Physician Spotlight: Dr. Mickey Wallace
Undaunted by all the hours he spends in the clinic and operating room, Dr. Mickey Wallace really thrives in the great outdoors.
That’s where all the world seems clear — at least when seen through his camera lens. The beauty of nature is there not only to savor but to save, captured with a click.
This Jackson otolaryngologist began taking pictures with a group of friends during his medical school years as a diversion from the pressures of student life.
“We were looking for something to do and only had a small amount of time to devote to other things,” he said. “This was a way to get outside, then come back together and share our photographs.”
Since then, his work has been featured on the cover of Mississippi Outdoors magazine, a publication of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, as well as the Mississippi State Medical Association’s magazine.
While getting published is a treat, the exercise of photographing the world around him is a reward in itself.
“I think it makes you appreciate nature and the outdoors more, because you see things and think what a great picture that would be,” he said. “It also makes traveling fun — going on hunting trips or golf trips. It’s a good chance to photograph things you don’t see every day.”
He also finds reward in looking at even everyday scenes from a different perspective — such as from below, at ground level, or from above in the cockpit of an airplane. Although Wallace isn’t able to use his pilot’s license much these days, he continues to explore his surroundings with his camera by his side.
While he’s been asked to place his work in shows and dreams of compiling a book of his photographs, so far projects like that remain on the back burner.
“The practice of medicine gets in the way of your hobbies a lot of times,” he said, only half-joking.
Spending more of those working hours on the actual practice of medicine — not just the business of it — was Wallace’s goal this past October, when he joined the medical staff of Central Mississippi Medical Center (CMMC).
He’d been in private practice in Jackson since 1983. But over the years — as reimbursement fell, the cost of malpractice insurance rose and the process of getting paid grew more complicated — he was ready for a change.
“I sold my practice to them to eliminate a lot of that billing and collecting,” he said. “It was an effort to reduce the stress of the financial side and be able to devote more time to the actual practice of medicine. Now I spend much less time dealing with insurance companies.”
Today, he spends about half of his time seeing patients in his office on the CMMC campus, with the other half spent in surgery. His patients range from infants to centenarians.
The variety of the practice was largely what drew him to the ear, nose and throat specialty during his years in training. A graduate of Millsaps College, he attended the University of Mississippi Medical Center and completed a residency in otolaryngology, head and neck surgery at the University of South Carolina in Charleston. He also completed a surgery internship at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
He returned to Jackson and had been in solo practice for five years before joining CMMC.
His photography vocation has gone through transitions, too. Self-taught in the days when a camera’s only setting was “manual,” Wallace has since ventured into the digital realm.
“It’s a much easier hobby that more people can enjoy today,” he said. “But you lose some of the challenge at the same time.”
He shoots digital cameras about 80 percent of the time now, though he carried around both film and digital cameras for a couple of years, as he grew more comfortable with the newer version.
Skill behind the lens comes in handy in the office, too, as he keeps a camera there to record images of patients’ facial skin cancers, imperfections and traumas. Another camera stays in his vehicle.
“With your camera, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time,” he said.
On one such occasion, he was able to capture a sequence of dramatic images that show an ancient cedar tree being consumed by flames, frame-by-frame. He just happened to be nearby when lightning had struck, and now keeps the series framed in his office.
A native of Natchez, Wallace finds visual inspiration along the scenic Natchez Trace and Mississippi River countryside, as well as on his travels. He spends time outdoors deer hunting on property he owns in Jefferson County, and duck hunts with friends in the Greenville area.
Wallace is board-certified in otolaryngology, head and neck surgery, as well as facial plastic reconstruction surgery. He is a member of the American Medical Association; Mississippi State Medical Association; American Academy of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery; American Academy of Facial Plastic Reconstructive Surgery and is past president of the Central Medical Association and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.
His wife, Meg, has been a hospital and retail pharmacist and currently teaches pharmacy technology at Hinds Community College. He has two children, Ryan, 22, and Matthew, 18; and two step-children, Alden, 22, and Barri. 19.