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The Accidental General with Gen. Shane Lee, M.D.

The Accidental General with Gen. Shane Lee, M.D.

MARION – The city of Marion is an old town rich in Alabama history that pre-dates the Civil War. It’s home to many antebellum homes, Judson College and Marion Military Institute, the nation’s oldest military junior college. Few people may know that a young Coretta Scott, born and raised in Marion, wed her husband, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on the front lawn of her mother’s home just north of Marion in 1953. It’s this small town’s amazing history that called out to Dr. Shane Lee when he was looking to set up a practice.

Dr. Lee had finished medical school at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and did his residency in Selma where he met Dr. Donald Overstreet. The two hit it off, and as with many of his residents, Dr. Overstreet quickly became a mentor and close friend of Dr. Lee’s. Sadly, Dr. Overstreet passed away in June.

“Dr. Overstreet cold-called me from Selma,” Dr. Lee explained. “He was sort of half Marcus Welby and half Donald Trump – he was a wheeler-dealer, and he got stuff done. At the time, his was the only family practice residency program financially stable in the state. He taught us the managerial aspects of running a medical practice as a business. And, it is a business that can work you very quickly into bankruptcy. I was attracted to Selma because of my love of history, and at the time Selma was going through a little bit of a renaissance. I hadn’t been there before, so it was something different for me.”

His love of history may have brought him to the Selma area, but the quality of the residency program kept him there…and the fact that Dr. Overstreet allowed the residents the opportunity to hunt in their own club didn’t hurt.

“It really was an excellent residency program. They grabbed you by the collar, threw you into the trenches, and said, ‘Go!’ All the doctors you worked with, from family medicine to internal medicine, to surgeons and orthopaedists, were all so desperately overloaded that they were thrilled to have the help. It was a very procedure-oriented program, which is critical. I think that’s something we need to do better now. We aren’t as procedure-oriented now as we used to be. So, if you get out into the rural areas, you need to be more of a one-stop shop as much as possible to maintain the best standard of care.”

Dr. Lee does what he can to provide the best possible standard of care to the residents of Marion and the surrounding area, even if that means making house calls. In Dr. Lee’s case, sometimes a house call is just another day on the job. The thing is, Dr. Lee has a second job. He’s also a two-star general in the U.S. Army.

When you walk into his office in The Marion Clinic, the walls are covered with photos and memorabilia of his travels. From the jungle of Nicaragua to the desert of the Middle East, Dr. Lee has traversed the globe on medical mission trips and deployments, each trip leaving a lasting impression on him. Just inside the door is a well-worn, green denim pouch just a bit larger than a baseball cap. The hash marks drawn in black marker are nearly all faded now, but the memories of what they stand for are still fresh for Dr. Lee. The pouch was part of his uniform during Operation Desert Storm. It contained his gas mask. The hash marks were those he made every time the camp warning siren blasted of a possible attack by scud missile or gas.

“I’m a blue-collar kid from Hueytown. I would never have thought I would have done the things that I have. If it hadn’t been for the military, I wouldn’t have been able to. If you don’t draw a line, the practice can be all consuming, so it gives me a legitimate reason to blow town. People don’t argue with me if I have to leave and I’m on orders,” he laughed. “I’m an accidental general. It wasn’t my goal. I just hung in there. There are certain career checkpoints you have to make, and it was a labor of love for me, really. There are some very qualified guys, much more qualified than me, that didn’t make flag rank just because when it came up, there weren’t any vacancies. Anyone who’s made general, if they don’t tell you that it’s a little bit of luck and time, they’re lying, because it really is.”

The deployments are a little different now. Dr. Lee and his unit are on a medical mission trip to Kauai, Hawaii. After the end of a training cycle, if the unit doesn’t deploy into an active area, they go somewhere else.

“We’ve started doing these IRTs, or innovative readiness trainings, where we will take a medical unit and send them to an underserved area. We just got back from one we did in Virginia in coal mining country. We take a medical section, vet section, optometry, pharmacy, mental health…we sort of mix it up depending on the needs and what we have,” Dr. Lee explained.

The IRTs are clinics set up in conjunction with a local host, which is part of the purpose of the mission. Connecting with the local medical community, public health services, law enforcement, church groups and other military groups helps to teach skill sets on both sides of the table. The IRTs don’t always have to be in a rural area, either. Dr. Lee’s unit has done trainings in Camden and Selma as well.

“These trainings aren’t successful unless we can get civilian involvement. What you really want to do is get people plugged into the system. What we do, the real-time good, is pull teeth, cut glasses, spay dogs, do rabies shots. The big draws are dental, optometry and veterinarian services. Those get the most attention. It really is a phenomenal change in an area and a good feeling to know the change you can leave behind,” Dr. Lee said.

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Match Day 2017 Successful for Alabama’s Medical Students

Match Day 2017 Successful for Alabama’s Medical Students

MOBILE — The excitement was thick in the ballroom of the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center on in March for Match Day. What is perhaps the most important day for each graduating medical school student can also be the most stressful. This day serves as a focus of celebration for medical schools and students nationwide – the day medical students learn the locations of the residency programs in which they will continue the next phase of their medical training.

Match Day is the result of medical students nationwide interviewing with different residency programs and ranking their top-choice programs in order of preference with the training programs doing the same. The National Residency Matching Program uses a mathematical algorithm to designate each applicant to a residency program.

Each student receives their sealed match letter at promptly 10:45 a.m. (CT). At 11 a.m., the students rip open their letters to learn the location of their residency program. It is truly a day of well-earned pageantry.

“Match Day is the most important day in a medical student’s career,” said Dr. Susan LeDoux, associate dean of medical education and student affairs at the University of South Alabama. “They work so hard to get into the specialty they like, and once they are in that specialty they continue to work hard throughout their training.”

According to USA, of the 70 College of Medicine seniors, 22 students went to Alabama medical institutions, including 12 who will do their residencies at USA hospitals. Forty-eight others, or 69 percent, drew out-of-state residencies in a total of 22 other states.

The University of Alabama-Birmingham also had impressive results. UAB’s match rate was 98 percent, or 173 students, from its School of Medicine seniors. Its students matched in 75 institutions in 29 states.

The inaugural class of the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine in Dothan experienced its first Match Day this year with outstanding results as well. ACOM students achieved positions in 15 disciplines, 97 unique institutions/programs, and 29 states.

According to NRMP, the 2017 Match Day was the largest on record with 35,969 U.S. and international students and graduates vying for 31,757 positions – the most ever offered during a match.

“The number of U.S. allopathic seniors who submitted program choices is an all-time high. The number of students/graduates of osteopathic medical schools who submitted program choices, as well as their match rate, are all-time highs,” said Mona M. Signer, NRMP president and CEO. “It’s also a good sign for primary care.”

National Match by the Numbers

  • Internal Medicine, Family Medicine and Pediatrics added a combined 2,900 positions, a 25.8 percent increase
  • Emergency Medicine offered 2,047 first-year positions, 152 more than in 2016, and filled all but six
  • Psychiatry offered 1,495 first-year positions, 111 more than in 2016, and filled all but four
  • Specialties with more than 30 positions that achieved the highest percentages of positions filled by U.S. allopathic seniors, were Integrated Plastic Surgery, Orthopedic Surgery and Otolaryngology
  • Applicants who did not match participated in the NRMP Match Week Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program®. This year, 1,177 of the 1,279 unfilled positions were offered during SOAP.

*Special thanks to University of South Alabama College of Medicine, University of Alabama Birmingham School of Medicine and the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine in Dothan for participating in this article. Photo courtesy of Bill Starling, photographer with USA.

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