Sometimes you can't take the country out of the boy or the boy out of the country

May 13, 2021
Casey Chubb standing outside the house where his family celebrated all their big holidays
Casey Chubb, 2021 College of Medicine graduate, stands in front of the house where he and his family celebrate most holidays in Jacksonboro, S.C. Photos by Bryce Donovan

There’s a little place off S.C. Highway 17, just after you cross over the Edisto River, known to locals as The Hill. Situated a couple hundred feet back from the road, behind a faded pink thrift store, you’ll find a slight rise in the terrain. Casey Chubb, a 2021 MUSC College of Medicine graduate, will forgive you if you don’t see it immediately. It might not be much, he said, but what it lacks in elevation, it more than makes up for in memories. And whether he’s thought about it or not, it’s a fitting symbol for the past six years of his life.

But Chubb’s relationship with Jacksonboro, South Carolina, goes back much further. In fact, the 30-year-old, who will soon begin his family medicine residency at MUSC, has spent all but his time in med school in this small town.

Road sign labeled Chubb Lane 
Growing up in a small town has its advantages: Like living on a road bearing your family's name. 

Growing up in a one-stoplight town with a population of 399 means everybody knows everybody. Or more accurately, everybody knows everybody’s business. In some small towns, that level of intimacy can be suffocating, even toxic; in Jacksonboro, Chubb said, it’s brought them closer together. They’re a community here. These are his people. His family. And it wasn’t all that long ago that Chubb was a scruffy-haired boy running around barefooted, riding four-wheelers and throwing dirt clods.

“Put it this way: My great-great grandmother was won in a poker hand. That’s how country I am,” he said with a laugh.

Things certainly were a lot simpler back then – back before life became such an uphill battle – but he’ll be the first to tell you that adversity has made accomplishing his goal all the more satisfying.

Unfinished business

When Chubb was 9 years old, his mom’s sister-in-law got very sick. Oddly enough, it’s the laughter that he remembers the most. He remembers going with his mother to visit her – she had cancer and was in a lot of pain, he recalls – and his main focus was trying to make her smile. 

“I saw that if I could make Aunt Trish laugh for, like, five minutes, it was an escape for her,” he said. “I think that’s kind of when it clicked. I thought, ‘If I can make her feel better with a laugh, what could I do with a medical degree?’”

After all, there was some unfinished business between medicine and the Chubb family. 

Long before she started a family – before her stint as a postal worker or that time she was a welder, heck, she even ran the pink thrift store for a bit – Chubb’s mother was on track to become a registered nurse. “Dirt poor,” as he described her, she busted her tail to get the grades and, in turn, scholarship to go to nursing school. All throughout school she continued to shine. At the top of her class and just three weeks away from graduation, her gallbladder ruptured. That unfortunate event forced her to miss 11 days of school and, unmercifully, her scholarship was revoked. 

“She always regretted not going back to nursing school,” Chubb said. 

As he – along with his desire to become a doctor – continued to grow, his mother pushed him to get his EMT certification as well as volunteer at the Jacksonboro Fire Department. He even got a job as a technician at a nearby hospital. 

“She was my biggest champion,” he said. “She was my person. My best friend.” 

Sadly, she would never get to see her little boy become Dr. Chubb.

Casey Chubb standing in front of his mother's old thrift store 
Chubb stands in front of the thrift shop that this mom used to run in Jacksonboro.

A fork in the road 

After missing out on admission the year before, Chubb got into MUSC’s College of Medicine in 2015. Though he was elated, his focus was still squarely on his family. He had people depending on him day in, day out. His cousin Alaina, his parents – they wouldn’t admit it, but they needed him. So throughout medical school, he traveled back to Jacksonboro frequently, even moving home for his final year. That 90-minute round trip is one Chubb knows well.

“I know it sounds nuts, but I don’t know what I would have done without that drive,” he said. “Usually, I just listen to music. Maybe make a phone call. But whatever it is, it gives me the time to decompress.” 

On the morning of Chubb’s very first day of medical school – a day that normally should be full of anticipation and excitement – he learned his grandmother had terminal cancer. Refusing treatment, she returned home, given six months to live. Chubb and his mother took over caring for her, and she would go on to defy the doctors and live two more years. 

Casey Chubb in a selfie with six family members standing behind him 
Chubb takes a selfie with his family, at right are his mother and father. Photo provided

During that time Chubb settled in at school. He found his rhythm. Things were good.

Then, just weeks before he was to begin his third year, his maternal grandfather had a massive stroke. For three straight days, his mother spent every minute by her dad’s side. As his condition continued to deteriorate, he was moved to the intensive care unit. All the stress, the worry, it took its toll on Chubb’s diabetic mother. 

“She was always more worried about everybody else than herself,” he said. Fever turned into a cold. A cold turned into pneumonia. That forced her to return home to get some rest. Family urged her to seek medical attention herself, but she was tough – and stubborn. “She didn’t want the focus off her dad,” Chubb recalls. 

But what nobody knew at the time was she was in the beginning stages of septic shock. She would die less than 24 hours later.  

Looking deep within 

In medical school, after the first two years, there’s a test. Historically, in the eight weeks preceding it, students buckle down and spend the majority of their time studying. Unfortunately, this time happened to coincide with the loss of Chubb’s mother and grandmother.  

“I won’t lie, there was a point where I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back to medical school. I kept thinking, ‘What’s the point of doing this if I can’t even save my own mom?’”

 

Casey Chubb, 2021 College of Medicine graduate

In the course of just two short months, Chubb lost two of the most important people in his life, was pulled off rotations and forced to sit out a year of medical school. It would turn out to be a very long year. 

“That was such an awful stretch,” Chubb said. “I won’t lie, there was a point where I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back to medical school. I kept thinking, ‘What’s the point of doing this if I can’t even save my own mom?’” 

Though it was filled with sadness, the year off proved to be a blessing. It gave him time to heal. To think. To talk with his family. There were lots of tears shed, heated discussions, late-night arguments, but in the end, they convinced him that his mom would have wanted him to finish medical school. This time, he passed his certification.

“Once I passed that test, I stopped doubting myself,” he said. He laughed, adding, “Besides, I had so much debt, the only way out was to be a doctor.” 

Homecoming

Casey Chubb wearing a costume from the movie The Hangover for Match Day 2021 
Chubb at Match Day 2021, dressed as Alan from "The Hangover." Photo provided.

Jacksonboro runs deep in Chubb’s blood. Raised in a Baptist household, he was taught from an early age that service comes first. You always give back. 

“Mom always said, ‘Don’t forget who you are and where you come from.’”

Though he’ll primarily be working in Charleston for the next three years – and finally bought his own condo in town – he’ll still come back to visit. And when those three years are up, he plans to move back home – this time for good – and set up a practice in Colleton County. 

He also envisions eventually setting up a free clinic – in honor of his late mother – as a place for locals who can’t afford medical bills to come and get quality care. 

He even has the perfect location for it: her old thrift store.

“The people here are good people. They deserve the same treatment as everybody else,” he said. 

He would know. After all, they are his people. 

About the Author

Bryce Donovan

Keywords: Education, Features, Trending Topics