GJHS grad honored for service as rural doctor

Dr. Ken Jackson

Family physician Ken Jackson has taken childhood lessons of kindness and respect to another level as an adult.

For most of his 36 years as a doctor certified in obstetrics, Jackson has practiced medicine in some of the most rural areas of America, overseeing prenatal care for women who may have little or no access to comparable care.

The lengths Jackson, a 1966 graduate of Grand Junction High School, has gone to serve in rural areas of the country, including areas inaccessible by motorized vehicle, have not gone unnoticed.

In December, after a co-worker nominated Jackson for the award, Staff Care named him the 2010 Country Doctor of the Year, given annually to physicians who practice in communities with 30,000 people or less. Staff Care is among the largest physician staffing services in the country.

Jackson, 62, said he was “overwhelmed” by the recognition.

Jackson iives near Kingman, Ariz., and has practiced medicine most of his career in rural areas of the state. He still has family in Grand Junction and returns annually to visit his mother and brother.

Steve Jackson, who is three years older than his brother, doesn’t remember when his younger brother first showed interest in medicine. He just remembers when the boys were growing up that Ken always seemed attentive to the needs of others, particularly animals. And he was really good at math and science, Steve Jackson added.

All of that is true, said Ken Jackson, a co-valedictorian of of the Grand Junction High School class of 1966 and a Boettcher Scholarship winner.

And he still loves animals.

In fact, Jackson’s love of horses factored largely into his winning the 2010 Country Doctor of the Year Award, which garnered him national attention in a USA Today article published Jan. 24 and in an upcoming “Making a Difference” segment on NBC Nightly News.

NBC producers are scheduled to go to Arizona in March to film segments for the feature, Jackson said.

Once a month, Jackson mounts a horse to ride into Supai, a remote American Indian village of roughly 400 people, to provide prenatal care. In winter, he goes by helicopter — the village on the Havasupai Indian Reservation is inaccessible by vehicle. Supai actually is in the Grand Canyon.

“My mother raised us to treat people with kindness and respect,” Jackson said via mobile phone Saturday. “I’m kind of the type of guy (who wants) to be somewhere where I feel like I make a difference.”

He has visited Supai for four years. He has spent 16 years visiting the Hualapai reservation in Peach Springs, Ariz. Although the Hualapai reservation is not as remote as Supai, the people in Peach Springs have no other physicians offering prenatal care without Jackson’s visits.

In addition to practicing family medicine on these two small, remote reservations, Jackson said he works on the labor and delivery staff at Kingman Regional Medical Center in Kingman, estimated population of less than 30,000.

“I love the West,” Jackson said.

When he gets time off, the former Grand Junction man seeks adventure. He rode a horse across Arizona twice, once in each direction, for fun. The North-South route took six weeks.

In addition, Jackson wrote “Manifest West,” a novel about medicine in the Southwest.


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