Some men have a calling to the ministry. Dr. Paul Bradley was called to medicine.
“That’s really the only way I can describe it,” said Dalton businessman Jack Bandy, a cousin of Bradley. “His grandfather was a country doctor who did house calls in a horse and buggy, and he had an uncle, too, who was a doctor. He grew up hearing stories about them. He was a quick study, and everything came naturally to him. But medicine was always foremost in his mind.”
Bradley passed away Thursday. He was 92.
Bradley, for whom Bradley Wellness Center is named, was born in Kingston on June 13, 1920. His family moved to Dalton during his childhood when his father and uncle opened a pharmacy on Hamilton Street. He graduated from Dalton High School in 1936. He graduated from medical school at Emory University in 1943 and then served two years as an intern before entering the U.S. Army, where he served as a surgeon from 1945 to 1947.
In a 2010 interview with The Daily Citizen’s Town Crier, Bradley recalled that he met his wife Ann, then a nurse, while stationed at McCormack General Hospital in Pasadena, Calif. They came back to Georgia, where he finished his training as a surgeon at Grady Hospital in Atlanta before returning to Dalton in 1949.
In that interview, he recalled there were just seven other doctors in Dalton when he returned. Those numbers grew slowly recalls longtime friend Dr. Don Thomas.
“When I came back (in 1960), there were 24, and four of us came in the same year pushing it up to 28. Now, it’s up to 300 or so, I guess,” said Thomas.
But Thomas said even as the number of physicians in Dalton grew, Bradley maintained a reputation as one of the best.
“He was an expert diagnostician and surgeon. I referred a lot of patients to him, and it was always comforting knowing that he was taking care of them,” Thomas said.
In 1952, Bradley spearheaded an effort by local doctors to buy land for a new hospital in Dalton. According to “Let This Place Be a Symbol” by Barry Parker, an official history of Hamilton Medical Center, Bradley and the other doctors in Dalton kicked in about $1,800 each, about $15,845 in 2013 dollars, to buy the land on Thornton Avenue that the hospital currently sits on.
In 1986, Bradley came up with the idea for what would become the Bradley Wellness Center.
According to a 2011 article in The Daily Citizen, Bradley came home one evening from work and started reading a magazine. He came across an article on the high cost of employee health care benefits. The article outlined how one company focused on wellness — encouraging employees to implement healthy habits — and saw a reduction in their employee health care costs.
Bradley showed the article to Hamilton’s then-CEO Norman Burkett and discussed how the concept could be implemented at Hamilton Medical Center and in the surrounding community. Several months went by before Bradley was notified that a plan was under way to raise money to build a wellness center — and that it would be named in honor of him.
“Dr. Bradley was a leader in the medical community for many years and was an inspiration to all of us who knew him at Bradley Wellness Center,” said Ricky Harrison, Bradley Wellness Center’s facility and operations manager. “His commitment to his own health and wellness as well as the success of Bradley Wellness Center was evident by his frequent visits to the facility. We will certainly miss Dr. Bradley and offer our condolences to his family.”
In 1992, Bradley, then retired but still active in the community, was one of the founders of the Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership. The partnership was formed to bring business leaders, physicians and others in the region together to improve access to healthcare and to improve the health of Whitfield and Murray County residents.
“He and David Pennington served as its first co-chairs of the board of directors. If you knew Dr. Bradley, you knew he loved this community. He was very concerned about the people who didn’t have access to health care and was always working to make it more accessible. When the Partnership Health Center at the Gaston Community Center was dedicated last August, Dr. Bradley attended and expressed pleasure that this center would serve many who need health care,” partnership Executive Director Nancy Kennedy said.
Pennington, now the mayor of Dalton, said the partnership was something Bradley believed in very strongly.
“A lot of people think health care and medical issues are the government’s problem or the hospital’s problem or the insurance companies’ problem. But he realized it was the community’s problem, and if we were going to solve them it was going to take the community coming together,” Pennington said.
Pennington noted that Bradley also served on the board of Dalton Utilities for several years.
“I don’t know exactly how many years, but it was a long time,” he said. “He served on a number of boards and was involved in a number of community organizations. I don’t know how he found the time. I’m sure as a doctor he worked long hours, but he still found the time to give back to the community. He set an example for a lot of doctors who followed him.”
Friends and family remembered Bradley as an avid outdoorsman.
“We loved to vacation and go fishing together. He was an expert fly fisherman and loved to fish for trout. Our families would visit Colorado frequently, about every summer for several years,” said Thomas.
Bandy said fishing was one reason Bradley built a house at Lake Francis.
“That way he could fish whenever he wanted to,” he said. “He was a super guy. We were very close. He was more like a brother to me. I’ll miss him.”
Services are Sunday at 3 p.m. at the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. The family will receive friends in the Parish Hall immediately following the service.