"Remember that pharmacy is a compassionate profession of healing ..."
As far back as he can remember, Columbia native Woodrow Bell (1987 B.S. pharmacy, 1992 M.D.) dreamed of being a doctor. As an alumnus of both the UofSC College of Pharmacy and School of Medicine, he is living out his childhood dream while providing accessible, compassionate care to underserved populations in the state.
Tell us about what you do:
Presently, I practice internal medicine as a Staff Physician at Eau Claire Cooperative Health Care, a federally qualified health care center which provides comprehensive health care services to residents of Richland and surrounding counties. Our clinics particularly emphasize meeting the needs of the uninsured and underinsured. Our mission is providing medical care under the spirit of the parable of “The Good Samaritan.”
How did you originally get interested in your field?
My interest in pharmacy and ultimately medicine grew from my lifelong passion for the biological and physical sciences during my childhood years. I spent most of my spare time as a child reading the myriads of scientific entries in World Book Encyclopedia which my parents purchased for me in elementary school. In high school, I won first place in Physics in our science contest. I performed well in my pre-pharmacy curriculum, and it was during this time that I realized pharmacy and medicine were the ideal careers for me to pursue.
Why did you choose the University of South Carolina?
Columbia is my hometown, and besides, most of my seven siblings graduated from UofSC. Growing up as a boy, I remember my brothers followed the glory days of Frank McGuire basketball at the Carolina Coliseum, Gamecock football with George Rogers bringing home the Heisman Trophy, and the exciting “Black Magic” football era. I guess you can say “Garnet and Black” is in my DNA.
Who has been a mentor to you?
I have been fortunate to have a few mentors at different times in my life. My brother Gary who is a confidant on many matters of importance remains a steadfast mentor. He always gives sound advice in a pragmatic but nonjudgmental way. Of course, during medical school years, Dr. Raymond Bynoe was my primary mentor who challenged me to excel academically, and he led by example as a skilled surgeon at UofSC School of Medicine. Later in my professional career, I was fortunate to meet Dr. Stuart Hamilton, a Columbia pediatrician who founded Eau Claire Cooperative Health Care. He renewed and strengthened my commitment to provide the best medical care to the less fortunate among us.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I consider my induction into Phi Beta Kappa as my greatest accomplishment because it reflects my appreciation for the liberal arts as well as the sciences in contributing to the embodiment of the ideal UofSC student.
What do you do to relax?
I enjoy listening to contemporary jazz and going to live jazz concerts. Two of my favorite contemporary jazz artists are Brian Culbertson and Earl Klugh. I also love traveling, especially to quaint southern cities such as Savannah, Asheville, and New Orleans. I sometimes discover many of the hidden gems in the pages of Southern Living magazine for relaxation.
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
Mr. Robinson’s 7th grade history class would be a blast from the past. It was there I met Butch, who is still today one of my best friends. Many of my classmates in Mr. Robinson’s class, as well as Mr. Robinson himself, evoke a nostalgia which words cannot express. He launched fundraising initiatives for the students which culminated in trips to St. Augustine (the oldest city in the U.S.), Washington, D.C., and New York City. Almost 32 years later, he surprised me with a visit to my medical practice. He gave me a group picture of my class from one of our history trips. The gesture was so heartfelt and served as a reminder of those special moments.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Life most importantly has taught me that life is a journey and not a destination, and during this journey called life, it is necessary to face triumph as well as adversity with the same unwavering faith.
What would your superpower be?
My superpower would be the power to heal the broken human spirit through laughter.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Of course, I would invite Oprah to my dream dinner party. Not only is she the quintessential conversationalist, but I envision her as the life of the party by engaging everyone and making all my dinner guests feel quite relevant and fitting for the occasion.
What is your advice for current students/future pharmacy professionals?
My advice for current students and future pharmacy professionals is strive for perfection and you will achieve excellence and never rest on your laurels. Also, I would charge them to remember that pharmacy is a compassionate profession of healing, and they are entrusted to maintain it as such.
Who would play you in the film of your life?
If you had asked me two years ago, it would have been Chadwick Boseman. I would have selected him not only because he was a native South Carolinian, but also because of his critically acclaimed portrayal of several transformative people in history on the big screen. Michael B. Jordan is a living actor who would be my selection because of his gutsy performance in “Creed”.
What is top on your bucket list?
I want to travel to Iceland to see the Northern Lights.
What is your favorite memory from pharmacy school at the University of South Carolina?
My pharmacy classmate friend, Roy and I attended the 1987 Reverend Billy Graham Crusade at Williams-Brice stadium during the ecumenical year at UofSC. We sat in the stadium and listened to Reverend Graham spread the Gospel as the rain poured from the skies. It was a very memorable event for both of us.
I also enjoyed my time working at the Palmetto Poison Center, which sometimes meant the night shift. Working there with Dr. Metts was educational as well as professionally rewarding. We also had some fun times and very interesting stories to share.