From press & staff reports
What constitutes a hero?
It is a simple question, but yet complex in its reply. A hero by definition is “a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability.” Heroes in our culture, however, consists of men and women who serve our country, be it a fireman to a soldier in war.
Some of the most unsung heroes, however, our all around us in the form of community health workers.
Community health workers over the years have been providing health-care related services in communities, helping patients live better by supporting behaviors to impact their lives.
Louisville native Bill Fryery has served the people of Mississippi for over 50 years in this role, mostly as an employee for the state.
After attending high school in Winston County, Fryery continued his education at Mississippi State University, where he majored in education. Upon his graduation in 1963, Fryery then came back to Winston County where he directed teaching in Louisville.
During this time Fryery realized that a life in teaching was not suitable for him. He had visions of being a baseball coach, but this also would not come to fruition as planned. From here, he decided to go to Jackson and apply for jobs with the state department of health and the Centers for Disease Control.
Fryery eventually was given a job from the Mississippi State Department to be a venereal disease investigator. This occupation would take him to South Carolina to work with the U.S. Public Health Service.
During his time here, Fryery would meet his wife, a nurse, at a training session for student nurses.
During this time, the Vietnam War had escalated in its intensity, and Fryery was drafted to serve. Fryery did his duty and transferred back to Mississippi to serve his country. During his time, he was assigned as a medic with a company of soldiers due to his background with the U.S. Public Health Department.
Fryery served from 1968 to 1969. During his time he helped the soldiers and Vietnam civilians with information about diseases and healthcare.
Fryery served with the 173rd Division, who still hold reunions 40 years since their return back after serving their country faithfully. Upon his return home, he returned to the public health service and worked in Mississippi when he moved over to the Mississippi Department of Public Health Service in 1972. The decision to remain in Mississippi was based on his family, in which he felt better them being there.
Fryery has dealt with numerous public health issues over his numerous years in health services. When he started in his profession, syphilis was the main venereal disease. The number of cases of syphilis skyrocketed in 1963, and funding was poured into locating those with the disease, and motivate them to seek medical attention.
Fryery was also there during the beginning of HIV and AIDS in America. From 1985 to 1995, many of the diseases that they encountered were related to drug addiction and many people moved from metro to rural areas. “Both drugs and diseases both spread like wildfire,” Fryery said.
Fryery feels that many of these issues are self-generated problems, with the individual not taking responsibility for their actions. “If you stick your head in the sand long enough, the problems will build up,” Fryery said.
Presently, Fryery serves as the Supervisor of the District 4 and District 6 regions. He is now titled as a Disease Intervention Specialist Supervisor. With retirement being down the road, Fryery is looking forward continuing his service to the residents of this state. “I give my job with the state 110 percent,” Fryery said.
In an occupation such as this, it is very important to establish strong relationships with patients due to the sensitivity of some of the issues that arise. Fryery states it is a job about establishing trust, and sometimes dealing with people on the edge of life and death.
Even with those challenges, Fryery feels it is worth it. “Anytime I can help alleviate someone’s pain, I know I am doing my job.”
This job has also made Fryery take to heart the lessons his parents taught him. One of those is having compassion and concern for everyone regardless of their status in life, their disease, or any other factors.
His compassion and caring not only extends to patients, but to his peers as well. During the course of his career, Fryery has donated over five years of leave time from work saved to others in the agency who have run into challenges in life or may have had an illness.
An outstanding example of a true Mississippian and Winston County native, Fryery has dedicated and sacrificed his lifetime to improving lives of others. We thank you.
Editor’s note: This article had been scheduled to run in November 2012.