Many people go about doing good deeds in their families, neighborhoods, organizations and church congregations. “Utah Valley’s Everyday Heroes” celebrates these unsung community members and brings to light their quiet contributions.
In March, the American Fork Hospital added Dr. E. William Parker to their Wall of Honor. He was a member of the hospital staff for over 30 years, and delivered 7,800 babies over the course of his career as an OB-GYN.
Both patients and colleagues remember Parker most for his kindness.
“There’s nobody like Dr. Parker. He ruled as much with his heart, if not more, than he did with his head,” said Mary Ellen Jackman, a registered nurse who works in labor and delivery at American Fork Hospital. “He treated with his heart — his heart is so big — as much as the skills that he had. That in and of itself embodied the whole world of his practice.”
Sheryl Fowler shared on Facebook that Parker left the Stadium of Fire to come deliver her twins, Quincy and Sidney, in 1983. Fowler was referred to Parker for the pregnancy, her third, because it was high-risk. She said she spent months in bed “trying not to have them,” but they came anyway, two months early.
“I felt really bad that he had to leave the Stadium of Fire,” Fowler said. “But he was just really nice ... You could tell that he really cared about his patients.”
Parker didn’t grow up intending to go into medicine, and certainly didn’t plan to become an obstetrician. He graduated high school in 1963 with the intent of becoming a physicist. But looking back, there were certain things in his childhood as well as during his first year of college at Stanford University that seemed to be leading him down that path.
Parker is the oldest of six children, with five younger sisters. However, his mother also gave birth to another boy, who was stillborn.
“I still remember his casket on my grandmother’s dining room table,” Parker said. They buried him alongside Parker’s grandfather at a family grave site.
Years later at Stanford, Parker shared a room with a pre-med student, and subsequently got a “D” in physics. Still, it wasn’t until after he had served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that he determined to study medicine, and it would still be a couple of years before he settled on becoming an obstetrician. He attended the University of Utah and graduated with a degree in biology.
In the meantime, Parker was finally in a position to be on active duty for the Army Reserve. He had signed up with a few friends while he was a senior in high school, but received deferments for both his freshman year of college and his mission.
It was while serving his active duty that Parker reconnected with a sister missionary he had met in Germany, Ruth Ann Marcroft, known as “Rusty” for her red hair. He took her out on a date a few weeks later, proposed to her on her birthday a few months after that, and they were married in the Salt Lake Temple on April 1, 1969. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year.
After they married, Parker was accepted into the University of Utah School of Medicine, he ended up funding his tuition with a naval scholarship. Working for the navy, Parker traveled to and worked at naval bases in Virginia and California, completing his residency and delivering the first thousand babies of his career. Meanwhile, his and Rusty’s family was growing — altogether, they had 10 children, the last three of which Parker delivered himself.
They finally settled down in Highland, which at the time only had a handful of OB-GYNs. One of Parker’s proudest accomplishments from that time is the work he did with midwives, working with a group of them at Orem Community Hospital and bringing them to the American Fork area, eventually making them part of his own practice.
“It was just a very rewarding part of the practice for me, working with the midwives and their patients, because (the patients) didn’t necessarily like doctors, but they liked what was being provided by the midwives,” Parker said.
And, it allowed the midwives to have the backup of a physician if it became necessary during childbirth. However, it wasn’t necessarily a move many medicine practitioners supported. Parker recalled one incident in particular where the American Fork Hospital was forced to put him on probation because of their own policies on midwifery.
“I had a patient once who had twins, and she was very much into home deliveries. She was seeing us but she wanted to have a home delivery and I said, ‘I think you’re crazy to try and deliver twins at home. There’s just so many things that can go wrong, I think you need to be monitored very closely in the hospital,’” Parker recalled. He struck a deal with the patient: she could have her own midwife deliver the babies, but she had to have them at the hospital.
Having a “lay midwife” deliver a baby at the hospital was against hospital policy, but Parker said the patient continued to maintain she would either have the babies delivered by the midwife or go home and have them there. The midwife was able to deliver the twin babies safely, and the hospital put Parker on probation for a year.
“I don’t blame the hospital, I think they needed to do that. I didn’t disagree with it at all. I didn’t make a habit out of doing this, that was the only time it happened, but I thought it was in the patient’s best interest,” Parker said.
Besides his work with midwives, Parker’s other “specialty” and something he became known for was being a proponent of VBAC — vaginal birth after cesarean sections. Common beliefs at the time, Parker said, dictated that once a woman gave birth via c-section, any following births would also have to be c-sections. Parker disagreed, and over the course of his practice, he said more and more studies proved what he believed all along, that women can have vaginal births after having c-sections.
“My definite feeling was that cesarean sections were performed way too often,” Parker said. “I just thought, (vaginal births) are safer all the way around.”
Parker’s dedication to helping mothers have vaginal births even after c-sections is something Jackman remembers as very significant in his practice.
“Multiple times, moms that had had previous c-sections and really wanted to have a vaginal delivery, he would spend however long it took, even sitting with them, to see if that could happen for them, and multiple times they did,” Jackman said. “I feel like, perhaps if they had another provider, that wouldn’t have happened for them.”
Jackman said Parker’s c-section rate was really low, which she credits to his patience. She said mothers would come from all over the state to have him deliver their baby, especially if they had c-sections previously, and that Parker “multiple times ... made those wishes come true, that they had vaginal deliveries after that.”
Every delivery was important to him, Jackman said, and he leaves a legacy of patience and kindness at the American Fork Hospital.
“There will never be anyone that will replace him,” she said.