Dr. William Hedrick Receives the 2023 NCAFP Distinguished Family Physician Award

Dr. William Hedrick Receives the 2023 NCAFP Distinguished Family Physician Award

December 18, 2023

Dr. William Hedrick Receives the 2023 NCAFP Distinguished Family Physician Award

By Kevin LaTorre 
Communications and Membership Manager

During a Dec. 1 ceremony at the NCAFP 2023 Winter Family Physicians Weekend, then-President Shauna Guthrie, MD, MPH, honored Dr. William Hedrick as the 2023 NCAFP Distinguished Family Physician. “This award recognizes a family physician who embodies our members’ total commitment to caring for patients, expanding primary care access, and ensuring the future of our specialty,” Dr. Guthrie said. “He has shown tremendous commitment to his patients, community, and medical specialty. It is a great honor to present to you Dr. William Hedrick.”

Dr. Hedrick traveled from Raleigh with his family to attend the ceremony and receive his award. During his remarks upon receiving it, he said, “I’m very honored to receive this award. I decided late that I wanted to go to med school, because I wanted to become a family doctor.”

Dr. Hedrick created his own Family Medicine residency before they existed.

He had practiced Family Medicine for over 62 years before he retired in July 2023. Dr. Hedrick had completed his medical training from a variety of places and in a variety of disciplines before today’s Family Medicine residencies had even formed, cobbling together experiences in internal medicine, pediatrics, and even psychiatry to develop his own Family Medicine program. His stops prior to his own independent practice included training at the Bowman School of Medicine at Wake Forest College and Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, service in the Army in France, and Wake Memorial Hospital (now WakeMed) in Raleigh, where he was the first emergency room physician at the hospital. Dr. Hedrick eventually opened his own private Family Medicine practice on June 2, 1962, and served his patients there until his retirement. 

During that time in Raleigh, Dr. Hedrick served thousands of patients and pursued one goal for all of them: “Making people feel better and making them live longer lives,” he told WRAL in July 2023. Because he cared for multiple generations of the same families, Dr. Hedrick came to be known as “the Marcus Welby of Wake County” and in 2018 was inducted into the Raleigh Hall of Fame. As Dr. Guthrie said during her remarks, “Dr. Hedrick very well may be the longest-tenured family physician ever to serve in our state.”

In addition to his community service as a physician, Dr. Hedrick had also served the NCAFP as a long-time member and past president.

Dr. Hedrick worked tirelessly to improve the status of Family Medicine in our state. After joining the NCAFP in 1966, he soon rose to leadership and served as the Academy’s president in 1975. In his farewell address after his presidential term, Dr. Hedrick said of the NCAFP: “We are not like some delicate crystal vase that would shatter at the slightest blow. We are more like leather. We are able to stretch and bend and accept hard blows. And that strength comes from the fact that we have both the new ideas of the younger members as well as the wisdom and perspective of the older members. And it is from those tools that we will be able to solve any problem that might arise in the future.”

But, as Dr. Guthrie noted during the ceremony, Dr. Hedrick likely wouldn’t claim his past presidency as the pinnacle of his medical practice. Instead, his years of service showed that devotion to his patients was his primary concern. As Dr. Hedrick said himself in his award speech, “I never experienced burnout in 61 years of family practice. I was always glad to get up and go to the office. I saw my patients as my friends and treated them that way. I wanted them to know that I cared.”

Congratulations, Dr. Hedrick! Thank you for your service to your patients and to the NCAFP.

About the NCAFP

The North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians, Inc. (NCAFP) is a nonprofit professional association headquartered in Raleigh which represents over 4,300 family physicians, family medicine residents, and medical students across the state. It is the largest medical specialty association in North Carolina and is a constituent chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians, based in Leadwood, KS.