Health Care

Rotary Club of Hilton Head inducting 2 new members to Hall of Fame

File: Rotary Club of Hilton Head Island Hall of Fame inductees Dr. Jack McConnell, left, and the late Dr. Peter LaMotte.
File: Rotary Club of Hilton Head Island Hall of Fame inductees Dr. Jack McConnell, left, and the late Dr. Peter LaMotte. Staff photo (McConnell) and subm

The Rotary Club of Hilton Head Island will induct two new members to its Hilton Head Hall of Fame on Wednesday, honoring them for their contributions in shaping the island's medical industry, according to a Rotary Club news release.

Dr. Jack McConnell, founder of Volunteers in Medicine, and the late Dr. Peter LaMotte, founder of Hilton Head Hospital, will be honored with plaques at the Hall of Fame site at Coastal Discovery Museum at Honeyhorn.

McConnell and LaMotte will be the eighth and ninth members of the Rotary Club's Hall of Fame, which opened in 2012.

McConnell was the driving force behind the formation of Volunteers in Medicine in 1993, created four years after he moved to Hilton Head. McConnell's idea to provide healthcare and medical services to the underserved on Hilton Head and Daufuskie islands came after he picked up a hitchhiker who had no job and no healthcare.

When VIM opened in 1993, it had 55 retired doctors, 68 retired specialists, and 100 other lay people in its ranks.

Today, the clinic has more than 600 volunteers who serve more than 10,000 patients each year, the release said.

McConnell also pushed the S.C. Board of Medical Examiners to waive medical licensure requirements and got approval from the Joint Underwriters Association to provide malpractice coverage to clinic volunteers, the release said.

LaMotte, a well-known New York surgeon, founded Hilton Head Hospital in 1975, five years after first visiting the island. LaMotte was the chief of trauma surgery and orthopedic surgery at Roosevelt Hospital, in addition to his duties as physician for the New York Mets, the release said.

During his first visit to Hilton Head in 1970, Sea Pines founder (and fellow Hall of Fame member) Charles Fraser asked LaMotte to open a hospital on the island to serve its 3,000 residents. LaMotte ended up guiding the project, a 40-bed private hospital, from inception until completion, the release said.

LaMotte worked to get changes in state law and an IRS exemption to make the hospital a reality. He spearheaded a $1.2 million fundraising campaign and worked to find an underwriter for the $11.2 million in bonds needed to build the hospital. LaMotte and local attorney William L. Bethea Jr. personally guaranteed the first $500,000 bond to start construction of the hospital, the release said.

Today, the hospital has more than 1,000 employees and 93-acute care beds. A huge part of the island's economy -- with an annual payroll of over $40 million -- the hospital also has a charitable arm, made possible by the hospital's sale in 1994.

LaMotte was on hand to see much of the hospital's growth, having moved to the island a few years after that first visit. He died in 2007, at 78.

McConnell and LaMotte will both be honored at a luncheon Wednesday afternoon at the Sonesta Resort, the release said.