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Looking back, ahead with Dr. Weaver

Dr. Kenneth Weaver of Jonesborough has seen a lot of changes in the 50 years he has been practicing medicine — from the introduction of the birth control pill in 1960 to vaccines to prevent cervical cancer developed over the last decade.
“Then you have Sputnik (satellite programs). The technology that’s come out of that has moved medicine forward unbelievably,” Weaver said. “The miniaturization of devices has been remarkable. The fact that you can (now) swallow a little device that takes pictures of your intestine, that’s pretty miraculous.”
Weaver and his wife came to the area in 1978 from Arkansas. They moved into their current home in Jonesborough in 1988.
“We love the country. We are country people,” Weaver said.
Weaver grew up in Ashe County, N.C., so he was glad to come back to settle near the mountains of his childhood. When he got an offer to teach and help develop the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at East Tennessee State University’s College of Medicine, he took it, working tirelessly there for several years.
“I went with the University in 1983 until 1986,” he said. “I was doing research, and teaching, and seeing hordes of patients.”
Weaver’s schedule left very little time for a personal life. So he backed away from delivering babies in 1987. He moved his practice from Johnson City to Jonesborough in 1991, where he still sees patients four days a week.
“People tell me I can’t retire,” he said with a smile.
Weaver was a rigorous researcher. Between 1970 and 1986 he focused on pre-eclampsia (dangerous levels of hypertension in women in labor) and migraines. “Pre-eclampsia is the most devastating disease that can face a woman and her unborn child,” he explained. “(And) Seventy three percent of migraines are (in) women.”
Both conditions turned out to be related to levels of Magnesium sulfate in the body, a topic he still discusses with great passion, since he has enjoyed abundant success in understanding the mechanism of and treating patients with a simple supplement of Magnesium.
“I even got to treat the queen of Saudi Arabia for migraines,” he said. “When I was at the university (ETSU) I had given a talk in Los Angeles to the Magnesium Research council, and I got on television. And somehow it got to Saudi Arabia about Magnesium and migraine.
“And the secretary at the university said, ‘You got a call from the king of Saudi Arabia.’ And I said ‘Sure’ (Not believing her.)”
But the king called back and asked for Weaver’s help with his wife’s debilitating headaches. So, Weaver packed up several bottles of the supplement and shipped them to the royal family.
“It helped her, and it was an interesting little offshoot of what I was doing,” he said.
Weaver practices medicine as a gynecologist, but his initial area of expertise was in family medicine. Then he completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology. “(Since) I’ve been a family physician, my approach is a little bit different than a fellow who goes to medical school, straight out of residency and does nothing but OB/GYN. I have a broader feeling about illnesses,” he explained.
And that broader perspective has given him a watchful eye on the evolution of medicine over the years. Some of his observations have been fraught with concern and disappointment.
“The personal touch, the personal relationships with patients has pretty much gone by the wayside,” he said. “(Doctors) they have (huge medical) groups of ten people; and you go in and see one (doctor), you go back and you see another. And you call them on the phone and nobody has any idea who you are.”
While other changes paint a more positive landscape. For example, Weaver has been pleased to watch women graduate from the submissive June Cleaver prototype of the 1960s – where men were in complete control- into independent females, who are highly motivated- and encouraged by society- to be in charge of their health and healthcare decisions.
“Attitudes obviously have changed- women are more in charge of their lives, their health and (they are) more informed,” he said. “It has changed a lot in that regard.”
Weaver has also dedicated a great deal of time and energy to his grandson over the years he has lived here in Jonesborough. “I started him in golf when he was five,” he explained. “He won the Spirit Award for the State of Tennessee when he was 7 years old.
“I spent a lot of time with him, traveling to different places for tournaments. He’s traveled everywhere from San Diego to Florida. He’s an upcoming junior at Middle Tennessee State University on a golf scholarship.”
But aside from dedicating himself to his wife and grandson, he still enjoys focusing his remaining energy on patients.
“I enjoy the personal contact, the knowledge of the people, the background, and being able to relate to their families,” Weaver said.