Giving medicine a personal touch
Local doctor believes in giving back to the community
Dr. Deborah Gammill looks at medicine not just as a way to cure diseases, but as part of getting to know people and communities.
Gammill, a family practitioner in Tonganoxie, has had unique experiences that have shaped the way she practices health care.
While still in high school, Gammill visited college math and science courses with her older sister who was studying to be a doctor. The subject struck her as something she would enjoy studying, she said, and she entered college intending to be a doctor.
Gammill chose Rockhurst College of Kansas City, a Jesuit school, to study pre-medicine at the undergraduate level. Through a Miller Grant, she had the opportunity to spend the summers of 1989 and 1990 volunteering in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.
While there, she assisted the doctor and nurse by taking blood pressure and performing other basic tasks.
Most importantly though, she said she learned how to connect with patients.
The doctor, who was a Sister of Mercy, emphasized to Gammill the importance of sitting down and really getting to know the patient.
"That's what I've really tried to carry over," Gammill said.The home visits she made while volunteering influenced her practice of medicine, she said. The situation of one family in particular opened her eyes to the poverty of the area.
"The house was a four-room shack," Gammill said. "Some boards were missing on the floor and you could see the bare earth underneath. There was one bedroom for the whole family to sleep in and there were six of them."
In addition, she said the kitchen didn't have running water, just a hose that came through the wall. One stove was the only source of heat for the mountain home.
Gammill later earned a medical degree from the University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan.
She then fulfilled her residency requirements at Providence Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan.
A friend, Dr. LeAnne DeTar-Newbert, first introduced her to Tonganoxie, she said. Gammill said, because she grew up in Wichita, she had not been familiar with the area.
But Tonganoxie caught her eye.
Since September 1999 the doctor's office, formerly owned by Mid America Physicians, has been supported by Providence Medical Center. Gammill asked to work at the Tonganoxie location.
While Tonganoxie is much better off than the area in which she volunteered, Gammill said she sees some similarities in the two rural areas.
She said there is a need for multiple health care providers in Tonganoxie so residents don't have to drive to Kansas City or Lawrence to see a doctor. Gammill even makes house calls on occasion.
Currently residents of Overland Park, Gammill and her family are building a house south of Bonner Springs.
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