Once a week, I do volunteer work at Sacred Heart Hospital’s Emergency Room registration desk. 

Every nurse here offers the patient a winning smile and a promise to care for them to the best of their ability.  You will never see this, but on occasion as I walk the ER halls, I will see a nurse take a quick break from spinning trauma, head held down into hands for a quiet moment to recover the obligatory show of quiet, confident professionalism. 

It takes a lot out of a person to give this much of themselves.

Day after day, week after week, why do some give their expertise in healing to face these traumatic decisions, where every split second could mean the difference between life and death? I talk with Dr. Robert Hamilton, MD, FACEP, of Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast.

Hamilton received his medical training from the University of Cincinnati.  He moved to Destin 13 years ago from a 900-bed trauma center in Pittsburgh, Penn., and worked for a national company doing clinical work for Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. 

Roger Hall, CEO of Sacred Heart Hospital, recruited Hamilton to join the hospital staff, seven years ago, as a specialist in emergency medicine. The ER is where you will find him today.  Sacred Heart is one of very few medical emergency facilities in our area that has all Board Certified Emergency Medical Physicians, and that includes Hamilton.

I ask Hamilton why he chose emergency medicine and he explains.

 “I get to see all the different areas of care and all types of patients. I have been giving this type of care for the last 26 years,” he says. “Here in the emergency room we see heart attacks, near drownings, car accidents, broken limbs, severed fingers, falls down shafts and chutes, over exposure to the sun, bicycle falls along with panic attacks, mumps, measles and jellyfish stings.

We now handle 28,000 emergency patients a year and the demand is growing,” he continues. “If something comes in to us that we don’t have the equipment to handle, we are backed up by Pensacola for special tertiary care.”

Dr. Hamilton’s talented wife, Mandy, works for Lamar Advertising and they have two adult children.  Their son lives in Pittsburgh and the daughter in New York City. I ask how he ever got here from Pittsburgh and without a pause he tells me, “The white stuff here is much nicer than the white stuff there — sand versus snow, no contest!!” 

I ask how he releases the anxiety that builds from the ER pressure cooker. 

“I take a lot of pleasure in gourmet cooking and a bottle of fine wine. I guess you could call me an oenophile and I can pick a great bottle of $20 wine,” he said. “This area offers me some incredible deep sea fishing, which I enjoy whenever I can find the time.”

He also credits man’s best friend.

“Many relaxing and enjoyable moments come from our Portuguese water dog, Graham. We purchased him in Tampa and named him after the premium port maker in Portugal.” 

I find that Graham’s Port was founded in 1820. This label has garnered a five star rating, as I’m sure Graham the dog has achieved.  I’ll add the taste of this fine Port to my bucket list.

I have often admired the beauty and personality of the Portuguese water dog. After some research I discover that they are somewhat rare in our country.

They were originally taught to herd fish into fishermen’s nets, to retrieve lost tackle or broken nets, and to act as couriers from ship to ship or ship to shore.

This might work if you are anchored on Crab Island and you get dry and thirsty.  Just send Graham over to the Tiki Hut to bring you back a cold one. 


Laura Hall is a longtime Destin resident. She explores gardens and other local topics in our area.  If you would like to be profiled in a future column, contact Laura at hall-destin@cox.net