Gregory Gibson and his sister Amanda took different paths, but they led to the same destination.
Cheryl and Ray Gibson laid the foundation. As an educator, Cheryl says she recognized the importance of building strong reading skills and giving her children the tools to succeed. "We read to our children early and often," said Cheryl. "We encouraged good reading habits which built their comprehension and vocabulary skills. We believed that would be an asset in any career choice, but especially in medicine."
Taking every advantage of what was given, Amanda and Gregory Gibson, DO, set high goals for themselves. Their foundation is helping build their careers in medicine.
Dr. Gibson, internal medicine, joined Southern Clinic last summer. His younger sister, Amanda Gibson, is currently in the Alabama Medical Education Consortium pipeline, completing her last two years of medical school with rotations at SAMC.
The siblings acknowledge medicine always interested them but they became unconventional medical students, working a few years before taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and applying to medical school.
Gregory went back to college to complete his undergraduate degree before applying to medical school. He worked for several years as a photographer and a landscaper on a golf course.
Amanda, the family agrees, was destined for a medical career, having spent her summers doing hospital volunteer work since she was about 12 years old. Many days, she worked 8-10 hours in recovery, labor and delivery, and outpatient.
"We continue to be amazed that both our children are following the same career path," Cheryl said. "We never tried to direct our children's career decisions. Instead, we tried to provide a home environment which supported learning. We helped with homework, provided resources for projects and communicated with teachers and other school staff. We were very involved."
Gregory and Amanda also both have a unique connection with the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine (ACOM), which will accept its first class of 150 students this fall.
After completing his degree in preprofessional biology at Jacksonville State University, Dr. Gibson was accepted at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Bradenton, Fla., where he interviewed with June Flaim. June later left Lake Erie to become a consultant for ACOM, working closely with Craig Lenz, DO, dean of ACOM.
Dr. Lenz was at DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tennessee when Amanda applied there after graduating from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with the same biology degree as her brother. Before applying to medical school, she spent six years working for the Alabama Eye Bank. Dr. Lenz interviewed Amanda for acceptance at DeBusk.
"It's really strange, this connection, but fortuitous for both Greg and me," Amanda said.
HIS PATH: After graduating from Dothan High School in 1992, Dr. Gibson continued his studies at Wallace Community College and Troy State University before deciding to leave school and enter the workforce. He worked at the Gadsden Country Club before becoming a school, sports and wedding photographer. He then took a job as a research technician at UAB.
"I worked at UAB for two years in the protein chemistry lab, looking for ovarian cancer biomarkers. In the back of my mind, I always wanted to go into medicine, but I wasn't sure I could do it. Working in research made me realize I wanted to go back to school. I am grateful I did other things before going into medicine, but after I saw what was out there, I didn't mind the sacrifices on my time which medicine requires."
He started his medical education in Florida at the age of 29. After medical school, he did his residency at St. Joseph's Hospital in Warren, Ohio. The road then led back to Dothan.
"I was always open to returning home, but I didn't specifically plan it. It is clear to me that Dothan is a wonderful place to practice."
And had ACOM been in existence, Dr. Gibson said he would have applied. "It is a fantastic opportunity for students," he said. "There are a lot of people interested in going into medicine and who will make great doctors. This is another avenue for them.
"And I can tell you for me, it is an honor and a privilege to practice medicine," he said.
Dr. Gibson married his wife, Shannon, right after graduating medical school. They have a daughter, Abby, who is 2, and are expecting their second child in March.
HER PATH: Amanda was a sophomore at Dothan High when she was accepted to the School of Math & Science in Mobile. The expansive curriculum better prepared her for what she always believed would be her career choice. After graduating college, she took the job at the eye bank to learn more about medicine and to be certain this was the path she wanted to pursue.
Once she was sure, Amanda began studying for the MCAT and undertook a monthlong shadowing experience with James Jones, DO, medical director of SAMC's Emergency Department.
"I had the little doctor kit toy when I was a child," she said. "I always wanted to be a doctor, but it is a big decision. At 22, I was not equipped to do that. Working in the medical field at the eye bank showed me I could pursue medicine."
Amanda has completed two years at DeBusk and these next two clerkship years will lead her toward a specialty, whether it be family practice, surgery, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics or internal medicine like her brother.
"There's a huge difference in the specialties. I have to decide what's most meaningful to me. Right now I am keeping my options completely open."
"I was always a really good student. I never saw becoming a physician as anything extraordinary. More like, choosing this path is something to be proud of."
Amanda, who is seven years younger than her brother, said the two try not to talk medicine when the family is around. They get lost in the passion of the work, she said, and tend to go on and on in their discussions.
WHAT IS A DO?
A doctor of osteopathic medicine, known as a DO, is a fully qualified physician – just like an MD. The difference is the physician's approach to their craft. Osteopathic medicine stresses a comprehensive approach to health. In order to maintain good health and prevent disease, emphasis is placed on the interrelationship between the musculoskeletal system and other body systems.
The fundamental principles of osteopathic medicine stress that the body is a unit and the person is a unity of body, mind and spirit. The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing and health maintenance, and structure and function are reciprocally interrelated. Osteopathic physicians use rational treatment based on those principles.
The American Osteopathic Association estimates that 60 percent of DOs practice in the primary care specialties of family medicine, general internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology – filling a critical need for physicians by practicing in rural and other medically underserved communities. Some 63,000 licensed osteopathic physicians now practice in the U.S. ACOM will become the 35th college of osteopathic medicine in the U.S. when it opens in May.
"I don't draw a strong distinction (between MDs and DOs)," said Amanda. "Medicine is medicine. The training program is equivalent in just about every way and we all have the same goals. We want what's best for our patients.
"Sure, I would have considered attending ACOM," said Amanda. "And even though I didn't, I can see myself returning to Dothan one day. It's a great place to practice medicine."
For more information go to www.acomedu.org.
Time Matters Most
When Time Matters Most.
TeleHealth initiative allows for quicker stroke assessment.
When it comes to stroke care, no one is more committed than Southeast Alabama Medical Center. SAMC is the first and only hospital in the area offering 24/7 neurosurgery coverage and now access to stroke specialists through the Alabama Partnership for TeleHealth.
This allows SAMC's Stroke Team to provide quicker diagnosis and treatment for stroke patients.
And it reinforces our dedication to excellence. We were the first hospital in the region to achieve the American Heart Association's 2012 GOLD PLUS Stroke Award.
"We are very excited to have this new technology," said Stephen Fernandez, MD, interventional radiologist with Radiology Associates of Dothan. "Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the nation and the number one cause of disability, so we are pleased to have these new developments in telemedicine to quickly evaluate, diagnose and treat patients in remote locations, who, without telemedicine, would not normally have timely access to this higher level of life-saving care."
The TeleHealth initiative saves valuable time for the patient. When first responders arrive on the scene, they will assess the patient and determine through a stroke protocol if the patients is potentially suffering a stroke. If the patient is a potential stroke victim, a call will be made to the Emergency Department at SAMC alerting them of the situation.
At that time, a Stroke Alert will be called internally and the CT Department and Laboratory Services will be placed on standby. A Critical Care Unit nurse and house supervisor will report to the Emergency Department and begin monitoring patient information as it comes in.
Once the patient arrives at SAMC, an Emergency Department physician will assess the condition of the patient and alert a neurologist. The physician can speak with the patient by video linkup in the Emergency Department.
This vital link is potentially life-saving by allowing for a quicker stroke diagnosis to determine if the clot-busting drug tPA should be administered for those who arrive within the time frame and who medically qualify for the drug.
SAMC's nationally ranked stroke team, consisting of a rehabilitative therapist, case manager, neurologist, neurosurgeon, radiologist, clinical specialist and other support personnel, work in concert for the best outcomes for all stroke patients.
The Philanthropic Women's Society of the SAMC Foundation donated more than $55,000 toward the TeleHealth technology, to purchase an Acute Stroke TeleHealth Cart.
"The Women's Society felt there was a need for this service in the small- to medium-sized hospitals in our service area," said Kristi Smith, chair of the Philanthropic Women's Society.
"They also recognized that providing two Telehealth carts could help save lives and prevent more serious damage to the brain. In our very first year, this group of 58 women who each contributed $1,000 pooled their philanthropic dollars and chose a project that will have a dramatic impact on healthcare in our community."
The region's most comprehensive Stroke Team includes the SAMC Emergency Department, Laboratory Services, CT, Pharmacy, Critical Care, Hospitalists and Nursing. We will also be working in concert with area EMS personnel and ambulance providers.
Charlie Platt's Story
THE DAY CHARLIE PLATT ALMOST SIGNED OFF FOR GOOD.
Little did he know, without immediate medical attention, he was running out of time.
Charlie Platt arrived in the Critical Care Unit (CCU) at Southeast Alabama Medical Center in such distress that the nurses and physicians immediately began interventions to save his life by preventing more damage to his heart.
Earlier, this was a typical workday for Platt who was doing what he has done almost every weekday morning from 5:30 to 7 for the past 20 years, hosting his popular talk show, Top of the Morning, on WDHN television.
However, on this day at the office, signing off at the end of the TV show as the cameras faded to black, he felt something wasn't quite right. Platt was experiencing pain in his shoulder, but he made himself believe it was a flare-up of inflammation from scar tissue. He had no idea when he left the studio that morning that he wouldn't be back on the air for two months.
After leaving the station, Platt went to get a haircut and the pain began to intensify.
"It was hurting, and I began sweating," Platt said.
Later, while doing a telephone interview with a newspaper reporter, Platt couldn't bear the pain any longer. "I knew it wasn't the shoulder. I didn't know what it was, but I knew it wasn't good," he said.
He had planned to go home, eat breakfast, take pain medication for his shoulder and catch a nap. He still shudders to think what would have happened if he had not altered his plans that day. Platt was running out of time, if he didn't seek medical attention.
He phoned his son and asked to be taken to the Emergency Department at SAMC as soon as possible. While he didn't want to say it out loud, in the back of his mind Platt feared it could be his heart.
Emergency Department physicians and nurses immediately began working on Platt to diagnose the problem. Despite not having a family history of heart disease, Platt was a long time cigarette smoker. As his results from the lab work were read, physicians knew there was a serious heart problem.
Cardiologist Darius Aliabadi, MD, of Heart South in Dothan, began preparations for performing a heart catheterization. SAMC offers the region's most comprehensive Heart and Vascular services and in a newly constructed facility.
Platt would be in good hands with Dr. Aliabadi and the highly trained clinical staff in SAMC's Catheterization Lab. The advanced 3-D technology gave Dr. Aliabadi and the clinical team clear images to define the size and length of Platt's blockages. The procedure revealed the damaged arteries were too extensive to place a stent to open blood flow.
The amount of heart disease and blockage Charlie had was out of proportion for his symptoms," Dr. Aliabadi said. "Generally, a person like Charlie with major, three-vessel damage normally would have complained about more symptoms typical of this advanced heart disease."
Instead of a cardiac cath procedure Platt needed open heart surgery. Medically unstable and in critical condition, he was moved to a room in the CCU for intensive medical management in anticipation of the heart surgery. It was at that moment he grasped the facts surrounding his grave situation. "I could hear my family whispering as they tried to talk quietly, and I could see the concern on their faces as they talked to me," Platt said.
Edward Planz Jr., MD, cardiovascular/thoracic surgeon with Southeast Cardiovascular Associates in Dothan, would perform the surgery to clear the blockage, repair the damage and open up blood flow to the heart. Dr. Planz and the area's most experienced cardiovascular surgery team began the bypass surgery and determined that Platt had only four usable pieces of arteries available for his heart bypasses. Dr. Planz told Platt the surgery was the toughest challenge he has had in almost 30 years of practicing as a surgeon.
Dr. Planz later told Platt he has a higher purpose. "The Great Physician up above wants you on this earth for something special," Planz said.
After surgery, Platt stayed on a ventilator for five days in CCU while his heart and his body began the healing process. Typically, a patient is off the ventilator the day after a bypass surgery. It was touch and go for Platt as he was literally in a fight for his life. The third day after surgery, the efforts of Dr. Planz and the CCU nurses were paying off as Platt turned the corner.
"I never realized how many people knew and cared about me," he said as his voice cracked with emotion. "With so many people praying for me, I think God got tired of hearing my name."
Since his surgery, Platt continues to regain his strength. He returned to his TV show in July and completed his Cardiac Rehab program at SAMC. The Rehab program is a medically supervised exercise and education program certified by the American Associaton of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. After the initial program, Platt chose to continue with a maintenance program at the Cardiac Rehab gym.
"I only live a short distance from the Medical Center, and I have talked on my show for years about what a great medical community we have in Dothan," Platt said. "Now I know firsthand we have world class medical care at the Medical Center. I don't want anyone to have to go through what I did, but if they do, they don't have to leave Dothan to get the medical care they need."
For more information about SAMC's comprehensive Heart and Vascular Center, please call 334.793.8143 or visit samc.org.
WARNING SIGNS OF HEART DISEASE
Darius Aliabadi, MD, stressed that according to the American Heart Association, everyone is different and warning signs for heart disease do not necessarily include severe pain.
Common symptoms for heart disease, including a heart attack can include:
• Discomfort from the ears to the chest, especially after exertion
• Shortness of breath
• A cold sweat
If these symptoms are persistent, see your primary care physician or go to the Emergency Department.
Dr. Aliabadi said while a stress test can determine severe blockage, the only way to know for sure is to have a heart catheterization. "A stress test is just a screening test; the catheterization is the 'gold standard' when it comes to determining heart disease and blockage."