Dr. Bennie Nobles is approaching 70 years old, but you’d never know it. This energetic man, who currently works at East Jefferson General Hospital, is extremely fit and loves being a doctor, delivering babies for multiple generations of patients. The son of owners of a mom-and-pop grocery store, Nobles worked his way through medical school at LSU by working at Charity Hospital at night. He finished his residency in 1974 and next year, will mark four decades of working in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Now, that’s a lot of babies.
When I interviewed Dr. Nobles, his excitement about being a doctor was palpable, even after such a long career. One would think that after 40 years of working in Obstetrics and Gynecology, anyone would be ready to retire, but not this man who has his mind set on probably working for at least another decade. “I enjoy practicing and I’ve been blessed with good health,” said Nobles. “I want to do good medicine for as long as I’m capable. I’ll be 70 next March and I still do triathlons – the short ones.” He went on to joke about how his time to complete a mile has declined over the years. “As I age, my running is getting slower, which is frustrating. I’m almost ready to go race-walking because you can almost walk as fast as I am running.”
Over the years, Noble may see 20 to 25 patients a day, which translates into thousands during his career. He has delivered numerous children and now, he’s delivering their children as well. “I’m on my second generations because I’ve been around a long time,” said Nobles. “I’m delivering babies for folks that I delivered years ago…sometimes they are [now] husbands and wives… I think it’s just another reward I get to have a relationship with families.”
Also, it’s not unusual for him to deliver a baby even when he’s not on call. “My biggest reward is my that my patients have trust and faith in me. We’re part of a large group of doctors, and we do a lot of sacrificing for them…we’ll go out and deliver babies whether we’re on call or not. For instance, I was out delivering at midnight even though I wasn’t on call.”
Despite the joy of bringing new life into the world, Nobles does express some concerns about the current uncertainty of the health care system’s reimbursements and how it is affecting doctors and hospitals financially. “The reimbursements in East and West Jefferson are falling, and everyone is losing a large amount of money because of the population,” he explained. “There are more people on Medicare and Medicaid, and the government has reduced reimbursements so that the hospitals are now losing millions of dollars.” He later went on to delve into the topic of malpractice insurance, which he said stays the same while reimbursements are going down. “Obgyn malpractice insurance [here] runs around $80,000 and we’re in one of the top tiers but in cities like Miami, it’s $250,000 before you even see the first patient so you really need to be in practice with someone who can support you.”
Finances and births aside, Nobles finds time for many philanthropic endeavors. He donates to Doctors Without Borders and Mercy Ships, which is an organization that started out of Texas that turns ships into floating hospitals that visit Kenya or Ghana for a year, providing surgeries and medical care for individuals.
Nobles has also been on the board of the New Orleans Mission for the last six years. “New Orleans has the second largest homeless population per capita in the United States,” he explained. “A lot of these are really tragic stories of people who have chemical dependencies, are down on their luck or have mental problems. The mission, according to his calculations, feeds and houses between 250 and 300 people a day, depending on the weather, and the program is making progress with having the homeless earn money. “We have programs where individuals can go out into the community and work,” said Nobles. “We have a service where they cut over three hundred lawns and a percentage of that money goes into a savings account that they get at the end of the year so they learn how to save. We’re not giving them a hand out, we’re giving them a hand up.”
It’s amazing how this doctor finds time for himself, and when asked what he does in the spare time he does have, he said he enjoys fishing, hunting and loves animals. However, his greatest passion is exercise and he hits the weight room, runs and takes spinning classes regularly to keep the muscle mass on his lean frame and encourages all his patients to do the same. “While my heart is fine, I still need to use my muscles,” said Nobles and then started to laugh. “We’re all going to die, but I want to go there in style.”