Dr. Derek Heard, a family medicine physician at Phoebe Primary Care of Albany, was recently honored as the 2017 Phoebe Physician of the Year.

The award honors a physician who exemplifies a compassionate commitment to improving the health and well-being of patients in Southwest Georgia.

“Dr. Heard is one of our community’s finest and most dedicated physicians. He is a true healer who shows compassion and concern for his patients, even making the occasional house call,” Dr. Suresh Lakhanpal, president of Phoebe Physician Group, said.

Heard is a graduate of the Phoebe Family Medicine Residency Program. Over the last 24 years, the program has recruited dozens of young physicians to study and then to practice medicine in Southwest Georgia.

The goal of the residency program is to have 60 percent of graduates stay within 60 miles of Albany to practice, a benchmark that officials say the program meets or exceeds most years.

“You are mentored by true men and women of the profession,” Heard said of the program. “They helped me understand what it really means to be a family physician and how to practice in this community.”

He graduated from Lee County High School before attending Albany State University and the Medical College of Georgia. The Albany native graduated from the residency program in 2002.

“I love the city,” Heard said. “Even though I felt I could go anywhere to practice, I wanted to stay close to home. Albany has a great medical community, and I wanted to be a part of it.”

Heard is the third recipient of Phoebe’s Physician of the Year award for providers employed by Phoebe Physician Group. Recipients are chosen by a committee from nominations made by patients, community members and fellow employees throughout Phoebe Putney Health System.

This year, 58 physicians were nominated.

“This award means a lot,” Heard said. “It’s nice when your colleagues recognize the work you do, especially at an organization that has so many great physicians. We don’t do this for the accolades but it’s nice when you do get recognized.”

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