first Statesville oncologist to retire after 42 years | Iredell Health System


The word “cancer” sends shivers down the spine of most people. However, for oncologists, doctors specializing in the treatment of cancer, this word is part of their daily vocabulary and they take it as a challenge.

Since 1980, Ruby Grimm, a hematologist and oncologist at Iredell Health System, has faced this challenge fearlessly, striving to change the course of her patients’ disease. Today, after 42 years of treating people with cancer, blood disorders and saving lives, Grimm is retiring.

Originally from West Virginia, Grimm had no idea where her healthcare career would take her when she graduated from medical school. Little did she know her medical interests would take her to the small town of Statesville, North Carolina, and her career would be nothing short of remarkable.

Grimm was one of only five women in her class of 107 at West Virginia School of Medicine. After graduating, Grimm was selected to go to North Carolina Baptist Hospital (now Atrium Wake Forest Baptist) in Winston-Salem for its internal medicine residency program.

Grimm explains that during residency, every internal medicine intern (first-year resident) had to complete a two-month rotation in hematology and oncology—a difficult rotation that many interns, including Grimm herself, dreaded.

“The rotation in hematology-oncology was the most difficult because you treated not only the cancer, but also all the additional medical problems associated with people. You were doing general medicine while doing oncology,” she said.

Although Grimm’s director originally assigned him three months in hematology-oncology, it was shortened to two because the rotation was so heartbreaking for Grimm.

“You have to think – in the 70s when you were diagnosed with cancer, everyone thought you were going to die. People wouldn’t even say the word cancer. They just whispered it. And after being at this floor and seeing people who were terribly sick, I thought, ‘This is too hard. These patients are so sick.’ »

As the next year of residency arrived, Grimm and the other residents were told that two of them were to complete two six-week rotations in hematology-oncology. When no one volunteered, they decided to draw straws. Grimm was the first straw drawn.

This time, however, instead of working with cancer patients inside the hospital, Grimm was able to work with patients in an outpatient clinic. This is where she found her passion for oncology and her desire to help people with cancer. She decided that treating and diagnosing cancer and blood disorders was what she wanted to do for the rest of her career.

After her residency, Grimm remained at Baptist for her hematology and oncology fellowship. In 1980, after completing her fellowship, Grimm moved to Statesville with her husband, James Bradford, a cardiologist.

“It wasn’t easy to find a place that needed both a cardiologist and an oncologist, and there was no oncology at all in Statesville,” Grimm said.

After arriving in Statesville, Grimm started from scratch and built the oncology program from the ground up. Over the years, Grimm and his oncology team participated in clinical trials, established the tumor committee, trained chemotherapy and oncology nurses, and helped start the palliative care program.

For the first time, residents of Statesville could receive lifesaving cancer care without having to travel to Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Durham or Chapel Hill.

Early in his career, Grimm spent his days visiting patients at Iredell Memorial Hospital in the mornings, caring for patients in his office during the day, and returning to the hospital in the evenings. When Iredell added hospitalists, she was able to spend less time in the hospital while still seeing patients in the office.

In 2012, Iredell Health System purchased Grimm’s office, Ruby Grimm Oncology, and she became a member of the Iredell Physician Network.

Throughout four decades of medical advances and changes, Grimm says some aspects of his practice have actually remained constant.

“Once you walk into the exam room with a patient, close the door, sit down and talk to them, it’s the same thing. When you have the chance to interact directly with patients, helping them, getting to know them and advising them is always the same,” she said.

The field of oncology, however, has seen significant changes.

“In 42 years, what has happened in oncology has been dramatic. It’s not just chemotherapy. Now it’s targeted therapy, immunotherapy and genetic advances. It’s a bad time to leave this profession because the things we’ve been anticipating and waiting for and craving are here now,” she said.

Over his many years of treating and diagnosing cancer patients, Grimm has found it very rewarding to make a difference in the lives of his patients.

“Even if you can’t save a life, you can help it through. I think it’s very rewarding,” she said.

Although Grimm is retiring, she will leave behind a lasting legacy of hard work, commitment and genuine care for her patients. His passion, dedication and focus on continuing education completely transformed cancer care in Statesville.

“Dr. Grimm has been a true gift to Iredell County and the Iredell Health System with his dedication to his patients and providing them with state-of-the-art cancer care,” said Pam Westmoreland Sholar, hematologist and oncologist who has worked with Grimm since 1986.

“Although at times it was tough and difficult, it was always rewarding and it was an honor to be able to help,” Grimm said.

Pictured: Ruby Grimm, second from right, celebrates Iredell Health System’s first accreditation in 1991. Dr. Grimm was instrumental in helping the organization achieve that accreditation.


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