The Whole Spectrum

CHRISTUS Spohn resident physicians learn and grow as health care providers on the road to graduation.

By: Steven Alford
Photos By: Steven Alford

It’s 3 p.m. at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Memorial, and emergency medicine resident physicians, Drs. Brandon Close and Melissa Campbell, are just getting started. Paramedics pass with incoming patients on stretchers; nurse managers direct them into nearby rooms to begin their care.

A South Texas man is brought in by his son after falling at home and suffering a head injury. It’s his 79th birthday. “I guess this just happened to be my lucky day,” said Albert Tinney while being examined by Close and Campbell.

After three years of working in the hospital’s emergency department, the pair is set to graduate from the CHRISTUS Spohn residency program, along with nearly two dozen other young doctors. In that time, the group has become close – like family, 32-year-old Campbell said. It’s not uncommon for the residents to gather on weekends for barbecues to unwind.

CHRISTUS Spohn has a long tradition of training resident physicians here in South Texas, dating back to the creation of the family medicine residency program at Memorial in the early 1970s. In 2007, CHRISTUS Spohn expanded the program to also include the emergency medicine residency program. Both programs provide residents with a full spectrum of care needed by the communities they serve.

“Our job is to mold them into excellent practitioners who are self-starting, patient-centered, team-oriented and compassionate,” said Dr. Yvonne Hinojosa, director of the family medicine residency program.

The three-year program enrolls 12 new residents each year, for a total of 36 residents at any given time. This spring, CHRISTUS Spohn Health System will celebrate these third-year residents with a graduation ceremony as they welcome a new class.

“We appreciate all of the hard work and long hours our residents have put in over the past few years to care for thousands of patients who have come through our doors,” said Xavier Villarreal, VP/COO of CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi Shoreline and Memorial.

With the unpredictable nature of working in South Texas’ only Level II Trauma Center south of San Antonio, these young doctors need to relax after hours on the hospital floor. But it’s that excitement that drew them to the program in the first place, according to 28-year-old Close.

“It’s just a good challenge, and at the end of the day, you go home knowing that you really got the chance to help people and make a difference in their lives,” Close said.
Working in the residency program, doctors get to see a range of patients with different ailments and injuries each day. It gives these young physicians a crash course in just about any kind of patient they will see after graduation.

“I like that it’s a different experience with each patient that we see,” Campbell said. “Sure, we see a lot of injuries in the emergency room, but there are also underlying conditions that we often treat – diabetes or heart disease, for example. We see the whole spectrum.”

Just a few floors upstairs in the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU), a few of family medicine residents are caring for some of the region’s sickest patients under the instruction of seasoned physicians.

Resident physician, Dr. Zehra Hussain of Houston, said she was drawn to medicine from a young age and has worked toward becoming a doctor since high school. She enjoys the residency program because of the variety of cases she sees, which gives her a range of medical fields to explore. “We see a lot as residents from in-patient, to out-patient treatments, as well as emergency room visits and pediatrics,” Hussain said while reviewing charts in the ICU. “I like that it’s random, and each day, anything can happen.”

Working long hours, studying medicine and seeing critical patients can wear on anyone. That’s why it’s important to keep a balance in their lives, residents shared. Nearly all of the resident physicians in the program are in a relationship, married or a parents, which helps keep them grounded when they leave the hospital each day, said Dr. Yvette Alvarez, a 28-year-old family medicine resident and mother of four.

“Even though medicine keeps you busy, you have to make time for your family,” Alvarez said. “At the end of the day, that’s what keeps you going and helps you make it through this program.”

As the CHRISTUS Spohn resident physicians prepare to graduate and branch out on their own, many plan to stay in Corpus Christi to continue sharing what they’ve learned with the South Texas patients for whom they care.

Through the late nights and long hours, friendships have been forged that will continue on. After all that time, these residents will emerge from the CHRISTUS Spohn program more knowledgeable, experienced and ignited with their passion to provide the highest-quality care.

For the next class of resident physicians, Close says to appreciate their time here and to keep an open mind and heart. “Enjoy every minute of the process,” Close offered. “Even though it’s been hard, every step has led me to this point, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

For more information about CHRISTUS Spohn’s emergency and family medicine residency programs, visit www.christusspohn.org.

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