“She started off when female physicians were rare,” said Charles Garrett, MD, also a past NCMS president, who called Newell one of his closest friends. “She was just a kind and sweet and wonderful lady. She was very compassionate.”
Dr. Newell graduated with a degree in chemical engineering from the University of South Carolina at the age of 16 and received her medical degree from the University of Maryland, School of Medicine at age 21. She opened a solo family medicine practice in 1951 in Bailey.
Dr. Newell was known for her house calls and made sure nothing got in the way of treating her patients.
“My fondest memory of Jo is the day she fell on the ice, but drove on to finish her house call before driving to the hospital to have her arm looked after,” said Elizabeth Kanof, MD, a long-time friend of Newell’s and the second woman elected to serve as NCMS president in 1994. “It was broken.”
“There has never been a glass ceiling for women to break in the leadership of NCMS,” Kanof said. “One needs only to be willing to serve.”
As president, Dr. Newell strived to keep medical practices independent of government agencies, Garrett said.
“She thought physicians should have a place at the table and in the decision making,” he said. “And I think that set a pattern for the Medical Society to be participants in the legislature, and to help set the agenda for this state.”
Robert W. Seligson, NCMS CEO, said Newell’s legacy would always be remembered at the Society.
“We lost someone who helped make the North Carolina Medical Society what it is today,” Seligson said. “We will continue her great work of supporting doctors around the state.”
The service was held Monday, July 14, 2014 at Oakwood Cemetery in Louisburg. In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to the Salvation Army or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.