A longtime St. Louis pediatrician and a nurse who has been taking care of patients for more than 50 years will be honored as Lifetime Achievers at the Salute to Excellence in Health Care luncheon on Saturday, April 25.

Dorothy “Dottie” Thornton trained as a nurse at Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis from 1951 to 1954 after earning a pre-medical diploma from Lincoln University in Jefferson City in 1951 and following graduation from Kinloch High School in 1949. Thornton continued her education and earned a bachelor’s in nursing at Saint Louis University in 1957.

Although her initial plan was to go to medical school, Thornton said her experience of being taught by doctors at Homer G. solidified nursing as her career of choice.

“Pediatrics was taught by a pediatrician, OB/GYN was by a GYN doctor and medicine was by the medical doctor,” Thornton said.

“We got it straight from the horse’s mouth – all the ins and outs of the subject. They taught us so well that we could excel in anything we did.”

Early in her career, Thornton served as a missionary nurse in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Upon returning to St. Louis, Thornton worked on the surgery floor at Homer G. and later served as an operating room nurse, staff nurse, head nurse and in similar positions at Barnes-Jewish Hospital before retiring in 2006.

Over the years at Barnes, Thornton estimates, has taught more than 2,000 nursing students. Retirement brought Thornton back to teaching nursing students at Barnes College of Nursing as an adjunct professor in 2006 to 2007. She currently works part-time as a school nurse in the Ferguson-Florissant School District.

Her passion for the medical field is eclipsed only by her compassion for patients.

“The difference in health care is people, not computers,” Thornton said.

“Every patient that we treat, you have to treat them like they are your mothers and fathers. You have to be kind to people and show them that you care about what happens to them.”

Thornton is the current president of the Homer G. Phillips Hospital Nursing Alumni Association. She also served in offices with the St. Louis Chapter of AORN, the Association of Operating Room Nurses. Thornton is a member of Sigma Gamma Rho sorority.

50-plus years of care

Dr. Homer Nash is the other Salute to Excellence Lifetime Achiever in Health Care awardee. Nash has been keeping young patients well as they grew into adults for more than 50 years.

Nash, an Atlanta native, graduated from the class of 1945 at Morehouse College. He attended specialized training school at West Virginia State before going into the U.S. Army, where he served as an infantryman in World War II, earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. After serving his country, the G.I. Bill paid for Nash to attend Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., where he graduated in 1951. After an internship at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago, he decided on his area of specialty.

“In general internship, you spend six weeks or two months in each service. Pediatrics was the one I liked the best,” he said.

Nash came to Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis in 1952 for his residency and decided to stay.

He is on staff at Children’s Hospital and in maternity services at Barnes.

Nash has been in private practice on Kingshighway Boulevard since 1965. He and his wife, Ellene Nash, have five daughters and six grandsons. One daughter, Dr. Alison Nash, is also a pediatrician and practices with him.

Over the years, Nash has earned numerous service awards and honors for his work. Nash is a member of the National Medical Association, Mound City Medical Society, American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. He is also a member of the Boule, a service organization.

The 2009 Salute to Excellence in Health Care luncheon will be held at the St. Louis Hilton at the Ballpark on Saturday, April 25. For ticket information, call 324-533-8000.

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