of Baylor doctors came to town a day or two a week. When he came to town, Cochran operated two offices, one next to St. Joseph’s Hospital and one by McCuistion Regional Medical Center.
“We wanted to make sure everybody would be taken care of,” he said.
The current center was built in 1992. The business has three medical oncologists – Cochran, Prakash and Dr. Celeste Wilcox, plus Radiation Oncologist Dr. James Petrikas.
Byrd described Cochran as a top-notch oncologist.
“You couldn’t ask for a better physician. He continually studies and stays on top of what’s going on in oncology,” Byrd said. “He’s the one I go to as an administrator.”
Prakash has worked with him for 13 years, since Cochran recruited him to the cancer center.
“He’s a very inspirational figure. He’s been a mentor to me and a lot of other young doctors here in town,” he said. “We need him to keep working for a while.”
By Jeff Parish, eParisExtra