Julia Davis Rhodes, RN, was inspired early on to a career in nursing by a Ms. Sippel, the nurse who gave her vaccinations when she was 9 years old. Enthralled by how elegant the nurse looked in her uniform, Ms. Rhodes notes that this was the beginning of what would become a lifelong dream to be a nurse and work in surgery. Earning a diploma in nursing in 1964, she began her career that same year as an operating room nurse at Piedmont Metro Atlanta Hospital. In 1965, she achieved certification as a registered nurse and joined the Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center, where she would go on to spend the next nearly 40 years before retiring as the team leader of neurosurgery in 2003. During this tenure, Ms. Rhodes was responsible for checking on equipment status and ordering new or replacement equipment when it was needed.
Despite her retirement, Ms. Rhodes remained active in the field of health care, serving as a part-time nursing service provider from 2006 to 2021. In this role, she worked with six patients who were living with Alzheimer’s disease, which she found to be a very rewarding experience. Having accomplished much over the course of her career, she considers becoming a surgical nurse to be her crowning achievement. She is particularly gratified to have received consistent recognition of her skills from the doctors that she worked with, as well as by the fact that she became known as “The General” in the operating room. Ms. Rhodes even had the opportunity to assist and work alongside Dr. James A. Green.
One of the biggest challenges that Ms. Rhodes encountered over the years was the rapid advancement of the medical field, which required continued study and keeping up to date with new developments. She always took this very seriously, because she was determined to stay at the top of her game and be not only good but great at what she did. Standing out in her field, she made a name for herself as someone who was constantly improving, something she attributes to her time spent in the operating room, which was always a professional challenge that led to new experiences. To young and aspiring professionals, Ms. Rhodes would advise that if you want to pursue a career in medicine, choose what you want and then put in your best effort, stick with it and give it your all.
Born in Willachoochee, Georgia, to father Samuel Davis and mother Cecil Jenerette Davis, Ms. Rhodes grew up in a small town of 1,200 people. She calls her mother her “best supporter in every way,” because it was her mother who instilled in her the importance of a good work ethic and was a devoted supporter and driving force for many years. She also feels deeply grateful to her husband, Don Rhodes, a skilled stock trader, who understood that her hospital life came first as well as her deep faith in helping others. As she looks toward the future, Ms. Rhodes hopes to remain as active as her mother did in her old age, living to be 95 years old, and continue serving her community as much as she can.
Since 2008, Ms. Rhodes has been an active member of the Beech Haven Church, where she volunteers her services in a variety of endeavors. She also donates to a number of charities and organizations in support of animals, including donkeys and hero dogs who have worked with the U.S. Army. Her current health care-related endeavors are geared toward supporting paralyzed veterans. When she is not working, Ms. Rhodes enjoys spending her free time reading, sewing and traveling, and continues to live by her motto, “No matter where you come from, you can accomplish something great.”