Balancing Act

Gastroenterologist Robert Hollis, M.D. and his wife Lisa

Practicing medicine at West Tennessee Gastro has proven the right mix for Robert Hollis, MD

For as long as he can remember, Robert Hollis said he wanted to be a doctor, which may have been a good thing since English and Literature were not his forte. Since he had never worked in healthcare, nor had anyone in his family, he did decide to hedge his bet a little bit with an engineering degree in college. Fortunately, all worked out for the gastroenterologist's original plan.

Aside from his interest in science, Hollis attributes some of his interest in medicine to his hometown, Houston, Texas. "Growing up in Houston, I saw a barrage of ads for Baylor College of Medicine. That coupled with having to see an ENT doctor twice a year for 'Houstonitis,' definitely had medicine on my mind," he said. "I found I liked how the ENT physician helped people."

Since he had never worked in healthcare, Hollis decided it may be best to have a back-up career plan. While he took pre-med courses at Baylor University, he graduated in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering. "My father was in the oil and gas business," said Hollis. "So, I figured if I did not like medicine or if something did not work out I could always go follow in my father's footsteps."

Things did work out and Hollis headed to the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. He initially thought he would go into primary care. "When I was being treated by an ENT as a child, I thought it was more of a primary care type of specialty because I really did not see the surgical side" said Hollis. "Primary care was what I thought was the better fit for me."

It was during his internal medicine residency at Vanderbilt that Hollis decided on a specialty. "When going through medical school, you get exposed to all different fields of medicine that help you decide if you want surgery, psychiatry, OB/GYN or internal medicine," he said. "I enjoyed surgery, but I just never saw myself standing over an operating table for hours, even though I enjoyed procedures. Early in my exposure to medicine, I also had a hard time conceptually cutting on someone, making an incision. I was just so new to medicine and had never been exposed to it that I leaned toward internal medicine. While in residency, I realized I enjoyed procedures. Gastroenterology was the most appealing to me because I could perform procedures that would last about 30 minutes, as well as practice the primary care side of medicine."

Hollis completed a two-year fellowship in Gastroenterology at University Health Sciences Center in San Antonio and headed to Jackson, Tenn. to join TranSouth Clinic.

"I got married during the second year of my Vanderbilt residency. Lisa and I played on the same softball team at Vanderbilt. We also played golf and tennis. Lisa and my daughter, Tiffany, who was born in Nashville, wanted to get back to Nashville to be closer to family. Our family also includes another Texan, Michelle, who was born while I was in my fellowship in San Antonio," said Hollis. "We looked at Nashville and Murfreesboro as well as Jackson. We really liked the progressive medical community in Jackson, and overall it really seemed to fit our needs."

After three years, Hollis joined Drs. Hertz and Ibach at Medical Specialty Clinic. Over the years, the clinic has seen many changes. Hertz and Ibach both relocated out of state. Today the clinic includes five GI physicians, nurse practitioners, and Skyline Endoscopy Center. Skyline Endoscopy Center is designated as a Center of Excellence by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. Perhaps the most notable change for the clinic is that it is now a part of West Tennessee Healthcare and renamed West Tennessee Gastro.

"When Hertz semi-retired and moved to New Mexico, we entertained the idea to sell the practice and the endoscopy center to West Tennessee Healthcare," said Hollis. "We became employees and it has been great. WTH has been a wonderful employer that has provided all that we have needed. Their support was especially helpful in converting to electronic medical records as well as navigating through all the government regulations that are now part of medicine. They are a great resource for us that allows us to practice medicine rather than deal with the business side of medicine."

Beside becoming a hospital employee, Hollis says some of the biggest changes he has seen over his career are the advances in the specialty in terms of equipment and medicines. "When I first started, I was looking through an eye piece to perform a colonoscopy, now the equipment utilizes high definition video on a large screen that allows us to pick up lesions much easier," he said. "The medications we now have available are much better, especially in terms of treating Crohn's disease. In the past, we were limited to Prednisone for Crohn's but now we have numerous biological options that can help patients avoid surgery. We also have ninety-five percent cure rate for hepatitis C."

Hollis also has the distinction of being one of the first in Jackson to perform ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Choloangio-Pancreatography), a procedure that allows a physician to examine pancreatic and bile ducts. "It is very useful in treating biliary and pancreatic disease. If a person has their gallbladder removed and a stone is found in the bile duct, we remove that stone in a far less invasive manner with ERCP in less time and a shorter recovery time," said Hollis. "We can also use ERCP to treat jaundice in patients with a malignancy. There are just so many things now that we can do through the scope that in the past would have required surgical intervention."


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