We published a story on Jan. 22 about a survey that concluded that Robeson County ranked No. 1 in North Carolina in poverty and, perhaps even more distressing, No. 80 out of about 3,200 counties in the United States.
We considered an accompanying editorial, but balked, figuring enough of the bad news for that day.
But a story that was published yesterday on Terry Lowry, a surgeon at the Heart Center that is managed by Duke Medicine and is on the campus of Southeastern Regional Medical Center, seemed like a good shoehorn to speak about the pervasive problem of poverty that plagues this county. The news was that Lowry had been named by Surgical Products, a magazine, as its surgeon of the year. More interesting was Lowry’s life story, which was highlighted in the Page 1A article to the degree that is possible in 587 words.
Success was not a birthright for Lowry, who grew up in the Prospect community, the son of laborers who had not had the benefit of an education beyond the eighth grade. Determined to become a doctor, Lowry made his way to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but he struggled, both academically and financially, and was forced back to his native county where he joined his parents in the textile mill.
“I learned about the struggles of everyday life by having to work under the conditions that my mother tried to protect me from by pushing me towards education,” Lowery said in the magazine’s feature article.
Lowry listened to his mother, and not those who insisted that his future was already charted — and that it would take him nowhere. Lowry dismissed the naysayers and returned to UNC, graduated and earned his medical degree with honors, and eventually returned in 2006 to Robeson County, where he saves lives as a cardiothoracic surgeon.
We don’t know what wage a cardiothoracic surgeon earns, but we are secure in suggesting that Lowry has escaped poverty’s chains.
Lowry now hopes to be an inspiration for others wanting to change their life’s path.
“Don’t let others determine your fate,” he says.
Lowry’s lesson is that poverty is a temporary condition, not a life sentence, a stop on life’s journey, and not a destination. But escaping poverty requires confronting it challenges by acquiring a skill or an education and then doing the work.
Lowry’s story, while exceptional, is not unique, and plots a map for others who have the courage to follow.