By Eugenia Jones
After forty-three years as a physician at Winchester, Patton, & Burgess PSC (currently Whitley Family Medical Center), the familiar face of Dr. Jerald (Jerry) M. Burgess will disappear from McCreary County as he retires and moves away to the sunny skies and sandy beaches of Hawaii to further involve himself with the Youth With a Mission (YWAM) organization.
However, Burgess is quick to remind everyone that he will still have a business (Burgess Drugs) and lots of friends in McCreary County. He definitely plans frequent visits to McCreary County in the future.
Burgess is a man who has had many roles throughout his life. Among his varied titles are: missionary, evangelist, husband, father, grandfather, magician, physician, businessman, and world traveler. Today, at sixty-eight years old, Burgess says God has already let him live three lives in one. Now, as he accepts the YWAM founder’s invitation to relocate to Hawaii to teach young missionaries how to incorporate magic and illusions into their ministries, Burgess is still going strong.
A devout Christian, Burgess has been an evangelist and missionary for most of his adult life. He has served on sixty-two mission projects outside of the United States-with only four of those being medical mission projects. The bulk of his missionary work has been focused on taking the Gospel to the lost and helping teach evangelists how to spread the Gospel. He has preached in crusades, taught at Bible conferences, pastored at leadership conferences, and performed Gospel magic programs across the United States and overseas.
Well known for his magic programs, Burgess was nineteen and in undergraduate school when he became a magician. Fascinated by magic tricks as a youngster, Burgess eagerly accepted a philosophy instructor’s offer to teach him how to amaze audiences with magic tricks and illusions. The two performed together for approximately six weeks before Burgess began his own solo act. A year later and still in college, Burgess was also a busy entertainer. He still remembers his first solo performance at Dupont Lodge at Cumberland Falls where he worked as a desk clerk.
It was while attending a Campus Crusade for Christ that Burgess found a purpose behind his love of magic. Compelled to link his magic performances with the Gospel, Burgess produced a Gospel magic program and began using magic as an evangelistic tool.
As a magician for forty-nine years, Burgess has performed numerous tricks and illusions. In the 1990s, WTBS did a segment on magic, and Burgess found himself on television across the nation as he levitated a chair with a girl sitting on it. Over the next few years, Burgess’s two minutes of the fourteen minute WTBS segment aired eighteen times.
He laughed when he spoke of Janie, his wife of forty-four years, being his assistant when they were dating.
“I sawed her in half and floated her in the air,” Burgess said with a smile. “So, she knows how all the tricks are done!”
Interestingly enough, Burgess’s three children, who are all missionaries, have never shown an interest in performing magic.
“Julie, Jill, and Jerad were raised in the home of a magician,” Burgess noted. “When you are raised in a magician’s home, you miss the wonderment. You don’t appreciate the extraordinary of magic because it is ordinary to you.”
In addition to travelling around the globe doing missionary work, Burgess has travelled extensively on his own-nurturing a passion for travelling to far off places. His journeys have taken him across North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Burgess has visited Israel and India. He has gone from McCreary County to Russia, Malawi, Scotland, Japan, and most places in between. He cites Egypt as the most fascinating place he has visited while Greece is the country he most desires to visit again.
“I love the beauty and history of Greece,” Burgess reflected. “I left there feeling like I hadn’t had my fill of the place.”
Despite his world travels, Burgess stayed in McCreary County to raise his family and establish his medical career.
“I am totally convinced McCreary County is where God wanted me,” Burgess said with conviction.
Burgess credits his working at the medical practice of Winchester, Patton, & Burgess as allowing him the opportunity to pursue his diverse interests.
“I could never have found another medical center that would have given me the time to do what I’ve done with mission work and travel,” Burgess noted. “I’ve had a unique career as far as rural doctors are concerned. Dr. Winchester had unique vision in recruiting me and John Patton when we were in eighth grade. Dr. Winchester was very involved in medical missionary work. He wanted time to work with missions, and he wanted the doctors working in his clinic to have time to pursue their passions-mission work, charity work, etc. To accomplish that, he established a clinic allowing the doctors to have time off to work with whatever was important to them. Because of Dr. Winchester, I’ve had the time off to travel and do ministry and missions.”
Dr. Burgess, who attended the University of Kentucky and is a board certified family doctor, considers his interaction with patients as his favorite part of being a doctor. He enjoys working in a family practice because it is all encompassing.
“With a family practice, you don’t have to eliminate any age group,” Burgess said with a smile. “You get to interact with everyone.”
Burgess points to the increased availability of medical care as the biggest and most significant change in local medicine.
“At one time, we only had two doctors in McCreary County-Drs. Winchester and Perry,” “Burgess observed. “Now, we have at least five offices, and most significantly, an ambulance service with trained EMTs. In addition, we have hospitals in all the surrounding counties with staffed emergency rooms and good roads leading to them. Because of that, our jobs as local doctors are a lot easier, and urgent medical care is much better and quicker.”
Although, Burgess has applied for a medical license in Hawaii, he is unsure what the future holds for him in the medical field. He hasn’t totally made up his mind about accepting an offer to work part-time in a Hawaiian clinic.
Burgess knew there were two things that had to happen before he could move to Hawaii. First, his wife had to actually want to move to the Pacific island, and secondly, his house had to sell.
In the end, Burgess’s wife actually suggested the move, and their house quickly sold.
So it is that, after a life-time of service to the community, a life-long McCreary Countian departs on a new adventure in the Paradise of the Pacific.
Aloha, Dr. Burgess and family. We hope you come back to visit soon.