Community mourns loss of local physician; Dr. Naren James, public servant, dies at age 59
STANFORD – Local physician, philanthropist, man of faith and public servant Naren James passed away peacefully on Sunday, March 28 after a long battle with illness.
He was surrounded by loved ones, according to his obituary.
James was born on Feb. 12, 1962 in Port Mourant, Guyana, to the late Reuben Atchan James and the late Gauri Persaud James.
James was known by most in the Stanford community, as there is little that he was not involved in during his 24 years as a local resident.
During his time in Stanford, James accomplished a lot. In addition to his medical practice he affected changes through his work as a Stanford City Council member, a Lincoln County Board of Health member, a Lincoln County Ambulance Board member and as a member of the Lincoln County Public Library Board.
James worked with council members to pass a city-wide smoking ban, helped keep the local hospital open, helped promote the needle exchange program in Lincoln County during the height of the opioid epidemic, and in 2020 he was named the new medical director of Isaiah House Treatment Center, putting his faith to work again to help combat the serious substance abuse issues in Kentucky.
In 2017, James was named citizen Doctor of the Year in 2017 by the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians. The award honors an outstanding, community-minded family physician of strong moral values whose deeds and actions exemplify the characteristics of service before self, according to a statement from KAFP.
James also served on the Stanford City Council for several years, and during that time, he helped bring health education and physical activity to local citizens’ attention.
After seeing the deaths of two local citizens in their 50’s due to heart conditions, James worked with former Stanford Mayor Eddie Carter on the Get Healthy Stanford program to highlight the importance of public health at a community level.
The eight-step program focused on making healthy decisions when it comes to eating, exercising and life choices.
The local community health initiative was spearheaded by James with the ultimate goal of making Stanford a statewide model of health for the rest of the state. In honor of the late T.J. Hill, the Stanford City Council designated the month of June as “Get Healthy Stanford-Lincoln County.”
The program gained statewide attention.
“I think the issue of T.J.’s tragic early loss really struck me a lot because he was a personal friend of mine, we actually served on Rotary together. It was kind of a wake-up call for me personally. It wasn’t long after that we lost our hospital medical administrator Mike Jackson, a very young man,” James said in 2016. “Every time I pass by there it reminds me of some of the things that makes me passionate about this.”
James also derived inspiration for the initiative from his past experience serving on the Early Childhood development Authority during which he gained insight into the impact that local health can have on community prosperity and well being.
“That was the first time I learned that this is the first generation of Kentucky children who are slated to live a shorter lifespan than their parents simply because of obesity, activity and lifestyle issues,” he said at the time.
Wherever James was, his faith was his guide – and not just on the local level. James traveled often, mentoring medical students across the state, serving on state medical boards and even leaving the country to help in times of global crises.
In 2015, The Interior Journal interviewed James upon his return from a Budapest train station where the center of the migrant refugee crisis was located.
James said he had no idea that he would find himself amid thousands of those attempting to survive at a train station after Hungarian authorities stopped them from boarding trains. James’ journey to help with the crisis began before the train station was filled with refugees, but the experience only added to his desire to help, he said.
As a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, James reached out to other members and was joined by a physician from Texas, a food manufacturer from Montana and a delegate from the United Kingdom who all traveled to Budapest to present a proposal on how the church should engage in helping the refugees.
While the group was looking for ways the church could aid in humanitarian ways such as food supplies and clothing, James said their main goal was to see about offering volunteer medical services.
When James returned, he went back to work in his local community and continued to advocate for others across seas in need of medical services.
James remembered by colleagues, friends
As Lincoln County’s Judge-Executive Jim Adams spent a lot of time with James and said this loss is one that will be felt by the entire community.
“He was a great community-minded individual,” he said. “He was on our ambulance board; he was on the health department board and then we would talk on occasion about projects within the city and state projects. He was a very curious person as far as politics was concerned.”
James’ curiosity led him to run for several leadership offices including Mayor of Stanford and even U.S. Senator. His bids for those positions were unsuccessful but James continued to serve the public in his role as a City Council member.
“You can see that he was very interested in leadership and politics, that’s for sure,” Adams said. “He was a very conservative fellow which played out in his life also.”
While Adams’ and James’ ideologies didn’t always meet, the two were always able to get along well, he said.
“He was a great man; it is a loss to Lincoln County and Stanford,” Adams said.
Stanford Mayor Dalton Miller, who will be officiating the Celebration of Life ceremony on Friday, has served alongside James for many years.
“And he was my friend,” Miller said this week. “You’ve met good people in your life, just truly a good person – that’s one right there. When he did something for you there was no expectation that you had to do anything to return the favor, he did it out of the kindness of his heart.”
James was always willing to help, Miller said.
“The library, health initiatives, there was so much that his hands were in of helping people in this community,” he said. “He used to treat people at his office who had no ability to pay, and he knew it, and he would still treat them.”
James would also pray with patients.
“I’ve witnessed him personally pray before he examined someone; he asked for God’s guidance and hand in providing the treatment for someone…doctors just don’t do that,” he said.
Miller said the City of Stanford has lowered all flags to half-staff for the next seven days to honor James.
As a City Council member, Miller said James was instrumental in passing important local legislation.
“He stood his ground. He did not take a political side. His was always what’s in the best interest of the citizens of Stanford. It might not have been popular, but it was what was best,” Miller said. “He’s just done so much…it’s a great loss to our community.”
SO YOU KNOW
Visitation is from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Spurlin Funeral Home in Stanford on Friday, April 2, followed immediately by a Celebration of Life service at 5 p.m., officiated by Mayor Dalton Miller, City of Stanford. The Celebration of Life will be broadcast live on Facebook at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 2. To view, visit https://www.facebook.com/SpurlinFHStanford.
A funeral service will be held on Sunday, April 4 at 3 p.m. at the Danville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Danville, officiated by Pastor Frank Fournier.
In Lieu of flowers, Dr. James requested that all contributions be made to Danville Seventh-day Adventist Church (Danville SDA Church, P.O. Box 1781 Danville, KY 40422).