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Sylva May (Pratt) Umphrey, 91, died May 14, 2017, at Johnson Memorial Hospital in Franklin, Indiana.
Norman Melvin “Nick” Farstad, 86, died June 22, 2017, in Shoreline, Washington. He was born July 30, 1930 in Ketchikan.
11/23/2012
The doctor is in

By ANDREW SHEELER

Daily News Staff Writer

For Dr. William Sims, the Ketchikan hospital’s newest surgeon, moving to Alaska offered the chance to both shrink his workload and expand his repertoire.

That played a big part, he said, in making the decision to uproot his wife, sixth-grade daughter and four dogs from their Sylva, N.C., home and travel across the country. Yet for all that changed, Sims — who has practiced surgery for 23 years — said some things stayed the same.

"I’m passionate about community-based health care," he said. While living in Sylva, Sims worked for a not-for-profit medical facility similar to PeaceHealth, which operates the city-owned Ketchikan Medical Center. He said that desire for community was another part of the draw of moving to Alaska, and the people here were accommodating.

"We have a great set of neighbors," Sims said, and he described PeaceHealth as fostering "a collegial atmosphere."

Sims’ area of expertise is general surgery, and since moving to Ketchikan, Sims has been able to put the emphasis on "general."

"There’s a wider range of skills I have to utilize," he said, because there are fewer surgeons here. In addition, Sims said he hopes to bring a variety of services to the hospital that previously had been unavailable or difficult to get locally. For example, he said he offers laparoscopic surgery. Sims also has "a wealth of experience" in surgery for breast, colon and skin cancer, especially the former.

"I had a very busy breast cancer practice," he said of his time in Sylva.

At 50 years old, Sims said he was "looking to scale back, just a little bit." He wanted to take more time to spend with family and personal recreation. At his last job, being on call meant working nearly every night.

"The long nights on call, you just don’t have the stamina" at 50 that one does at 30, Sims said. Though he serves on call here as well, Sims said there was less demand for emergency midnight surgery.

So how does he use all that newfound free time?

"We take (our four dogs) hiking. We have a real good time," he said. He also enjoys kayaking and said he’d like to try his hand at that Ketchikan recreational staple: Fishing. His wife and daughter also have had little trouble fitting in and finding things to do. His youngest daughter, a sixth-grader at Tongass School of Arts and Sciences, has taken up both swimming and gymnastics. He said that although she initially had reservations when he broke news of the move, his outgoing daughter had no problem making new friends.

Sims has two other children, a daughter who is a senior at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a son who is a freshman at West Carolina University. Sims himself graduated from medical school at Texas Tech, in Lubbock.

Besides getting "more water than I’m used to" from Ketchikan skies, Sims said one of his biggest challenges has been finding ways to treat patients in a field where the regulations grow yearly. He said those burdens can make it difficult to provide "good and adequate" medical care to the individual.

"We’re going to have to be creative in making sure the patients get the care they need," he said.