HARTSELLE — Armed with a red plastic doctor's kit, Sarah Styers began to immerse herself in the medical field as a child as she checked her mother's temperature and used a fake syringe to administer medicine to her father.
Styers, who now uses real doctor's tools at her 301 Pine St. office, works out of a clinic in Hartselle under ownership by Huntsville and Decatur-Morgan hospitals.
Styers, 32, specializes in internal medicine and pediatrics. She shares her reasons for entering the medical field and the challenges she has faced since she completed her residency in 2011.
Question: What inspired you to become a doctor?
Answer: I always knew I wanted to be a doctor because I felt like medicine was a calling. I always wanted to be a pediatrician, and I thought that was what I was going to do. As I got a little older, my grandmother got sick and I remember seeing that and thinking, "Oh my goodness — I can't imagine not being able to care for her and other family members."
That's when I chose internal medicine and pediatrics. The field is good because I get to treat people from birth all the way through the end of life.
Q: What are some of the challenges you've faced as a doctor?
A: One of the biggest challenges I've faced is the business aspect of being a doctor. In medical school, they teach you how to treat patients, but not necessarily how to run a business. I learn as I go, and I'm also learning about medical insurance and how it works and what procedures I have to go through for my patients.
Q: Do you feel like being a young doctor has its advantages?
A: The benefit is that I'm pretty new out of school, so I think I'm fairly up to date on the newest medicines and procedures at this time. But I'm also at a disadvantage because there is a certain art to medicine you develop as you go along.
Q: What has been your highest moment so far as a new doctor?
A: I think for me, it's kind of the every day things, like when I have a new mom who is really scared about the normal things babies do, so I get to sit down and talk with her to make her feel much more at peace. I have also had a couple of cancer diagnoses we've been able to find early just by doing the proper health screenings. One lady found lung cancer early, so she got surgery and now she's just fine. I know she feels particularly blessed.
Q: And your lowest moment so far as a young doctor?
A: Some of the most difficult moments are when patients are at the end of life and you have to start having discussions about what they would want done if they needed life support. Again, that's one of the arts of medicine you learn as you practice. I had a wonderful patient that I just recently lost and having to have that discussion with his family was one of the hardest things I have had to go through.
Q: Why did you choose Hartselle to practice medicine? Do you plan to stay here?
A: I hope to be here forever. I always intended to come back home. Hartselle is a smaller community that I felt like needed some help at the time. I hope to make my life here. People are just genuinely kind here, and it is a very welcoming community. I like that Hartselle is a little bit smaller, and I like into patients at Wal-Mart and the grocery store. I wanted to make a difference in the community and not just be a doctor.
Q: You were employed with Hartselle Medical Center when it closed last year. How has the hospital closing impacted the community?
A: People in the community were very disappointed and the hospital closing took a lot of jobs away. I think it also made people feel safer when they had somewhere here locally to go in case of an emergency. I know the two hospitals in Decatur are trying to make patients in Hartselle as comfortable as possible, but many of my patients still wish they had a place to go to locally.
Q: Do you think Hartselle will regain its hospital in the future?
A: I don't think they'll regain a hospital. I'm not in the know and this is just my opinion, but I think the hospitals in Decatur are looking to see what benefits they can offer the community.
Q: Career experts say medical jobs are on the rise locally and nationally as baby boomers live longer and a higher quality of life is expected from patients. Do you encourage young people to follow your path?
A: For me, it was all about the love of medicine and helping people. I really feel like this is a calling and what I'm supposed to do, but I also feel like this is a growing field with a lot of different opportunities and different positions. I think it's a strong career field.
Lucy Berry can be reached at 256-340-2442 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doctor of internal medicine and pediatrics
Education: Austin High School; Birmingham Southern College with degrees in biology and art; University of South Alabama’s College of Medicine.
Work experience: Worked for Hartselle Medical Center from 2011 until the facility closed in January 2012; Decatur-Morgan Hospital, 2012-present.
Office location: 301 Pine St., Hartselle.
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