AHEC - North Carolina Area Health Education Centers Program
Touched by an AHEC: Stories from 100 Counties
Richard Walton, MD

Richard Walton, MD
doing what he loved - teaching the physicians of the future

Buncombe County | Mountain AHEC

Richard Walton, MD, director of MAHEC Family Residency Center (retired); MAHEC Library user

Dr. Richard Walton entered the world of AHEC in 1977 when he joined the faculty of the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) as the first full-time director of the Family Medicine Residency Program.  During his 20 years as a faculty member, he accessed the professional services of the MAHEC Health Sciences Library numerous times – both for professional and personal situations.  “The prompt and very helpful literature searches are very special services to physicians and other health professionals providing essential, up to date information,” said Walton.

“Soon after joining the MAHEC Residency Program, a friend's 23- year-old daughter, Katie, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer with metastatic spread. Thanks to the MAHEC library, I was on the first plane for Boston carrying a literature search and recent articles concerning the treatment of the specific cell type of the diagnosed cancer. With this information in hand, we were able to have the physician who had originally described this particular tumor consult on the case and help establish the treatment protocol. Katie is alive today in no small part because of the search and articles that allowed me to have the information so that we could arrange the very best care available at that time. Her parents and I have never forgotten the help that the MAHEC library provided.”

In his role as residency director, Walton was faced with the monumental task of designing the initial four full‑time teaching practices for the required Family Medicine Third Year Clerkship for the UNC School of Medicine.  This was no small undertaking.  “The library helped choose and purchase the medical reference books and set up the links for library literature searches for Crossnore, Bakersville, Hendersonville and Sylva. This was the first such model of a strong library resource direct connection and video monitoring system in full‑time community based teaching practices for the medical school,” Walton commented.  “These have served as models for other practices at UNC, other medical schools in the state and beyond. The medical library was an integral part of developing this program and making it successful.”                                                                                                                                        

Walton retired in November of 1997 and has encountered health problems of his own since that time.  He continues to access the expert literature searching abilities of the Health Sciences Librarians, most recently working with librarian Debbie Skolnik.  In a note to her in May of this year he expressed his gratitude.

“Thank you for the literature searches that you have done in the past for my patients’ problems and, more recently, for me as I have struggled with my own health problems. All that you have done for me with theses searches is beyond helpful. Yours is a service that is essential to practicing and teaching physicians. MAHEC and, in my case, you, have provided services that have helped make a huge difference in my life. I am very grateful.”