As this week began, the word from the United Nation's was to expect the birth of the world's 7 billionth baby. That led us to call a 101-year-old man who has delivered more than 15,000 babies over the years.
NPR's Morning Edition reached Dr. Walter Watson at his home in Augusta, Ga., on Monday. Watson started bringing babies into the world in 1947.
"I tried to deliver every baby just like it was my own child," he says.
He has stopped working in the delivery room, but Watson still makes rounds on the labor and delivery floor of Augusta's University Hospital a few days each week.
Nearly everyone in the community, he says, has been touched by his work.
"I tell you, it's very seldom that I go around to any location in this area," Watson says, "and somebody doesn't come up and speak to me, and say, 'You delivered me,' or, 'You delivered my child.' "
Fred Huiet was among the first babies Watson delivered. His family didn't live in Augusta, but in 1947 — when baby Fred was on the way — his parents drove 18 miles to reach Watson's practice.
"My parents lived in Trenton where he [Watson] was from. And the people of Trenton didn't believe there was any other doctor ... but Dr. Watson," he says. "And anytime there's a group, a high school reunion or family gathering, we always start the conversation by, 'Did Dr. Watson deliver you?' "
Watson came late to the medical field. After college, he served as a principal at a high school and coached the football team. That helped him save money for medical school.
He left medical school to serve as a general surgeon in the military during World War II. After the war, he returned to Augusta — and his practice hasn't stopped since.
One of his patients, Dot Parrish, says she first met Watson in his practice when she was a young woman.
"You know, it's mighty nice when a doctor takes care of you from the time you're 16 years old and delivers my first child — and then he turned around and delivered my grandchildren," she says. "They just don't come like Dr. Watson anymore. And our family is just crossed in so many ways."
Watson himself has five children, 16 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.
He was born in 1910, when the world's population was a lot smaller — hovering around 1.75 billion.
His next birthday is in February.
Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.