On June 25th, I had the pleasure of interviewing two doctors who are new to Athens, but certainly not to the practice of internal medicine. Dr. Shanna Ndong is an “Alabama girl” who hails from Anniston. She graduated from the USA Medical Center in Mobile. She has worked in Chicago as well as at the prestigious Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, which is where she met her husband. She is the mother of 13 month old triplets, two girls and a boy, and wanted to come back to Alabama to raise her children and be nearer to her family. She has focused mostly in a Public Health setting on treating the underserved, and loves the fields of prevention and genetics, especially with respect to cancer.
Dr. Sasha Acelajado, (who goes by “Dr. A”), completed medical school in the Philippines, graduated in the top 10% of her class, and specialized in treating hypertension. She practiced and was board certified there, but essentially had to start all over when she came to the United States. She studied at UAB and also at USA Medical Center in Mobile, and finished up her residency in June. She is the mother of two children.
When I met with these two highly competent and compassionate women, I was struck by a number of things that made me think they would be a good fit for me if I ever needed their respective and combined set of skills, knowledge and experience. The first was the fact that they had only met a couple of days before, and amongst all the boxes and stresses of moving into a new clinic setting, they clearly enjoyed each other. I honestly thought (when I heard that they both went to the University of South Alabama), that they had become “buds” in med school, and had decided to pursue this new venture based on an old friendship when the clinical positions became available. Not true! It was the system that put them together, and it’s easy to see that it’s a great match.
The other thing that I noticed was already they have blended their backgrounds and philosophical approaches to practicing medicine. Dr. Shanna describes herself as being in love with technology, and explained to me how much she enjoys utilizing what is called the “patient portal.” She said, “The patient portal allows patients to access their health information, communicate with the physician and staff, and view their lab results. It's usually located in the waiting room, so that patients can easily register for it, and it’s one of our long term goals for our clinic.”
On the other hand, Dr. A is used to a less techno-dependent system, which works especially well amongst her senior patients who might be a bit intimidated by the concept of using a secure computer portal.
I asked them if they had a philosophy or mission statement with regard to the practice of medicine, and here is what Dr. Ndong said: “I want to be the co-pilot, or better yet, the flight attendant.” By that she meant that she wants to empower her patients to the extent that they are in charge of their course of treatment and action as much as possible, and she is along more to advise as well as assist. As stated above, her great loves are genetics and prevention, and her idea of an especially good day at work is when she can help a patient uncover the genetic mysteries of their personal predisposition toward cancer, and nip it before it gets a chance to harm.
Dr. A’s specialty is internal medicine, and she says that she “loves chronic conditions, especially hyper-tension, diabetes, and poor kidney functions.” I laughed out loud, because I had never heard of a doc who “loved” the stuff that so often doesn’t budge, especially because frequently a patient is non-compliant with specific regard to their lifestyle issues. Her “best day ever” had to do with helping a man in his ‘60s, suffering from several chronic conditions, and who could best be described as a “grumpy old man.” Step by step she was able to help him turn his health around over several months, even beating some conditions he had had all his life. Prior to Dr. A’s care, he just thought he had to put up with everything, and didn’t have much reason to live. He announced with joy and gratitude that he “was no longer a grumpy old man!”
The new clinic is going to be opening on August 15th, but is taking appointments now for things like annual physicals and other non-emergency chronic conditions. The clinic will be located at 710 West Hobbs Street, in the building with the blue roof, slightly northeast of the Sanders Street entrance to Athens Limestone Hospital. The number to make an appointment is 256-262-6380.
I think we have been blessed by the arrival of these two dedicated physicians, and we welcome you both to Athens!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner