Dr. Overstreet remembered

Published 10:16 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Dr. Donald Clyde Overstreet left a lasting impression on not only the patients he treated but the medical students he taught and the doctors he worked alongside during his medical career.

Overstreet, who was born on Sept. 25, 1927, passed away on June 1, 2017. Overstreet practiced and taught medicine in Selma for decades.

“He truly loved practicing medicine,” said Dr. Boyd Bailey. “He loved working with people. To him, it was truly all about keeping people well, healthy, feeling good and alive doing everything you could do. That’s what he thrived on.”

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Bailey, who wasn’t originally from Selma, came here because of Overstreet, who was responsible for birthing the University of Alabama at Birmingham Selma Family Residency Program.

“He was a great teacher. You learned a lot by just watching what he did and trying to emulate what he did,” Bailey said. “In that regard, he was a great mentor. If you just kind of hung around and watched, you learned a lot.”

Overstreet served as the director of the program for 19 years, and Bailey eventually took over for him.

“I came back because he called me up one day and said, ’Boyd, are you tired of private practice yet?’ And I said I may be, but what you got in mind,” Bailey recalled. “At that point he needed help. He had one other support physician faculty with the program, and he really needed three at least.”

The program Overstreet started was responsible for shaping the careers of many physicians throughout the South. More than 150 residents have graduated the program.

“Any time that I ever got to a challenging point in my career, I would always kind of sometimes stop and ask myself, ‘What would Dr. Overstreet do in this situation,’ and kind of think about that for a moment and kind of reflect on about what I think he would do, and I would try to do that,” Bailey laughed. “It seemed to always work.”

John Meigs, a graduate of the residency program under Overstreet and current president of the National American Academy of Family Physicians, said Overstreet loved his patients, and they loved him.

“His patients just really tended to love him. I think he could walk on water for them,” Meigs said. “I’ve always considered him one of the great artists of medicine … as far as relating to his patients and getting them to do what he needed them to do. He had a real ability to relate to people and take care of them. He was a real family physician.”

Bailey said Overstreet had patients come from far and wide just to see him. And if they couldn’t see Dr. Overstreet, they still wanted to know what he thought.

“We would have situations occur all the time where one of his patients would come see me or one of the other doctors and they would tell us ‘we want to know what Dr. Overstreet says about this. We want you to talk to Dr. Overstreet. Find out if what you’re doing is what he wants,’” Bailey said with a laugh.

“So many times we’d give him a call, and he’d say that’s exactly what I’d be doing, so we’d tell the patients he said that this was just right.”

One of the things that attracted aspiring doctors to the residency program in Selma was hunting.

“[Dr. Overstreet] loved to hunt, and his residents generally a lot of times would sign up for the program so they could hunt,” said Dr. Park Chittom Sr.

“These other programs in other areas would be competing for them and they would sign up because he had several thousand acres of prime deer hunting, turkey hunting, fishing land available to him. That little caret would really bring the residents in, and they would agree to be trained here.”

Chittom wasn’t taught by Overstreet, and he didn’t work directly with him, but they had a great respect for one another.

“He was very personable. He really had the patient’s interest at heart,” he said. “He was willing to work. It didn’t matter how late at night. He would take care of patients.”

Overstreet retired from practicing medicine in 2014 after last practicing on his own at an office in Valley Grande at the age of 85.

He is preceded in death by his wife, Suzy; and siblings, Estelle, Marjorie, Cleveland, Polly and Jim. He is survived by his children, Melissa Overstreet Blohm (John), Lydia Overstreet Jackson (Hunter) and Jennifer Overstreet Styslinger (Mark); six grandchildren, Mac J. Styslinger, Claudia O. Styslinger, Stella S. Styslinger, Lydia Styslinger, Courtney C. DeWeese and Hunt C. Jackson; as well as his beloved caregivers, Cherryl Williams, Mildred Williams and Rufus Perry.

A memorial service will be held June 17, 2017, at 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church, and a reception will follow at the Selma County Club. Family, friends and former coworkers and patients are all welcome to attend.