First, tell us about you and your time at UMMC.
I grew up in a small town in north Alabama (Muscle Shoals) and was the first in my family to go to college. In 2005, I headed off to college to the University of South Alabama for a chemistry degree. In 2009, I attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham for medical school. I chose Internal Medicine because I was always drawn to so many different aspects of medicine and more importantly, the desire to know the underlying mechanisms and pathophysiology of diseases was intriguing. This was most prevalent from my perspective when I was rotating through Internal Medicine. I think this passion to understand how things work has permeated into multiple different aspects of my life outside of medicine including theology, running, music, and dog training. In 2013, I matched at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Internal Medicine. Every rotation was a new avenue for me to become confused about what I wanted to do with life. I enjoyed each rotation because it brought a plethora of knowledge that I felt like I needed to know on the deepest level. It was hard for me to decide if I wanted to specialize and eventually I decided I wanted to do traditional medicine. One of the things that stood out to me about the University of Mississippi Medical Center was the passion for everyone on a rotation to work as team members not only to take care of patients but to take care of each other. Each day we taught each other something new and each day we encouraged each other. It was a very strong connection.
Where are you now and what are you doing?
In 2016, I moved back to the Shoals area of Alabama and practiced traditional medicine. This is a dying type of medicine. I saw all my patients in the hospital before going to clinic, then had a full day of clinic while also admitting new patients to the hospital from clinic/ER, then I would go back to the hospital after clinic to round on my patients. I was in a call group so I was able to share call on the weekends. In short, it took one year for me to burn out. I transitioned over to a clinic-only practice and did hospital shifts rarely to keep my skills up. I continue to teach medical students in clinic every month from the Alabama College of Medicine. Our hospital in Florence, Alabama has also started an Internal Medicine residency program and I plan to be involved with this as well. My passion now is Obesity Medicine. In clinic, I kept seeing myself doing the same things over and over. Adding a new blood pressure medicine, a new diabetes medicine, a new cholesterol medicine, or a new arthritis medicine. On the flipside, my deep desire to know the underlying problem led me to realize that the disease of obesity drives many of these problems and if we treat the underlying disease of obesity, then many of these problems improve or resolve. I started practicing Obesity Medicine and eventually obtained training to be certified as a diplomat of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. I passed my boards for this in 2020, which was right about the time the COVID-19 pandemic happened. It was extremely interesting because telemedicine was allowed and obesity medicine can absolutely be treated by telemedicine. Our four pillars of treatment are: Nutrition, Physical Activity, Behavioral Interventions, and Medications/Surgery. It is so rewarding to see people lose weight and to come off many of their medications. On top of that, they are extremely happy and feel so much better.
What do you miss most about UMMC?
I miss the community of UMMC the most. I had so many close friends from residency. It felt like a family. I still communicate with my fellow residents on a weekly basis. We have a group text message that we post questions to each other regarding caveats of medicine. It speaks to the academic rigor and focus on evidence based medicine within the Internal Medicine residency program at UMMC.
Share a memory or more of your time here at UMMC.
I think I made the transition from a trainee to a physician in December of my intern year. We had a very rough month in the intensive care unit because it was a very severe influenza season. Multiple patients were on ECMO and this was new to everybody so I was managing the ECMO myself. That was not the transition point though. At the end of the month, I was chosen for coverage on Christmas day in the intensive care unit. I had an amazing upper level with me (Dane Ballard, who is now a cardiologist). We were at the end of our shift and a code blue was called in the only room in the intensive care unit that had two patients in one room. We started the code and all of the sudden the nurse for the other patient in the room calls out to us that her patient is coding as well. We were the only two physicians in the intensive care unit; therefore, I had to run my first code by myself. I stepped up, ran the code, intubated the patient, and regained a pulse all at the same time. It was a rush but more importantly it changed me. It speaks to the autonomy given to trainees at UMMC.