From old school to new school

Columbia College-Lake of the Ozarks

Dr. Clemens Haggerty traded in his white coat of 38 years to take on teaching at Columbia College

March 25, 2013

By Dan Field
Lake Focus/Lake Media


It's the reward for a lifetime of working. Some of us fish, some of us take up a hobby; others of us travel and visit our grandkids.

But Dr. Clemens Haggerty declined to set aside the tools of his trade and decided to pay it forward. Not only is he perpetuating his career as a family physician, but he's also teaching clinical microbiology and human anatomy in the nursing program at the Columbia College-Lake of the Ozarks campus.

He is sharing his education, knowledge and experience.

Haggerty retired from full time practice as a clinic physician with Lake Regional Hospital in 2005. Dr. John Keeney, director of the local Columbia College campus, seized the moment and invited Haggerty to join the staff.

A doctor-patient relationship also influenced Keeney's decision to ask Haggerty to join the staff. Because of that unique bond, Haggerty became involved in getting the nursing program launched.

That seemed a natural evolution into becoming a lake campus instructor.

"Dr. Haggerty shows an absolute dedication for everything he is in involved in, and is one of the most thorough and thoughtful instructors we have," Keeney said. "He has been a pillar of support for both the college and the medical community in the Lake are and we are fortunate to have him as a member of our faculty."

There's another bridge between Haggerty's nearly four decades as a family physician and his tenure at Columbia College-Lake of the Ozarks campus. Jim Pasley, a fellow instructor, shared this:

"In the early 70s, my wife, friend and I were water skiing at the lake and my friend fell and separated his shoulder. They only medical care facility available at the time was Dr. Haggerty's clinic on the Strip and he reset my friend's shoulder back in place. He used his foot and a tennis ball to complete the procedure and it all worked out great. He is dedicated and an amazing example of what people at the lake are about."

Education is part of Haggerty's family. His father was a school board member in Vienna, Mo., and teachers needing room and board were able to take advantage of the Haggertys' farm home near the one-room schoolhouse.

"I've always admired teachers," Haggerty explained. "I've had them as friends in our home and around the country."

The University of Missouri-Columbia graduate said he thought about the offer, talked it over with his wife Carolyn and decided it was a good thing to do. The influence of a college professor at Lincoln University also was a factor in his decision. Willis E. Byrd, PhD, taught chemistry and was a mentor whom Haggerty admired.

"He inspired us," Haggerty said. "We knew he could have made more money doing something else, but he was dedicated to his profession and to his students."

The Lake of the Ozarks campus of Columbia College was just beginning its nursing program, and Haggerty was excited about the partnership between Lake Regional Health Systems and the college. Because he had pre-med experience as an assistant to a pathologist and was familiar with a microscope, the transition to the classroom seemed natural.

"Since the (microbiology) course is for future clinical professional people, I can pass along what I've learned after 38 years as a physician," Haggerty said.

It's been rewarding for Haggerty. Teaching is giving him the opportunity to share his knowledge and experience, and it also helps keep his skills and mind sharp.

"I tell my students to never stop learning, to develop a library of information so they can constantly learn," Haggerty said. "I stress the importance of college, but not everybody is cut out for college. It's important to give kids some niche in life."

What's Haggerty's biggest challenge?

Making sure students are academically ready for nursing school, their state boards and TEAS (Tests of Essential Academic Skills).

Are kids prepared today for higher education?

Haggerty said instructors have had to stress the importance of writing skills, punctuation, spelling and essay writing.

Are students prepared today?
Many are, Haggerty said. Some, however, are not focused enough on their writing skills, but are adept at using their computers or the Internet.

"Students benefit a great deal from having an instructor that is either a professional or retired professional. These instructors teach because they love the discipline and topic they have spent their careers working in and they want to stay active in that field," Kenney said.


Haggerty spent 38 years in full time practice, and still enjoys seeing patients part time. He is one of six founding doctors of Lake Regional Hospital, which opened in January 1978. He was appointed by former Gov. Kit Bond to the Missouri Board of Health, was chief of staff at Lake Regional, served as president of the Board of Healing Arts in the early 1990s. He has served on the Columbia College lake campus community advisory committee since 2005 and has been an advocate for the college and the college's nursing program.

During his tenure, he saw the development of imaging systems such as MRI, PET and CAT. These "major developments and innovations" have made it easier to more accurately diagnose patients.

"The days of the exploratory laparotomy just to look around are gone," Haggerty said.

Another significant development in recent years is that all medical records are now computerized after the hospital went paperless about three years ago.

Does he miss it all?

"I don't miss working full time, but I miss the patients and conversations," he said. "I still get contacts from patients and former patients, but I don't miss the longer hours or managing patients in the hospital."

Sam Fleury, communications director for the lake campus of Columbia College, said Haggerty has been a "tremendous advocate" for the college as a whole and also its nursing program.

"There's no bigger advocate for education than Dr. Haggerty," Fleury said.