OB/GYN Finds Satisfaction in Volunteering
Before he retired from delivering babies a few years ago, obstetrician/gynecologist Ronald W. Orso, MD estimates that he delivered some 5,000 during his career. But one of them in particular is commemorated with a photo on his office wall.
It was taken during a delivery by a patient's husband, and the frame is inscribed "The Impossible Dream."
The story, says Orso, is that in the 1970s a woman came to him who was expecting at the age of 46. She told him that her earlier five pregnancies had all ended in miscarriages.
"I told her there were some things we could try," he says, "and we put her on aspirin and the hormone progesterone. But down deep, I was afraid we were going to lose this baby and it would be another sad story. Every time she came back, we did ultrasounds, ready for bad news, and every time there was a heartbeat.
"I told her if we could get to 14 weeks we'd be in good shape, and we did. The next milestone was 24 weeks, and at that point, if we had to deliver the baby it would have a 50/50 chance. The next step was 28 weeks where we'd have a 90 percent chance.
"But the baby--a girl--made it to 38 weeks before she was delivered. She was a really special baby. She still comes to see me today, and she's now had babies of her own. It's just a miracle, and I always keep that photograph there to remind me that God moves in His own way."
A native of Bessemer, Orso grew up on a farm and became interested in medicine at age 11 when visiting his brother-in-law, a medical student in New Orleans. "He was doing a pediatric internship, and he made house calls. He carried me into these terribly poor areas of the city, and when I saw all these sick kids he was helping, I left there wanting to be a pediatrician.
"But along the way, at the UAB of Medicine, I changed to an ENT residency, and then changed again to obstetrics.
"I'm just an old farm boy who never thought I'd get into medical school, but I've had the most wonderful life as a physician. I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm still working as hard as ever, and even though I'm past retirement age I have no plans to quit. I've been blessed with good health, and that's what counts."
Along the way, he and his partners developed one of the area's largest OB/GYN practices, Birmingham Obstetrics and Gynecology. "I've been blessed to have great partners, and we're fortunate to be where we are," Orso says.
“The most satisfying part of my practice these days is seeing patients come back who I delivered. I once delivered a baby for a husband and wife who I'd both delivered, so that was special."
All of this, while serving for 32 years in the National Guard and running an evacuation hospital in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm.
Another great source of satisfaction is his volunteer work with M-Power, a faith-based social services agency that provides adult education and medical services to residents in poverty throughout metro Birmingham.
"M-Power is a free clinic where people in Jefferson County can come and see a physician for basic care with a pharmacy that fills their prescriptions at no cost,” Orso says. “We strive to be a bridge for them while they're getting their life back together--getting drug or alcohol treatment, finding a job, whatever their situation. On the evening I volunteer, I see about 25 patients, all of whom have nothing.
"Often we see people who, for example, are diabetic; they've been to a hospital and are discharged with a handful of prescriptions. But they have no money for the medicine, so soon they're back in the hospital. It's satisfying to know we can help with their medical care, give them medicine, and refer them to other clinics if needed.
"One problem is that after Cooper Green Hospital closed, many of the clinics that were helping these patients are gone and they have nowhere to receive care. So that's what I help them do, and that's what I enjoy the most right now.
"People at church often ask me when I'm going on a mission trip, and I joke with my pastor that I go on a mission trip here every month, and it's very special to me."
In December, Orso received the Hettie Terry Community Service Award from the University of Alabama National Medical Alumni Association for his volunteer work with M-Power.
M-Power is seeking new physician volunteers, and Orso invites doctors who are interested in helping to contact him for more details.