"He was more than a doctor" - Dr. Brian Sudderth 1956 - 2012
"The only thing you take with you when you are gone is what you leave behind." This quote, attributed to John Alston of 18th century England, serves notice to a community that is mourning the passing of one of its beloved physicians. Dr. Brian Sudderth died unexpectedly Monday from an aortic dissection. He was 56.
As word of Sudderth's passing spread throughout Saline County, words of grief and thanks from patients and friends painted a picture of a man who, as one friend said, "was more than a doctor."
Dr. Brian Sudderth was one of the physicians at Family Practice Associates on Military Road in Benton. Dr. Sam Taggart (also of Family Practice Associates) said he became friends with Sudderth 25 years ago. "Brian was a good guy. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who didn't like him." Taggart spoke of his friendship with Sudderth and described him as "a man who sought the eccentricity in others to draw it out of them. If you put all of his friends in one room, each one would be different. He had the ability to find the good in everyone."
When Family Practice Associates moved into their location in Benton, Taggart and Sudderth made sure their offices were adjacent. "We had an office area at the previous location that was open and with cubicles. At our new office, Brian and I had a pocket door installed in the wall between our offices. It always stayed open." Taggart said Sudderth had a love of writing poetry, haikus in particular. "Brian would come into his office and write a haiku. Then he would stick it on my bulletin board next to my desk.", said Taggart. He noted that the bulletin board was covered with poems from Sudderth. A haiku is a poem that is three lines long. The first and third lines contain five syllables each. The second line contains seven. Taggart shared one of his favorite of these poems.
Wake up sleeping wife
and be jealous of the dawn
that kisses my eyes.
Like others, Taggart described Sudderth as "down to earth," but also said "the middle of the road is not somewhere often he would be found."
Jim Stillwell of Benton was a close friend of Sudderth as well. "He was a common sense doctor. He had a special way of dealing with patients that made you not mind going to the doctor or even that you felt you had been to the doctor after you were done. Whatever it was that he was doing, he made a difference, but it was never about him, it was about his patients. He touched so many people on so many levels. He can be described simply as a giver."
Sudderth's reputation as a doctor was built upon his relationship with his patients. Benton Mayor David Mattingly said, "I had a rather frightening health incident approximately 1 year ago and in this emergency situation Dr. Sudderth was able to see me. His compassion alleviated my fears and he took the time to explain the condition he thought I was experiencing in a calm and professional manner, his diagnosis was right on target and with the medications he prescribed, I was doing much better within two days. I never forgot and will always be impressed by his concern for a patient he had never really known before. He was a valuable asset to our medical community."
Saline Memorial Hospital, where Sudderth served on staff, also mourns the loss of the caring physician. "The entire Saline Memorial family is deeply saddened by the loss of Dr. Sudderth who has been part of this medical community for many years. He was loved by everyone who had the opportunity to work with him and he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Sudderth's family during this difficult time."
Sudderth volunteered his time at the Christian Community Care Center in downtown Benton. At a meeting of the center's board of directors Tuesday night, members expressed their deep sympathy to the Sudderth family and personal memories of the impact Sudderth had on the clinic. "He always made it about the patient. He cared for them when they came in the door and it was always his goal to have them healthier when they left." The group spoke of Sudderth's desire to have his organs donated and viewed this as "even in death he was taking care of people." Sudderth had been a fixture at the clinic in one form or another since its inception in 1992.
One of Sudderth's dreams was to eventually become an English teacher. He was an avid runner and a firm believer in preventative medicine.
In addition to a grateful community, Sudderth leaves behind his wife Lynn, children Jim and Lauren, and his mother Emily.
Sudderth graduated from UAMS in 1982. He practiced with Dr. Ted Hood in Bryant before joining Family Practice Associates in Benton.
When searching for words adequate to describe the life of Dr. Brian Sudderth, a quote from Albert Einstein seems very appropriate.
"Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value."