Dr John Sites retires from FWB Magnolia Medical Clinic


FORT WALTON BEACH – On Friday night, Dr John Sites saw the most patients he has possibly ever seen in a day.

About 100 cars have passed through the Magnolia Medical Clinic in Fort Walton Beach, but this time not for medical reasons. Instead, they marched to say thank you and goodbye to Sites as he retired.

Sites graduated from Indiana University School of Medicine in 1980.

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“He’s the best doctor by far,” says longtime friend and patient of Dr John Sites

Longtime friend and patient Tommy Britt finds it hard to describe Sites as a doctor, not least because Sites is the only doctor he’s ever had.

“He’s by far the best doctor,” Britt said. “I am 72 years old and he is the best doctor I have ever had. And frankly, I’m in a hell of a dilemma. How do you replace someone like him? You can not. He’s a hell of a guy.

Britt has decades of memories with Sites.

He and his wife, Barbara, lived in the same neighborhood, attended the same Sunday school class at Trinity United Methodist Church, and ran in the same circles as Sites and his wife, Penny. The four became friends in the 1980s, when Britt was a high school football teacher and coach in Fort Walton Beach, Barbara was the cheerleader coach and Sites was the team doctor.

“I went to see John from the very beginning, when he first came to Fort Walton Beach with jet black hair and a big, thick mustache,” Britt said. “He is very caring and he takes care of you. He sits down. He’s talking to you. He takes care of you. It gives you a lot of advice whether you want to hear it or not.

He was also their family doctor, treating Britt’s son, AJ, who is now an Air Force pilot at Hurlburt Field.

“I didn’t mind putting my son in my truck and taking him to (Sites) in the middle of the night,” Britt said.

This once happened after a Friday night football game in 1999.

“We didn’t find out that TJ probably had a concussion until after the ball game,” said Britt. “(Sites) don’t get upset or anything. He just said, ‘That’s what I’m thinking and that’s what you have to do tonight.’ “

Former patients and other supporters visit retired physician Dr John Sites and his wife, Penny, on Thursday night on a drive-thru to Magnolia Medical Clinic, where Sites had practiced since July 1983.

The sites have always gone above and beyond, said Britt, such as after undergoing hip replacement in 2012 at Sacré-Coeur Hospital. Britt’s house was built on stilts, so it took 16 steps to get in. Because of this, he was supposed to go to rehab after the operation.

The night before his surgery, however, Britt was sitting in his recliner chair when he received a call from Sites.

“It’s very straightforward,” Britt said. “He said, ‘You’re having surgery tomorrow. You’re not going to go out and go to a rehab hospital. You and Barbara are going to come live with us. “

So they did.

“How many doctors invite their patients to come stay with them for 10 days? Britt said. “They just don’t do that. People don’t do that. It’s kind of how he is.

They spent Thanksgiving together. They went on vacation together. Their children are friends. Britt saw the two daughters of Sites get married.

“We’ve always been there for John and Penny, and they’ve been for us,” Britt said. “John came and helped us clean up the yard after the hurricanes. I mean, he just got in his car and started working in my garden. They are good friends and will do anything for you, no matter what.

The sites could not be contacted for comment on his career at Magnolia Medical Clinic.

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“He kinda got me,” says Shalimar resident of Dr Sites

Like Britt, Lee Hale has seen Dr. Sites most of his life. The now 50-year-old Shalimar resident has been a Site patient since he was a teenager.

“I think I was maybe one of his very first patients when he moved to the area,” Hale said. “One day my mom came home and said, ‘Hey, there’s this new young doctor and I want you to be with him.’ “

Hale’s mother described Sites as “young, smart and engaging,” he said. And Hale’s first impression of him was exactly that.

“He kinda got me,” he said. “He always spoke to me from a point of view where he understood what I was looking for. Most of my conversations at the time were about my sport I played, undergraduate and graduate sports. He knew what my priorities were. He has always been very attentive to my needs and desires, but at the same time very direct.

Hale played football, baseball and basketball at Meigs Middle School, then football baseball at Choctawhatchee High School. He admits he’s been beaten up a bit.

“I’m a little shorter than most high school athletes,” Hale said. “I’m only 5’8”. At that time, I weighed 150 pounds. I was the quarterback in high school, so I was beaten a little mercilessly just because of my height. I have had concussions over the years.

Hale also suffered a serious knee injury and, as a GP, Sites referred him to specialists.

Although they did not attend the parade on Friday, Hale suspects his wife, Gretchen, of being one of Sites’ last patients. She’s seen him since they moved to the area together after college in 1995.

The most important memory, however, is simply that Sites has always been there.

“A lot of times it wasn’t me holding out my hand; he would be the one contacting me to watch me, ”Hale said. “The memory I have the most is our time travel and how it was just a constant presence in my life, always giving me great advice, always knowing exactly what I needed when I needed it. When I became a father, married, and father, he just adopted my family into that same relationship, he’s just a great guy, more than just a doctor, he gets life.

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