During my annual physical, I braved asking my physician if she’d be willing to share a bit of her story as a medical doctor–focusing on her career path and the choices and experiences that shaped her along that journey. She said she’d be happy to respond in writing to any questions I had, so the following is the result of this interaction in May 2019.
Dr. Gibson has more than 29 years of experience. She received her medical degree from the James H. Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University. She is also the previous Chief of Staff at Northside Hospital.Growing up on a farm right down the road in the Sulpher Springs community, her passion for medicine initially drew her to becoming a veterinarian. However, she soon realized her calling was with helping and caring for the needs of people.
When she is not providing medical care, Dr. Gibson enjoys being married and working together with her husband in the yard landscaping and gardening. If time permits, they enjoy their fair share of traveling and hiking.Source: http://sofha.net/providers/mary-gibson
Q: What inspired you to become a doctor?
A: I was always interested in science since my father was a chemist and my mother was in pre-med after a career in teaching. I grew up on a farm and found that I had a love for helping animals. When my father had an acute illness and had to be treated, I realized that I wanted to be a physician to be able to help people and be there for my family when medical issues arose. My older brother went into Internal Medicine, and I saw the impact of care upon people.
Q: In a nutshell, how did you get started?
A: I started medical school at age 20 (skipped senior year in high school and then went to summer school to finish early), and then followed with residency. My first job was with Johnson City Internal Medicine. I wanted to settle in the area where I grew up due to the beauty, access to outdoor activities, kindness of the people in the region, and to be near my family. I interviewed with several groups and wanted to practice with the group that I am currently with because of the quality of care that was given to the patients. I have been in practice with Johnson City Internal Medicine since 1990.
Q: As a female pursuing the sciences, did you receive encouragement or discouragement along the way?
A: Seldom was encouragement ever given. Discouragement was frequent, but I was always taught to be steadfast and determined to complete my goals. There has always been a difference in status with the medical field in regards to being female.
Q: Tell me more about your career over the years.
A: My career started with office and hospital work. We made rounds in the hospital in the morning, went to the office and then were on call every 6th night (and this varied after other partners joined the practice). After having been up all night, we worked the next day in the office. I kept up this exhausting pace until 2015 when we added a full hospitalist system to our group. Since then, I have been office based only. The insurance requirements have worsened and the change to electronic medical records as a requirement has certainly frustrated the physicians since it takes away from patient care.
Q: You rose to some leadership positions in your career (president of the Tri-County Medical Association, Chief of Staff at Northside Hospital). What was that journey like?
A: This was frustrating. In some of the meetings, the male members didn’t even hear what I said and would actually repeat my statement [as if it were their own idea]. Others would agree with the male doctor who repeated my idea, telling him it was a good idea.
Q: Did you personally ever focus on women in the sciences through organizations you belonged to or through particular research?
A: I just always tried to support all the students and residents I taught, whether male or female, to help them to not only learn the science, but to have compassion and learn about each individual they worked with.
Q: Do you now or have you in the past belonged to professional organizations in your field?
A: I didn’t like the organizations related to medicine since they seemed motivated by politics and not focusing on quality of care for the patients.
Q: Can you relate an interesting or memorable story from your career that highlights the work that you have done or do?
A: There are too many to tell. The most memorable are the relationships formed and the care that I have been able to provide to make an impact on people’s lives and improve the quality of their life.
Q: What advice or message would you give to anyone pursuing a career in medicine?
A: I am very frustrated with the lack of quality patient care that has been worsened by the insurance market.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
A: Don’t ever let anyone stand in your way of achieving your goals in an effort to help others.