Longtime St. John physician Dr. Donald Mayfield dies at 76
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
10/03/12 at 2:50 AM
After 30 years of treating patients with respiratory problems, Dr. Don Mayfield was due for a breather.
Deciding the time was right in 1997, the Tulsa physician retired, leaving behind both his private practice and St. John Medical Center, where he'd been director of pulmonary services and respiratory therapy since 1971.
Over those three decades, Mayfield had watched the medical field change - in some ways for the better, but also in one big way that he couldn't abide: the complicating, through managed care and other factors, of the doctor-patient relationship.
"Relationships were very important to Don, in the medical setting and the family," his wife, Julie Mayfield, said. "And this wasn't the way he wanted to continue. He cared too much about his patients and their families."
Dr. James Donald "Don" Mayfield, a longtime Tulsa internal medicine doctor who subspecialized in pulmonary disease, died Sept. 19. He was 76.
A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Boston Avenue United Methodist Church. Moore's Southlawn Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Mayfield came to Tulsa in 1971 to take the post with St. John at about the same time Dr. David Jenkins also joined the hospital. The two soon went into private practice together, as well.
"Don was a brilliant doctor and very unpretentious," Jenkins said. "He was absolutely calm and unflappable in emergency situations - and with lung disease cases there are plenty of crises.
"He tended to see some of the sickest people at the hospital. But he was always calm, always reassuring."
Besides directing pulmonary services and respiratory therapy for the hospital, Mayfield also briefly, with Jenkins, directed medical education, recruiting interns and residents.
The following year they launched their private practice, joining with two other doctors to found Tulsa Internal Medicine.
A native of Oklahoma City who grew up in Brownsville, Texas, Mayfield was inspired by a story about his father.
His father had grown up on a farm in Texas and didn't have money to go to college. But a local pharmacist gave him $50. With that bit of support, he walked from his farm all the way to the University of Texas, where he would go on to earn two degrees and become a successful engineer.
Mayfield initially thought he, too, would go into engineering. But he quickly realized the field wasn't for him. He chose medicine instead.
Graduating from the University of Texas and Baylor Medical School, Mayfield served two years in the Air Force as a flight surgeon, achieving the rank of captain.
From there, he completed his residency and multiple fellowships, before eventually landing in Tulsa.
Jenkins said Mayfield, a lifetime member of Tulsa County Medical Society, was the model of the old-school doctor.
"He loved to spend time talking to his patients. In fact, it was all his staff could do to keep him on his schedule," Jenkins laughed.
Mayfield's survivors include his wife of 40 years, Julie Mayfield, and a daughter, Becky Mayfield.
Original Print Headline: 'Unflappable' physician breathed life into practice
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
Dr. Donald Mayfield believed the doctor-patient relationship was everything. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World file