McCrabb: Atrium Medical Center names lobby of pavilion after psychiatrist honored for work

Dr. Percy Mitchell Jr. expected to be in Middletown for months, but stayed decades.

MIDDLETOWN — It’s funny how the decisions we make impact our lives and those around us.

For the good and the bad.

One day Dr. Percy Mitchell Jr., a child and adult psychiatrist, was working in the Dayton area when a colleague he did a fellowship with in child psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati called. He needed someone to help at his practice for about six months. The doctor was working alone in Middletown and wanted some time off, he told Dr. Mitchell.

So Dr. Mitchell agreed to help out a friend. That was 32 years ago.

“And I never left,” he said with a smile.

His countless patients, the staff at Middletown Regional Hospital and now Atrium Medical Center and Premier Health are forever grateful.

On Friday, during a short ceremony at Atrium, the hospital renamed the lobby of the Behavioral Health Pavilion in Dr. Mitchell’s honor. The best part, he said, he’s alive to enjoy the accolade. You never want “the late” engraved on your plaque.

“It’s a huge, huge honor,” said Dr. Mitchell, 80, who continues counseling children and adults in his psychiatry practice on Summit Drive. “To know that I’m a symbol of the development and presentation of psychiatric services is huge and one that my family is proud of, I’m proud of. I’m just pleased to be part of the family at Premier.”

He’s more than part of the medical family. He has sat at the head of the table.

Dr. Greg Siewny, a retired Middletown OBGYN, said when they met, Dr. Mitchell was Atrium’s chief of medical staff. Over time, Dr. Siewny affectionately called Dr. Mitchell “commander.”

Not because of his age, or his position.

But the way he carried himself.

“On every organization or committee he serves, he’s the chairman,” Dr. Siewny said. “He has so much respect, a good heart and he’s a tireless worker.”

Then he dropped the best compliment from one professional to another. “He’s a role model for me.”

When Dr. Siewny was caring for a pregnant woman who was mentally unstable, his first phone call was to Dr. Mitchell. He never disappointed in his diagnosis or his care.

“Great outcomes,” said Dr. Siewny, who’s serving his fourth year as board of trustees president at Atrium. “He’s a great leader. He’s carrying our hospital to new heights.”

Others have noticed Dr. Mitchell’s leadership. He has served on the board of trustees, as president of the hospital’s medical staff, and as Premier Health’s first chief of staff.

Before that he worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base medical facility from 1972-75.

Not bad for a kid from North Carolina, whose family moved to Williamsport, Pa., when he was 9 months old. His father Percy Mitchell Sr., was a teacher and coach in North Carolina in the early 1940s and the district had two superintendents, one white, one Black. Neither thought Mitchell, who is Black, should instruct both white and Black students.

When the Ku Klux Klan reared its ugly head in North Carolina and made racial threats, Dr. Mitchell’s mother, Amelia, suggested moving out of the state. So they landed in Williamsport, Pa., best known today as the site of the Little League World Series.

Dr. Mitchell, who lives in Centerville with Laurie, his wife of 27 years and his office manager, said Middletown reminds him of Williamsport. Both cities are “quiet and friendly” and a short distance from larger cities.

“This,” he said, “is a good place to be.”

For another reason, Atrium has made capital improvements in the Emergency Trauma Center, he said. A distinct hallway serves those who suffer from mental health issues. Treatment rooms are separated by walls instead of curtains. Special doors lock automatically and include ligature alarms.

In the hospital’s Behavioral Health Unit, a sensory room has been added and the dining room updated.

Patients with behavioral health issues can’t always be healed like other patients. Poverty, drugs, and other issues have taken their toll. Many conditions are generational. In his practice, Dr. Mitchell said he’s seeing the great-grandchildren of patients he cared for 30 years ago.

In that time, a lot has changed in the profession, he said.

Advancements in determining what caused the mental illness and the best way to treat it through medications have been made, he said.

“There’s still a huge way to go,” he said.

So now, more than three decades after he got off Exit 32 on Interstate 75 for the first time, Dr. Mitchell continues making the drives, continues working.

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