Rep. Jim Fulghum, Only MD Serving in NC Legislature, Dies

fulghamRep. Jim Fulghum, MD, a retired neurosurgeon, who focused on health care issues during his time in the legislature, died Saturday.

Fulghum, 70, was diagnosed just three weeks before his death with metastatic esophageal cancer, according to his family. He was elected to the House in 2012 to represent Wake County.

“The residents of Wake County were lucky to have Dr. Fulghum represent them – his leadership as a legislator was second only to his compassion and expertise as a doctor serving his constituents and the state of North Carolina,” said House Speaker Thom Tillis in a news release.

Randall Williams, MD, a gynecologist in Raleigh was a close friend and colleague of Fulghum’s and said the state lost a gracious physician and a wonderful representative.

“He was the only physician in the legislature in a time where health care issues and education are big problems in the state,” Williams said. “It was a huge loss for North Carolina.”

“I think his experience in the military and as a farmer and as a physician were incredibly valuable to him as he worked with all sorts of people,” Williams said.

During his time in office, Fulghum helped introduce health focused legislation including requiring hospitals to expand heart defect screening for newborns and allowing medical use of hemp oil in clinical trials to treat a seizure disorder, which were both passed into law. He also championed bills requiring Epi-pens in schools and raising the legal age to use tanning beds to 18.

“While he had strong opinions, beliefs and principles, he was a great listener and was not afraid to listen to people who thought differently than he did and hear them out,” Williams continued.

Fulghum was born in Raleigh and graduated from Broughton High School and NC State University. He married his high school sweetheart, Mary Susan, and the two attended medical school together at UNC-Chapel Hill. One of the couple’s two grown daughters, Emily Fulghum Roberson, worked as Fulghum’s legislative assistant during his time in the General Assembly. His other daughter is Molly Fulghum Heintz.

Fulghum practiced medicine in Raleigh for most of his career and served in the Army Reserve. He was called for active duty during the Gulf War and retired as a major.

“He loved his family, he loved his grandchildren, he loved his daughters, but he also felt very compelled to use his talents and his experiences to help in public policy,” Williams said.

Williams said Fulghum sent him a letter on Saturday that he received on Tuesday.

“That was incredibly gracious,” Williams said. “He fought a good fight, and I think that is an incredibly accurate testimony to his life.”


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