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Surgical Oncology Director Troy Kimsey balances art, science of medicine

CANCER CHRONICLES: Troy Kimsey says God gave him a heart for medicine

Dr. Troy Kimsey is the director of surgical oncology at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s Cancer Center. Kimsey considered leaving medical school for the ministry before experiencing a change of heart. (Special photo)

Dr. Troy Kimsey is the director of surgical oncology at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s Cancer Center. Kimsey considered leaving medical school for the ministry before experiencing a change of heart. (Special photo)

ALBANY — There’s a term for physicians who become obsessively impressed with their ability to heal. They call it the “God complex.”

Dr. Troy Kimsey, the director of surgical oncology at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s Cancer Center, found a method early in his career to avoid such self-delusion.

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“If you’re someone who feels he should get all the credit for a successful surgery, then you’ve got to be willing to take all the blame when things go wrong,” Kimsey said. “That’s a burden no one wants to take on, and it can be humbling.

“We (physicians) have a tendency to get incredibly proud of the things we do. There are things we do in the operating room to the human body that if we did it to a shirt, we wouldn’t be able to wear it. But we have to take care not to take credit for something God does. We couldn’t do these things without Him.”

Kimsey, who earned degrees at the Medical College of Georgia, decided during his first year of medical school that he’d taken a wrong career path. He says his close relationship with God convinced him he should prepare for the ministry.

“I’m not saying God talked to me, but I can quote Him,” Kimsey said. “I told Him I wanted to get out and become a pastor to serve Him, but in the end He said, ‘Why is it so hard for you to believe I have you where I want you?’ That ended that discussion.”

The surgical oncologist said he settled on his calling when “God gave me a heart for medicine.” That has allowed him to “be in people’s lives, to walk with them on the best days and the worst days” of their treatment.

Kimsey developed a love for anatomy and physiology during his studies at MCG, and he credits that fact with helping him become one of the state’s most renowned physicians in his field.

“I understand that what we do as physicians is amazing, but it’s no less so than what a mechanic does,” he said. “We both tear things down and put them back together. We all have things in life that we’re good at.”

Kimsey said when he needs a dose of humility to provide a bit of perspective, he has a ready supply. He gets it from his kids.

“My interaction with my kids gives me more reality than people who might think highly of something I’ve done,” he said. “To them, I’m just dad. They’re not fascinated so much by what I’ve done (at work) as they are by what I do when I’m with them.

“That’s a great humbling thing.”

As director of Phoebe’s surgical oncology discipline, Kimsey says he’s involved in a program that’s “a vital part of a whole picture.” He said the multidisciplinary team approach that is being refined at the hospital’s Cancer Center will provide better care for Southwest Georgia oncology patients. That’s even more important, he says, in the current climate of dramatic health care change.

“Practicing medicine used to be you did what you did and got paid,” Kimsey said. “There’s a shift now toward value-based care, and frankly that can be a little overwhelming. There seems to be a push toward quality measures rather than outcome measures. That’s one of the greatest challenges in medicine today.”

Practicing in a life-or-death field under such conditions can add to the pressure that is inherent in the medical field. But Kimsey said he deals with such pressure in the simplest way.

“The kind of pressure you’re referring to brings about surrender for me,” he said. “There’s a level of comfort in being educated and well-trained. But I do what I do by allowing God to work through me. God’s in the business of stacking odds against Himself to show you who He is. I don’t take that lightly.

“There is a science to medicine, but there’s also an art. Finding the balance that exists between the two is the key. For me, God provides the balance.”