Published on February 27, 2017

Johnston Health’s eldest physician leaves hospital role

For sure, Dr. Woodrow Batten of Smithfield will long be remembered as a gifted internist, who even now at age 95, still loves learning and sharing his knowledge. But an equally endearing quality, say those who worked closely with him, is his quick wit, calm demeanor and respectfulness toward staff, patients and their families.

“He is my personal and professional idol,” says Susan Watson, a nurse who worked on the medical surgical floor and the intensive care unit at then Johnston Memorial from 1977 to ’95. “He was always calm in the face of any storm, which allowed us to think logically and to keep emotion out of the way.”

Watson, who is now retired, was among the guests at a reception Friday for Dr. Batten. Since retiring from private practice in 2006, he has worked in the hospital’s cardiology department, reading EKGs and supervising stress tests. He recently decided to leave the job so that he could devote more time to caring for his wife.

At the reception, hospital administrators, staff and physicians wished him well in his retirement and congratulated him on a remarkable career spanning nearly 70 years.

Batten has the distinction of being the eldest and longest-serving member of the medical staff. He was involved in the planning of the hospital in the late 1940s and was there on opening day, Dec. 15, 1951. Under his guidance, the hospital opened a cardiac intensive care unit in the late 1960s.

Dr. Eric Janis, who is a cardiologist and member of the Johnston Health Board of Directors, described Batten as a “physician’s physician,” who enjoyed teaching and conferring with other doctors when he came upon something new or mysterious.

He also recalled that Batten was instrumental in organizing the Johnston County Mental Health Association. “He’s touched thousands and thousands of people in our community,” he said. “This is a day to celebrate his contribution.”

Pictured above: During a reception last week at Johnston Health, employees, physicians, and even a few hospital retirees, stopped by to congratulate Dr. Woodrow Batten on his remarkable, nearly 70-year career in medicine. From left, are hospital nurse retirees Mary Thompson of Smithfield, Betty Wooten of Smithfield, Becky Wise of Kenly and Susan Watson of Hampstead.