Surratt serves at home and on Air Force base

Published 5:16 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dr. Shawn Surratt

Dr. Shawn Surratt

For Dr. Shawn Surratt, who has a family medicine practice in Bainbridge, serving his country is just as important as serving his patients here in Southwest Georgia.

Surratt, whose practice has steadily grown since his family moved here in 2005, has one of the busiest medical offices in Bainbridge. Still, he finds time to serve in the Air Force Reserves on a number of weekends throughout the year.

In Summer 2001, having finished college and begun his residency, Surratt felt led to serve in the armed forces and signed up for the Air Force Reserve’s Health Professions Scholarship Program, which helps pay medical students’ tuition in exchange for joining the U.S. military’s medical team. He also has a brother who was in the Marine Corps and other relatives who have served in the military.

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Although he has never been deployed overseas, the 41-year-old doctor has spent the last 12 years of his life committed to helping fellow soldiers. When he is serving in the Reserves, he is currently stationed at Duke Field, part of Eglin Air Force Base in northwest Florida. He and other reservists serve one weekend a month and two weeks spread out over the course of a year, the latter of which can also consist of off-base training related to their job in the military.

He doesn’t treat patients during what is known as the “peacetime mission” in the Reserves. But on a given weekend, Surratt and other doctors perform about 200 physical exams for enlisted soldiers, some of whom are returning from overseas missions.

“Everyone has to be ready to deploy at any given time from a medical standpoint,” Surratt said. “You have to have a yearly physical, make sure there’s no issues and if there are any, you have to guide them through resolving those.”

He also is a big part of the medical community in Bainbridge.

Although he doesn’t work in the Memorial Hospital emergency room as often as he used to, he still works about two to three 12-hour shifts there each month and also has patients he cares for at Memorial Manor.

Occasionally, he goes to work at the ER after spending the day at his practice, which can be tiring, but he says he welcomes the change of pace and the knowledge that he gets to help patients with often serious medical issues.

“It can be stressful—someone having a heart attack, for example— getting in there and getting them the appropriate medicines and treatment in a timely manner, then working on getting them transferred to a larger facility for definitive care.”

“It’s stressful and nerve-wracking, but in the end, when it all goes good, you feel pretty good about helping someone.”

Surratt is the associate medical director for Gentiva Hospice in Bainbridge.

Because hospice is a program of treatment that is a substitute for traditional hospital care, hospice staff are required to hold  weekly inter-disciplinary group meetings in which they create, discuss and update each patient’s plan of care and also discuss the needs of patients, their families and caregivers. In attendance at each meeting are doctors, social workers, pastors, nurses and volunteer coordinators.

But the everyday aspect of Surratt’s job is working with his practice’s team—Nurse Practicioner Angie Tyus, his nurses and staff—to care for more than 7,000 patients.

Surratt chose to specialize in family medicine—the treatment of both children and adults—because of the variety involved: he thought it would be “a good way to see and take care of a multitude of problems.” Hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol are some of the recurring conditions Surratt and his staff help patients treat and manage.

Surratt attended medical school at Central America Health Sciences University in Belize. He spent the first two years on campus in Belize and the last two years undergoing clinical training in Southwest Georgia.

Surratt and his wife, Christi, are originally from Zephyr Hills and Dade City, respectively—two small towns located about 35 miles northeast of Tampa, Fla.

They were attracted to Bainbridge because it was similar to the small towns they grew up in and have enjoyed making it their home.

The couple have four children: girls Gracie, 10, and Abi, 9; and boys Sam, 6, and Tucker, 5. The family are members of Grace Church.

Facts about Dr. Surratt

• He and his wife are both graduates of Saint Leo University near Dade City, Fla.

• Served a one-year general surgery internship at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga

• Three years of family medicine residency at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, Ga.

• Volunteer director of the paramedic program at Bainbridge College