The Golden Triangle-area community is mourning the loss of a beloved Starkville surgeon who died Wednesday during labor.
Dr. Nikki Shoemake, 40, died at OCH Regional Medical Center in Starkville, according to Oktibbeha County coroner Michael Hunt.
Hunt listed Shoemake's cause of death as natural causes. Her body was sent to Pearl for an autopsy, The Clarion-Ledger reported.
"The OCH family is very saddened with the loss of Dr. Nikki Shoemake," OCH Administrator/CEO Richard Hilton said in a statement "Dr. Shoemake was an excellent surgeon who cared about her patients and was passionate about the practice of medicine. She had an impact on countless lives and will be greatly missed.
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Hunt said he considered Shoemake a personal friend and described her death as "tragic loss to the community."
He praised Shoemake's ability as a surgeon, saying, "It's a loss for the people she would have treated, I can promise you that."
Mississippi has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the nation, more than double the national average. Mississippi State Department of Health statistics show almost 40 maternal deaths per every 100,000 births in the state.
Shoemake joined the medical staff at OCH in 2008 as a general surgeon, according to hospital spokesperson Mary Kathryn Kight.
Shoemake received her undergraduate degree in microbiology from Mississippi State University in 1998 and her medical degree from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in 2003. She also completed the first two years of her general surgery residency at UMMC before completing her residency at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, and at the Hospital of Saint Raphael in New Haven, Connecticut.