Paramedic answers ER’s call—as a doc

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Lisa Dodd just started wearing a white coat into a hospital emergency room, but she’s no stranger to medical traumas.

She was 16 when she became a junior member of the Colonial Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad—and she got hooked. She didn’t mind climbing out of bed at 2 in the morning to help someone who was suffering.

She’s getting the same kind of rush as an emergency room doctor at Riverside Tappahannock Hospital.

“I really like the urgency and the acuity that go along with emergency medicine,” said Dodd, now 32. “You’re making decisions that affect how things will go from there on, and you’re there for people when they’re at their worst.”

‘NO DESIRE TO LEAVE THIS AREA’

Dodd grew up in the Oak Grove section of Westmoreland County. She’s related to the Bowies, a well-known farming family who also run a hardware store and restaurant.

She wants to stay close to her kin and others she’s known all her life.

“I have no desire to leave this area whatsoever,” she said. “I’m really a home girl.”

Dodd was just as certain of her career goals, although she initially planned to take care of children. She changed her mind after shadowing a pediatrician for a week.

“It was not enough action for me,” she said.

Meanwhile, she had joined the Colonial Beach squad, eventually becoming a paramedic, the most advanced training level available. She also became a firefighter with the Oak Grove Volunteer Fire Department.

She took advantage of every learning opportunity that came her way in school and out, said Suzanne Tolson, a Montross rescue volunteer and Dodd’s principal in elementary and high school.

“She was an extraordinary student, involved in every single activity that you could imagine,” said Tolson, who wrote several letters of recommendation for Dodd because she had “such glowing things to say about her.”

AN OVERACHIEVER

Dodd finished her undergraduate work at the University of Virginia in three years instead of four. She paid all her college costs using money earned from 4–H livestock projects.

She typified the overachiever in that program, too. Six times, she earned the blue ribbon for grand champion steer. One year, she had the top-two rated steers—and the grand champion heifer.

Dodd worked while she got her master’s degree in sports medicine and paid off those debts, too.

For medical school, at the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg, she took out student loans.

“If you gotta be in debt for something, you might as well be in debt and be happy about it,” she said.

She said her parents, Donna and Jimmy Dodd, covered plenty of expenses. They bought her a house and later a new car, which she put to good use during her medical training.

‘FACE OF THE HOSPITAL’

Dodd has been in school for 14 years since graduating from Colonial Beach High School in 1999. She’s never tired of classes or been overwhelmed by them.

“Everybody said medical school was so hard, and you don’t have any time, but I was always going somewhere,” she said. “Fortunately, I don’t require a lot of sleep.”

She did her residency at the Medical College of Virginia and tried to take in every aspect of medical care, from the cradle to the grave. She did month-long segments in various communities.

She helped deliver 45 babies in Farmville and worked in a nursing home in southwest Virginia.

All along, she knew she wanted to stick with emergency medicine. She hoped to end up in Tappahannock, at the same hospital to which she’d brought patients as a volunteer.

“With a smaller hospital, there’s more one-on-one time with the patients,” Dodd said. “You are more the face of the hospital, and that’s what I wanted.”

‘A LOVE OF EMS’

Dodd didn’t have to apply for a job at Tappahannock.

The doctor who supervises all physicians at the hospital—and its nearby practices—contacted her.

“Who wouldn’t want her?” said Dr. James Dudley, adding he’s known Dodd since she was a teen. “We have watched her career blossom with great interest. She obviously has a love of EMS, and we really need doctors who are committed to EMS.”

Dodd joined the emergency room as a resident—the hospital’s first—then started full-time Aug. 1. She’s one of five doctors assigned to the emergency room.

Dudley said Dodd’s experience with rescue squads and knowledge of the community are “huge” pluses.

So is her bedside manner, said Helen Golden, a secretary and technician who’s worked at the hospital for 38 years.

“You know how some physicians, they use those big words and you might not understand them?” Golden said. “In Northern Neck, you have to talk in their language. I don’t mean you have to talk down. She’s very, very good. She’s local and people know of her.”

Tolson, the Montross volunteer, said it’s great having a doctor who’s been on the other side of medical care. She said Dodd is aware of the level of skill provided by different types of ambulance crews, and that’s not always the case with new physicians, Tolson said.

“We’re just thrilled, we’re ecstatic to see her in the ER.”

MADE MEMBERS PROUD

Wesley Melson, the rescue chief at Colonial Beach, joined the rescue squad the same time Dodd did.

He said she “has made all of the members proud.”

The Colonial Beach squad granted her lifetime membership last year, but she still runs three or four calls a month.

No one is intimidated by having a doctor on board.

“Very much the opposite,” Melson said. “When you find yourself on those difficult calls, it is always a relief to see Lisa pulling up, usually coming from home in her personal vehicle.”

Golden and others interviewed said Dodd’s personality hasn’t changed as she’s risen through the ranks of medical care.

Dodd scoffed that she’d get uppity just because she’s wearing a white coat.

She does plan to change one part of her life to reflect her new role.

“I am going to learn to play golf,” she said, smiling, “because that seems to be a requirement.”

Published: August 29, 2013



 

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