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Welcome, Dr. Murray!

December 12th, 2018

University Surgical Associates is excited to welcome Craig A. Murray, M.D., FACS to the general surgery team providing care for adults in North Georgia. 

Dr. Murray comes to USA from Albany, Georgia, where he has been in private practice for 15 years. He and his wife, Kimberly, a pharmacist, have been married 17 years. They have three boys – a high schooler, a middle schooler and a kindergartener, who Dr. Murray calls a late blessing! 

“We were very drawn to Chattanooga for two reasons – better educational opportunities for our sons and proximity to the many scenic locations this area offers,” says Dr. Murray. “As a family, we love being active, and that includes snow skiing, hiking and spending time outdoors. It was also very appealing to join with USA as they expand their services into the North Georgia region, where I believe I can be helpful in establishing high quality surgical services in an underserved area.” 

Dr. Murray earned his medical degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and completed a general surgery residency at the Medical University of South Carolina. Upon completion of his residency, Dr. Murray began his practice and became affiliated with the Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, Georgia, where he served as Vice President of Medical Staff and Clinical Associate Professor at the Medical College of Georgia.

He is a member of the American College of Surgeons and has medical licenses in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. Dr. Murray comes to University Surgical Associates with nearly 16 years of general surgery experience where he specializes in advanced minimally invasive surgery, including robotic-assisted procedures. 

Currently, Dr. Murray sees patients and performs minor surgeries at the USA Surgical Specialties Building at 2108 E. 3rd Street in Chattanooga and performs planned and emergency surgery at Erlanger, CHI Memorial and Parkridge. USA has plans to open another satellite office on Battlefield Parkway in the coming months.  

Advanced Surgical Care

University Surgical Associates' general surgeons manage adult general surgery issues from appendicitis to gallbladder disease, hernias and breast disease, as well as a wide range of surgical services including intraabdominal, gastrointestinal, cancer, endocrine, breast, and blood vessels. In his practice, Dr. Murray specializes in advanced minimally invasive surgery, robotic hernia repair, gallbladder disease, colon resection, appendicitis, abdominal wall defect, breast surgery, and anti-reflux procedures. 

“The problem-solving mentality has always been one of my favorite parts of surgery – finding a solution to a problem is really satisfying. I also love medicine and the combination of working with my hands to help people,” says Dr. Murray. “Running into my patients out in the community and seeing they’ve returned to their normal lives after surgery is the most gratifying part of my job. I feel blessed to do this every day.” 

“We are excited to have a physician of Dr. Murray’s caliber join USA. His surgical skill, expertise and patient care philosophy make him a welcome addition to our team,” says Michael S. Greer, M.D., president of University Surgical Associates. “As we move to offer our services to a wider number of people who live and work in the surrounding Chattanooga area, Dr. Murray is an excellent representative for the quality of care University Surgical Associates has always been known for in this community. Bringing these much-needed services and a surgeon of this caliber to North Georgia is a high priority for our practice.” 

“Personalized patient care and putting my patients’ needs first has always been the focus of my surgical practice, and I’m thrilled to maintain that type of physician/patient relationship at University Surgical Associates,” says Dr. Murray. “USA is comprised of some the most well trained and highest quality surgeons who I believe practice medicine the way I do. I’m excited to join these likeminded physicians and to continue the long track record they have of providing exceptional and innovative surgical care.” 

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Murray, call 423.267.0466. 

Posted by University Surgical  | Category: general surgery

Women make up an increasing proportion of students entering the medical profession. Before 1970, women represented 6% or less of the medical student population. Now more than ever before, women are choosing medicine as a career – nearly half of first-time applicants to medical schools in 2011 were women. 

Like their male colleagues, women are attracted to surgical careers for the intellectual challenges, technical aspects and the ability to affect immediate change in their patients’ lives. 

As we continue to highlight the women surgeons at University Surgical Associates, Dr. Erica Clark, vascular surgeon, shares her perspective on choosing a challenging career and how she’s navigating the work and world of surgery. 

Surgeon Spotlight 
Erica Clark, DO, RPVI 

Q: Why did you become a surgeon? 

A: I have an older brother who is a surgeon, and he encouraged me to consider the field. He felt my personality would bring something new to the table. I knew it would be difficult, but it’s always exciting and very satisfying to help someone. It’s also gratifying to make a difference in a field that less than 1 to 2 percent of the world population gets to do every day. I’ve never regretted my decision. 

Q: Why do you think surgery is one of the last fields in medicine that is predominantly men? 

A: I think there’s a stigma that because surgery can sometimes be long hours and work days that you can’t have a normal life. As a woman who wants to have a marriage or family – or even time for personal activities – it can be difficult to see how they can do all these things and be a surgeon. 

It’s possible for surgery to be part of who you are, not your complete identify. I enjoy other things in my life, but it’s easy to let work consume you. My way of handling that temptation is to focus completely on where I am at the moment - whether that’s at work or at home. I didn’t realize during residency that there are many different ways to structure your practice. Having knowledge of these models has helped me identify my priorities and better manage work and home life. 

Q: What do you think women bring to the field of surgery? 

A: I think every person – man or woman – has the ability to empathize with their patients and that is what’s most important. I do think women handle multi-tasking particularly well. I feel confident in juggling the everyday stresses of life and patient care. 

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job? 

A: I think it’s really rewarding to catch something and prevent a major problem. I deal with complicated patients every day who are scared about certain circumstances – like a stroke or a problem with a non-healing wound. The outcome and fear behind that is real and can change their life. I enjoy counseling patients on what we can do to prevent that outcome. 

Q: Why did you choose to practice medicine with University Surgical Associates? 

A: In my fellowship training, I worked for two years learning from all my current partners – who are some of the most intelligent people I know. I trust them with my own family, and they have taught me everything they knew. I’ve also seen them with their own families and patients, and I am more than happy with the choice I made to be part of this team. 

Q: What would you share with women who are considering surgery as a career? 

A: There’s so much more I know about surgery that I want other women to know. I almost didn’t go into surgery thinking I wasn’t firm enough or didn’t have the backbone for it. I had been told I was too nice – and that might mean I was too nice to control a difficult situation in the operating room. My brother encouraged me by suggesting that the field of surgery could benefit from my personality, too. Listening and being empathetic are not detriments to doing a good job. It’s possible to multitask and control an environment without yelling or screaming. I believe bringing more women with softer, but confident personalities to the operating room can make it better. 

Dr. Erica Clark earned her medical degree from Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg, Virginia. She completed a general surgery residency at Spartanburg Regional Health System in Spartanburg, South Carolina, before completing fellowship training in vascular surgery from the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Chattanooga. 

Dr. Clark is an assistant professor in the department of surgery at the University of Tennessee college of Medicine. She is a board-certified vascular surgeon who specializes in treating circulatory conditions including carotid disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), thoracic aortic aneurysm, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), mesenteric/renal artery disease, venous disorders and more.  

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Clark, call (423) 267-0466. 

Posted by University Surgical  | Category: surgery

After retiring from being a truck driver for 38 years, Bill was especially enjoying time with his four grandchildren, woodworking, and making home improvements on the property that he owned with his wife, Lee Anne. He and Lee Anne were married for 32 and half years.

In April 2015, Bill began experiencing digestive changes. “After you live with someone for so long, you know their habits and you know when they don’t feel well. Bill started getting sick about every other week. Then those times of sickness would get closer and closer together,” says Lee Anne. “We decided that he needed to be checked out by his doctor. After extensive bloodwork and a colonoscopy later, they didn’t find anything wrong.” 

Weeks later Bill’s symptoms continued to worsen, and he was getting nauseous and having intense back pain. After returning to the doctor, a CT scan showed a mass on his pancreas. Knowing that it was likely pancreatic cancer, Lee Anne felt numb and couldn’t speak without crying. In just a few days, Bill, Lee Anne and their daughter met with Dr. Jacob Dowden, HPB surgeon with University Surgical Associates who specializes in pancreatic cancer surgery. 

“Dr. Dowden confirmed the diagnosis and told us it appeared to be stage 3,” remembers Lee Anne. “We were all in shock, but being the optimistic encourager that he always was, Bill hugged us both and told us everything is going to be ok.” 

Dr. Dowden explained that he was part of a tumor board, a meeting of cancer specialists and support team members that discusses every aspect of a person’s diagnosis to come up with the most effective treatment plan. The team determined that they would use chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor before attempting surgery to remove it. Bill began chemotherapy right before Thanksgiving in 2015. 

Photo credit: Leigh Ann Atwell Photography

“I just remember thinking, ‘how long do we have?’ How many more Thanksgivings will we be together?” says Lee Anne. “It was a very special Thanksgiving that year. We both have large families, and we made the most of that time together. Thankfully, Bill didn’t start experiencing the side effects of the chemo until after the holiday.” 

Making the Most of Their Time 

After six weeks of chemotherapy that ended in early 2016, Dr. Dowden said that Bill was now eligible for surgery. “I knew that few people who have pancreatic cancer even get to surgery because the symptoms of the cancer are so vague, and a diagnosis often comes late. We always looked for the hidden blessings in these difficult times,” Lee Anne shares. 

What followed for Bill was not a dramatic transformation. He was in and out of the hospital with various issues related to his cancer and underwent several procedures to battle the effects the cancer was having on his body. They did a second of round of chemotherapy, and Bill spent more than 70 days in the hospital in 2016 and more than 50 in 2017. He was strong in the face of great difficulty, and in this time of trial, Lee Anne, Bill and their family continued to look for small victories. 

Throughout Bill’s illness, Lee Anne threw herself into the role of caregiver, thanks to incredibly supportive coworkers and family members who jumped in to help in whatever way they could. After a difficult battle that lasted 20 months, Bill passed away in July 2017. 

“Bill fought very hard, and he had a great attitude about it all up until the very end. We had time to talk through everything, and he wanted me to take care of myself after he was gone,” says Lee Anne. “I don’t think there’s a period where you grieve and then are done with that grief – you just take it one day at a time and put one foot in front of the other. I lean on my family and friends for support, and I will always keep Bill’s memory alive.”

A New Chapter of Living 

In the last year and a half, Lee Anne has embraced this new chapter in her life. She’s doing exactly what she and Bill discussed – living her life to the fullest. That’s meant a lot of firsts – she’s taken a solo vacation and eaten dinner alone. She flew to visit her son in Virginia and went on a hot air balloon ride, a hobby she’s developed a passion for. 

“On my first hot air balloon ride, I teared up thinking of him. But going through something like this teaches you to be bold and very brave,” says Lee Anne. “We only have so much time here, and you must live life.” 

The Best Care 

Lee Anne notes that she was overwhelmed with the care and compassion she received from the oncologists, surgeons, nurses and everyone involved in Bill’s care. “We had the absolute best care, and everyone we encountered was so wonderful to us. I could ask questions and call at any time. We never felt like a number, we always seemed to be the focus whenever we called,” says Lee Anne. “I just assumed that we would have to travel to receive this level of care, but it turned out that we had all we needed here at home. That was such a comfort to us.” 

For anyone facing a pancreatic cancer diagnosis and their families, Lee Anne wants you to know that you’re not alone. She suggests writing everything down, asking any question no matter how small, and reaching out to others who have gone through the experience. These things helped her maintain a sense of normalcy and control in the face of her husband’s illness. 

“Stay focused on what they need in that very moment. Take pictures of your loved ones, be there for them, advocate for them,” she says. “Bill and I were determined to make the best of it, and I feel like really did. He fought long, and he fought hard. I was quite proud of him.”