Dr. Mays bids farewell to way of life — Whidbey pediatrician retires after 32 years

Dr. Jane Mays is retiring from Pediatric Associates of Whidbey Island where a wall displays her various awards and certificates.  - Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times
Dr. Jane Mays is retiring from Pediatric Associates of Whidbey Island where a wall displays her various awards and certificates.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times

When Dr. Jane Mays started her pediatrician clinic in Oak Harbor in 1979, she hoped to retire in the same gorgeous, rural place. Now that dream is coming true.

Mays was the first female doctor on Whidbey Island. Her one-person office in a small, rented room in downtown Oak Harbor transformed into Pediatric Associates of Whidbey Island -- after a few moves and plenty of hard work.

“I adore being involved in the lives of children and young families,” Mays said. “Seeing them go from cradle to professionals has been the most rewarding of all.”

Mays said her medical career was filled with the long-term joy of seeing people grow up but the simple reason she was driven to become a pediatrician is: “Kids are fun.”

“It’s the most stimulating profession I could have found for a career. It combines love of science with health care and the children involved,” Mays said.

Mays has immersed herself in the medical field for the past 44 years. After attending college and medical school at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, she did her three-year residency and two-year fellowship at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Children’s Hospital and the University of Oregon Heath Science Center Children’s Hospital.

“So I’m going to miss it,” Mays said about retiring from pediatrics. “It’s been a way of life for me -- a wonderful, fun way of life. But there comes a time to let the next generation take over.”

Four of Mays’ nieces and nephews are in the medical field. Mays said she is proud that the practice of medicine and Pediatric Associates will continue.

Gaye Litka, office manager for Pediatric Associates, said Mays is beloved in the community.

“She cares about her patients and often keeps in touch with many, long after they’ve grown and left the practice,” Litka said.

While pediatrics isn’t all smiles, Mays said the positives far outweighed the negatives. Seeing children and families overcome health issues has been important to her.

Sometimes, children can’t overcome health problems. It hurt Mays when children suffered from illnesses that couldn’t be cured or sustained accidental injuries and trauma, like car accidents. Mays focused her efforts on taking care of the patients after the accidents and on teaching parents to deal with the after effects.

Pediatricians are all about prevention of illnesses and accidents but “in spite of the best-laid plans, bad things happen and the whole plan changes to make the best of what happens and to help the patient live the best life they can,” Mays said.

To cope with tragedy, Mays said she reflects on life and leans on her supportive husband and colleagues. The families of patients are also supportive, returning the support she gave to them, Mays said.

Mays’ passion for pediatrics shone when she spent two years practicing in Fairbanks, Alaska, in the late 1970s.

Winters were brutal. She lived outside the community and had to drive in temperatures 35 degrees below zero to see ill children, Mays said.

But she fell in love with the beautiful, rural place.

“There are areas up there that are truly untarnished by big cities,” Mays said.

The rural aspect and beauty of Whidbey Island are what drew Mays to start her practice on the island.

Mays’ husband Byron Skubi, an orthopedic surgeon, retired a few years ago. After Mays’ retirement, they plan to stay on Whidbey Island and enjoy the rural life.

Mays said she has no plans to travel the world in her retirement but she said she’s sure she will find plenty of hobbies and spend time doing volunteer work.

Oklahoma is Mays’ original home, but Whidbey Island is the home she’s been hoping for.

“I’ve felt very lucky to have a job in a rural area like this,” Mays said, adding that often, people choose to work in the big city then retire to rural areas only to find that their friends are still in the city.

Instead of opening her practice in the city, Mays gambled on Whidbey Island for her practice after realizing that there were no pediatricians on-island in 1979.

“So I thought this might work, and I think it has,” Mays said.

Mays said she is grateful to the community for supporting her when she started her practice and over the decades. She wasn’t sure if people wanted a pediatrician on the island so she said she’s glad the community has trusted her for good, long-term care.

“I feel I was able to integrate into the community in a good way and I’m part of the community as I retire,” Mays said. “I hope I’ve helped my patients grow to be young adults with pride and with purpose.”


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