Charles Patton is a respiratory therapist in UMMC's Adult Emergency Department.
Charles Patton is a respiratory therapist in UMMC's Adult Emergency Department.
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Front and Center: Charles Patton

Published on Wednesday, February 16, 2022

By: Ruth Cummins

Editor's Note: In honor of Black History Month’s 2022 theme, Black Health and Wellness, we want to celebrate the contributions, breakthroughs and cultural richness of Black professionals and students at UMMC. See more Front and Center features.

Charles Patton sees patients who fear the next breath could be their last.

As a respiratory therapist in the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Adult Emergency Department, it’s his job to clear their airway, sometimes in the midst of uncertainty or in tandem with other life-saving treatment.

That’s where 24 years of experience, primarily in emergency medicine, comes into play.

“One of the most important things is to get the patient to relax. Once you do that, the job gets a little bit easier,” Patton said. “Just imagine not being able to catch your breath ... but having someone at your side, saying, ‘I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to be right here with you.’”

Patton is part of the Medical Center team charged with “airway management,” or making sure patients can breathe with the help of high-flow oxygen, BIPAP, and other treatments leading up to mechanical ventilation. His background includes treating children, although in recent years he’s cared for adults in the ED, ICUs and at Wiser Hospital for Women.

“I tell my coworkers that it looks easy because I make it look easy,” he said. “But, this comes from a lot of years of practice.”

In his tenure at UMMC, Patton has seen many changes in respiratory care, including much more emphasis on oxygen therapy during COVID-19.

“When I first started out, there were a lot of disease processes where the doctors said, ‘Well, this is all we can do.’ But today, treatments for some of those diseases are commonplace.

“At one time, ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) was like a death sentence. Now, it’s something we see every day, and it’s easier to manage. Even asthmatics are not as difficult to manage.”

Patton takes the time to help educate younger health care professionals, both beginning respiratory therapists and other caregivers who might need his expertise. “I’ll stand at the head of a patient’s bed with a resident who doesn’t feel as confident as they should,” he said. “I enjoy being that whisper in their ear: It’s OK. I got you.”

“Charles is a one-of-a-kind person,” said Brady Holder, manager of respiratory care and ECMO programs. “If I could clone 10 more of him I would, and I am sure everyone that has ever worked with him would agree.

“He is a wonderful teacher and mentor, and one of the best respiratory therapists I have ever had the pleasure to work with.”

UMMC is a melting pot of personalities and experience, Patton said. “I am born and bred right here in north Jackson, but having people who come from different parts of the country and the world, bringing in different ideas, just makes this place better,” he said.

He and his wife of 27 years, Shayla, live in Florence and have two daughters, Mikayla and Amiyah.

Not many people can say that their favorite hobby as a grade-schooler is their favorite hobby today, but Patton can.

“I am a big Marvel fan. I’m the biggest comic book nerd in the world,” he said. “Everyone in the hospital knows it. I’ve been collecting comic books since the third grade.