On the Job with Tracy Bridges

Stacy Bridges, 48, is a physician and partner in Allergy and Asthma Clinics of Georgia.

Stacy Bridges, 48, is a physician and partner in Allergy and Asthma Clinics of Georgia.

Q. What was your first job?

A. I worked around the family farm starting at an early age — doing whatever I could. When I was old enough, I started driving a tractor. Later when I was around 12 years old, I worked at my father’s Ford Tractor Company in Dawson in the parts department.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first paycheck?

A. My father was very good about giving us cash for working around the farm. My first official paycheck was from the local sewing factory where I worked for one summer during high school loading boxes of women’s lingerie on to semi trailers. I never knew women’s underwear could be so heavy. I remember the first paycheck, but I can’t remember what I spent it on.

Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found throughout the past years for keeping employees motivated?

A. Since we are in the business of helping and healing people, we like to focus on the fact that our actions improve the lives of others. It is easy to keep our staff motivated when we keep the greater good of our patients in mind.

Q. What led you to your current position?

A. I had a number of choices of where I could practice, but I chose to practice in South Georgia to be close to my family and the farm. The practice of allergy and my colleagues at Allergy and Asthma Clinics of Georgia have allowed me the flexibility of practicing medicine and playing a part in the family business, which is agriculture and agricultural investments.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. From the standpoint of my practice of Allergy and Immunology, I would have to say my mentor would be Dr. John Murray, a professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where I did my Allergy Immunology fellowship. He was a good clinician and researcher, and was always thinking outside the box. He always put the patient first. He was not only a good role model for a practicing allergist, but also as a role model for my current role as director of Georgia Pollens Clinical Research here in Albany. From the standpoint of my involvement in the family business of agriculture, I would say my father is my role model. He is an excellent businessman and keeps in perspective what is and what is not important. He instilled in me the importance and value of productive farmland, which remains the core of our family interests.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. Don’t take anything for granted. There is one sure thing — nothing ever stays the same.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology – examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. – what would you most like to see go away?

A. Automated phone systems are my least favorite, but I understand their utility, and we use them in our organization. These automated phone systems have served to depersonalize interactions with customers.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. A smart phone. I am not sure that I could live without my Blackberry from the standpoint of my medical practice and the family business. The smart phone brings the phone, the Internet, email, text messaging together in one device.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

cutting a cedar tree to serve as our Christmas tree in our home. In addition to the tradition, I like the local and sustainable nature of getting what we need or want locally.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. The last book I read was Tom Friedman’s “Hot, Flat, and Crowded.” I believe that our current rate of consumption of the earth’s resources is unsustainable, as Friedman explains. With the world’s population now beyond 7 billion, the demand for food, fiber, energy and water — along with climate change — is likely to retool the way we live over the next 50 years.

Q. I’m up and going by? And what is your morning routine?

A. I usually get to bed late, and get up as late as possible. Nevertheless, I am out of the house by about 7 a.m. I can be out of bed and out the door in about 10 minutes. A cup of coffee and a protein smoothie gets me hopping.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet?

A. President Franklin Roosevelt. In the face of economic adversity and war, he remained resolute and offered hope and leadership to a country in the midst of incredible change and challenges.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. I enjoy working outside, looking at farmland, and playing the piano.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. Not pursuing farmland investments in the Mississippi Delta before 2004, and selling Apple stock in the late 1990s before the ipod, iphone and ipad revolution.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. Making patients feel better and improving their quality of life.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. Having to justify to health insurance companies why I want to treat a patient for a certain condition with a certain therapy to make them feel better.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. Latin and Greek derivatives. The vocabularies of the ancient languages of Greek and Latin are the foundation of not only medical terminology, but also many of the words in the English language.

Q. Finish this thought; “on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself …

A. That’s impossible for me to answer at this time. I can’t envision myself as being retired, either from the practice of medicine or my interest in farmland/land.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. I may not be the best one to answer this question, but I think that the most important trait is adaptability. Our world is changing so rapidly that a rigid, unchangeable mindset is detrimental to future success.

Q. Crystal ball time: What’s your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?

A. I really could not say.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. I am very fond of music, and I have what I would consider unusual tastes in music for someone born in the 1960s. I really enjoy classical (especially Copland, Stravinsky, Bach), jazz, and anything that Frank Sinatra, Billie Holliday or Ella Fitzgerald sings. I usually have Georgia Public Radio playing in the background in my car or office.

Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?

A. I am certainly not smart enough to even guess. I hope that Albany will see an expansion of its economic base based on expansion of industry in our area. Why can’t we have a Hyundai, Kia, Honda, Ford, Fiat, or GM plant in South Georgia? I would like to see Albany become a hub for alternative energy production for Georgia, including biomass, biofuel, and solar energy production. With our sunny climate, plentiful forestry resources, and access to agricultural biomass, Southwest Georgia should be in a prime position to be a major player in the alternative energy market.

Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken?

A. Years ago, I enjoyed going on winter ski trips with my medical school buddies, usually during Master’s Week in Augusta (where I went to medical school). My favorite trip was to the Salt Lake City, Utah, area in the early 1990’s. The night before we flew out, the area got three feet of fresh powder. Because it was early April, the weather was favorable enough for us to ski in short sleeves by the end of the trip. We skied like fools.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?

A. The innovations in technology and communications have been mind-boggling. Using the Internet, I am able to operate the computer in my home office from a remote terminal in a satellite location many miles from Albany. Amazing! At home, I can access patient charts just as if I was sitting in my office chair. From an agricultural investments standpoint, I can use satellite mapping tools such as Google Earth and NRCS Soil Mapping tools to get a pretty good idea of what a farm looks like before even getting on the ground on the property.