System News

Thursday, May 12, 2022 - Three physician receive St. Luke Lifetime Physician Achievement Award

Three physicians received Tuesday night the inaugural St. Luke Lifetime Physician Achievement Award for their exemplary personal and professional contributions.

The honorees were: Dr. Mary Lou Applebaum, Dr. Casey Fitts and Dr. James M. Hayes, Jr. (posthumously awarded).

This award honors the humanitarian spirit of St. Luke as well as those who live the healthcare system’s mission of “healing all people with compassion, faith and excellence” through their contributions. It recognizes physicians who have contributed a lifetime of exemplary service.


Dr. Lou Applebaum has been practicing medicine for the last 36 years, of which half of them were spent in the Roper St. Francis Healthcare. She has played an integral role with the growth and development of the hospitalist group. From establishing the Hospitalist group to implementing Electronic Medical Records and finally establishing the physician advisor/ UR team, she has been there for us every step of the way.

From healing the community and providing excellent care to the residents of the Lowcountry, she has also served as a mentor for countless physicians serving in our system.

Dr. Applebaum has a storied career. She is a sub specialist in Pulmonology Critical Care and Medical Informatics with a primary specialty in Internal Medicine. As chief medical information officer, she was instrumental in the Cerner implementation including developing the provider training curriculum.

From there she became Roper St. Francis Healthcare's first Chief Physician Advisor, a role in which she has worked to capture millions of dollars of billable services that would have been lost without her work.

A favorite of physicians, nurses, patients and staff, Dr. Applebaum approached all of her roles with the highest quality and integrity. She has an uncanny ability to diffuse tense situations accompanied by a wicked sense of humor and great emotional intelligence. She truly exemplifies all that a great physician can be.


Dr. Casey Fitts grew up in Charleston and forged hundreds of friendships that last to this day. He trained in General Surgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in and returned home to build a thriving practice in General Surgery in the hospitals of Baker, Roper and St. Francis. He helped pioneer minimally invasive and laparoscopic surgery in Charleston.

Having always had a heart for the underprivileged and underserved, especially those working hard to make a living, Dr. Fitts decided to take a year leave of absence to develop a community program which would provide a medical home spanning all aspects of healthcare for these patients.

Dr. Fitts was able to bring together all of the Tri-County hospital systems, charity clinics, and nearly 1600 local physicians. He secured nearly $10 million in funding to create Tri-County Project Care. This program provided insurance coverage to these patients in return for an affordable premium fee. He rallied his fellow physicians to accept significantly discounted rates to care for this uninsured population.

Once Tri-County Project Care had been established, he returned to his practice and continued to work countless hours in addition to his busy surgical schedule to ensure the growth and success of his dream. The program spanned 12 years and covered thousands of South Carolinians and resulted in sharp drops in per patient cost and ER utilization. As patients received improved primary care, inpatient admissions declined.

He continued to work with a bipartisan health care committee towards legislation allowing programs like his Tri-County Project Care to be part of an integrated state plan.


Dr. Jim Hayes graduated from the Medical College of South Carolina in 1964. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps for two years, including a year in Vietnam as commanding officer of the 332nd General Medical Dispensary, where he was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service.

Jim was board certified in Internal Medicine and practiced in Charleston for 35 years. Over these years, he was an active member in Charleston County Medical Society, Medical Society of South Carolina, South Carolina Medical Association, South Carolina Society of Internal Medicine, and was a Fellow in the American College of Physicians. He served on many boards and committees to improve healthcare in the Charleston community.

As a former board member of the Medical Society of South Carolina and Roper Hospital, he played a pivotal role in the 1997 merger of St. Francis and Roper Hospitals. In 2005, Jim received the first annual Roper St. Francis Foundation Physician Champion Award for his leadership and devotion to patients and the Charleston medical community.

As an active member of the medical community, he could not simply retire. He became involved as a volunteer physician and Board Chairman for Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic, then serving as their Medical Director until his death in 2020. He was an advocate for providing healthcare services to those in need.

In 2019, The Citadel Board of Visitors awarded Dr. Hayes an Honorary Doctorate acknowledging his many decades of service to the community and The Citadel.

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