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June 2, 2011

Dr. Seth Berl retires after almost 27 years in Moultrie

MOULTRIE — Dr. Seth Berl came south in the 1980s because of the weather, settling in Moultrie in 1984. He retired as a physician from his practice May 26 to pursue other interests.

Berl said he grew up in Paris, Ill., and graduated from medical school at Southern Illinois University, completing an internship at Southern Illinois in Springfield, Ill. One of his best friends at the time was doing his residency in Savannah, and Berl came down to Georgia because of the weather.

Berl worked for two years in Savannah, but he said he wanted to practice in a small town. His choice came down to Moultrie and Hilton Head, S.C., and he chose Moultrie because his recruiter told him Hilton Head patients were transient, only being there certain times of the year. Berl wanted to see his patients year-round.

Dr. Clyde Lamon found a partner when Berl came down and began practicing with him on July 1, 1984, Berl said. They practiced together for two years before Berl started his own internal medicine practice at Hospital Park. He rented other spaces, including Dr. Walter Harrison’s old office, while his new facility was under construction.

Another motivating factor in getting him to Moultrie was its sports and being a great place for children, Berl said. He and his wife, Linda, have three sons, Scott, Jason and Brian, all graduated from high school here, played sports here and have been successful. Scott graduated from medical school in May, Jason will begin seminary in the fall and Brian is a junior at the University of Georgia.

Berl said his children have been successful because they had parents that expected them to be successful. He hopes to take that measure of success into restarting a basketball program here like he did several years ago. That program led to the creation of the Georgia Hawks.

As he sees his time in practice over, Berl said he has been extremely fortunate in his almost 27 years here. He has had several great partners over the years, including current partners Dr. Todd Trebony and Dr. James Huffman, and his office staff has been phenomenal. His office space will be taken over by Dr. Jeong Seo, who will begin practicing July 5.

Berl said his retirement came together within about six months after he had two emergency surgeries for a detached retina and the need for hip replacement surgery. He was humbled to see after a previous hip replacement that his office could keep running without him there.

“Whenever I left,” Berl said, “somebody was going to take my place.”

Berl said he would not leave until a third partner was brought to help his current partners with expenses. Colquitt Regional Medical Center began recruiting an internist about two months ago, and Seo responding presented the opportunity for him to became that third partner or become competition.

“This was from God,” Berl said.

A new partner in place allowed Berl to end his time at the practice on May 26, he said. He plans to coach the Georgia Hawks All-star basketball team and continue medical mission trips to Honduras. He also plans to volunteer at a low-income care clinic in Valdosta, which is run by a friend.

Berl said the mission trips to Honduras are very important to him, as they allow college students the chance to get real-life experience in medicine. Dr. Walter Harrison asked him for several years to go, and he took over when Harrison was no longer able. Moultrie physicians D.W. Adcock and John Newton have also taken part in the trips.

The group that goes on these trips are known in Honduras for going places no one else will go to, Berl said. Since first going, he has seen a vast improvement in health for children there — and knows he has played a part in it.

“If we do not go there (to the isolated locations),” Berl said, “they will never get health care.”

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