Beaufort pediatrician Dr. James Simmons has spent the past 12 years caring for the children of the Lowcountry.
When he's not doing checkups at his All Children's Pediatrics offices in the town of Port Royal and Walterboro, Simmons is teaching classes to new parents, putting on health fairs or working at Beaufort Memorial Hospital.
Now he's getting some recognition for his efforts. The longtime Beaufort resident and Battery Creek High School graduate was recently chosen to participate in a statewide fellowship aimed at creating better leaders. The two-year Liberty Fellowship will begin Sept. 14 with the first of four seminars. Simmons is one of 23 South Carolina residents chosen out of more than 300 nominees to take part in the program.
"I'm actually very excited about it," Simmons said, adding that the fellowship is a great opportunity to work with people from all over the state and even the world.
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A self-proclaimed problem solver, Simmons said the fellowship will help him make better leadership decisions so he can serve the people of South Carolina to the best of his ability.
While Simmons would like to solve all the world's problems, he said he tries to focus on achieving progress one step at a time.
"There are a lot of big problems, but there are a lot of little problems," he said. "If you solve a lot of the little problems, the big problems don't seem that big anymore."
Simmons opened his practice in 2004 and has been on staff at Beaufort Memorial since 1999. He has sat on the hospital's board of trustees since 2007, leading the board's Quality Improvement Committee for the past year.
Simmons said his long-term goal is to create a nonprofit organization that builds bridges between groups. He said often a program needs something that another group offers, but they don't connect because they just don't know about each other.
"What I would like to do is create a program that builds bridges, so that we can solve problems a lot more efficiently."
Dr. Faith Polkey, chief of pediatrics at Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services and also a Liberty fellow, has known Simmons for about nine years.
"He's an excellent pediatrician and a very good leader," Polkey said. "It's always nice to have someone who grew up here and can relate so well to the people here. His involvement with the community is a big part of why he was chosen for the Liberty Fellowship."