David Lauderdale

Doctor-nurse offspring doesn't forget her medical roots

Dr. Harrison Lee Peeples was a Lowcountry institution, working more than a half-century to improve health care in an impoverished rural area.

He liked to say, "Beside every good man is a good woman, and beside every good doctor is a good nurse."

He knew that well because he was born into it. His mother was both. His father, Dr. Marion Lee Peeples Sr., also practiced medicine in the Lowcountry for more than 50 years, with his wife, Annie, at his side.

His office was attached to their home in the small community of Scotia, south of Estill in Hampton County.

People came by horse and buggy. If they were hungry, they were fed. If the doctor wasn't available, his wife did just fine.

Harrison Peeples took up the same practice in the same house after graduating from The Citadel in 1938 and getting his medical degree.

By then, people were coming by bus. All treatment was 50 cents, no matter what was wrong. No one was turned away for lack of money.

His daughter, Elizabeth Anne "Libby" Laffitte of Allendale, remembers well the constant knocks at the door, day and night.

When she married Henry Laffitte 44 years ago, she didn't realize until he pointed it out that she always answered the phone, "What's wrong?"

Harrison Peeples, who passed away in 2006, liked to relax at a home on Hilton Head Island. But he is best known for working like a missionary to recruit family practitioners to the Lowcountry. He set up a place where visiting students could practice, and now the Harrison Peeples Health Center in Varnville bears his name. He pushed for a hospital in Hampton. And he worked to improve the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. He served on the MUSC board for 28 years and was especially proud of its College of Nursing.

Many of the nurses who helped Harrison Peeples and his father pull people through did not have nursing degrees.

Things have changed dramatically in Lowcountry health care. But the need for nurses has not.

MUSC College of Nursing dean Gail W. Stuart writes: "The need for nurses has never been greater and the impact we have on the health care system is very powerful."

On Sunday, Libby Laffitte will join others here in supporting this pipeline to better health care in the Lowcountry and beyond. The Hilton Head Island Regional Advisory Board of the MUSC College of Nursing will host a fundraising barbecue from 1 to 4 p.m. at Jarvis Creek Park. Tickets are available at the door.

Not many people have had a closer look at Lowcountry health care than Libby Laffitte.

"It's the nurses who pull you through," she said.