A Leader in Anesthesiology in Middle Tennessee
Katherine H Dobie, MD
Founder, President & CEO Specialty Anesthesia of Tennessee
Hometown: Greenville SC
College: University of South Carolina
Medical School: East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine
Residency General Surgery: University of NC, Chapel Hill 2003-2005
Residency Anesthesiology: Vanderbilt University Medical Center 2006-2009
Faculty at Vanderbilt for over 10 years
Lived in Nashville for 14 years
How did you start in Medicine?
My father was a neurosurgeon. As soon as I was old enough to follow him around the hospital, I was with him every chance I could get, wearing his white coat dragging the ground, with the sleeves rolled up to its armpits. Often, he had to deliver very difficult news to patients and their families. He would tell me to go stand somewhere in the hallway and wait while he sat down with them. I would hide around the corner so that I could listen, even though it probably was too much for a young child to hear. In those moments I knew I wanted to be in his seat one day. I saw him as a healer, but not just a healer of the body, he was a healer in how he talked to people, how he carried them through their most fearful and difficult times. His sense about what anyone, from all walks of life, needed to see, feel, hear in any number of circumstances, was such a gift. I admired him so much. Not only did he take out brain tumors, he instilled courage and hope in, and ultimately gave his heart to, his patients.
I started out following in his footsteps, as a surgery resident. As time went on in that training, I felt my ability to give time to being a mother, which was also a dream, would be challenged by being a surgeon. I chose to change specialties to anesthesiology, originally thinking I would be an intensivist and care for patients in the ICU. I grew to really love being an anesthesiologist, and in particular was surprised at how there was still great opportunity to practice medicine in the way that I wanted – to have the ability to connect with people, even in relatively short bursts of time, during what most people find very scary. I also enjoyed being the one responsible when things were really on the line, in a specialty when the time currency is minutes and seconds. I enjoyed taking what I learned in surgery and applying it to the bedside in anesthesia, both from a technical standpoint, a clinical standpoint, and also the relationship-building required in the operating room with surgeons and staff. It takes a healthy environment, a team that everyone trusts, and I enjoy helping create that. Early in my career, Vanderbilt gave me an incredible opportunity in a leadership role where I was able to explore these interests further.
What would you consider your greatest achievement in your career prior to founding SAT?
Being named Division Chief of Ambulatory Anesthesiology at Vanderbilt and serving in that role for seven years under Dr. Warren Sandberg. Prior to this appointment, I had served as Medical Director of a very busy orthopedic surgery center, where my team was able to make key advancements in care and efficiency. In my role as Division Chief, I was able to develop as a leader, and was able to discover what ultimately became my career’s passion – to further the understanding of what drives a high-performing surgery center, where the innovation necessary to safely care for sicker patients and more complex cases outside of a hospital setting merges with efficiency, safety and clinical excellence. We were able to develop the care pathways to achieve this, and the screening, quality and efficiency metrics that point to anesthesiology’s vital role as a driver for a center’s performance in its entirety, not just within the clinical anesthesia arena. I am very proud of that, and continue to be eager to innovate our care to achieve even more.
What makes your business/practice unique in our community?
Specialty Anesthesia of Tennessee is a concept and a culture. It is a culture of excellence, compassion, innovation, and commitment - to delivering the safest and most outstanding care that every patient deserves. Our concept - we wanted to answer the call for a single surgical specialty anesthesia practice for the Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee. Over the last decade, my primary clinical focus has been on outpatient orthopedic anesthesia care. I was either directly involved in, or the medical director oversight for more than 20,000 orthopedic cases, and 8,000 regional anesthetics. It has become my passion. My surgical background fueled my love for ‘regional anesthesia’ – this is the practice of surrounding nerves with medicine, under ultrasound guidance, in order to optimize a patient’s anesthetic, and also their pain control during and after the surgical procedure. These procedures, and the proficiency with which we do them, is paramount to excellence in anesthesia care for orthopedic surgery. I love performing these procedures, and have enjoyed fine-tuning our delivery and techniques for them over the years. Our team brings a clinical expertise based on specialty experience that really is unique to most Anesthesia groups. We provide a path of care, tailored to the individual patient, for every case in every circumstance, for one specialty.
What are your goals for your practice?
This is an easy question. To deliver the safest anesthesia care, for every patient, every time. To offer the most advanced procedural techniques and care pathways, utilizing the most advanced technology, in the hands of highly experienced anesthesiologists and CRNAs, who are innovative and whose clinical focus and domain is only orthopedic anesthesia. To enhance the operational flow and patient experience of the Bone and Joint Institute Surgery Center. And finally, we will hope to have every patient leave the BJITSC and say “that was the best anesthesia care I have ever had; everyone cared about me; what an experience.”
What has been the SAT’s greatest clinical accomplishment thus far?
I have long believed that proficiency’s fruit is artistry. Medicine is an art, anesthesiology is an art. For outpatient surgery, the art lies in mastering the ability to deliver a patient to their destination after surgery as close to their pre-anesthesia physiologic and mental state as they can possibly be, as fast as can be, with minimal or no pain – even for somewhat sicker patients, and/or for more complex cases. This summer we are proud to have launched our outpatient total joint program, and have cared for a dozen of these patients to date. All twelve of our patients were happy, awake, able to walk, and able to go home in less than ninety minutes from leaving the operating room. Most importantly, all of them have done extremely well, and are extremely happy with their experience.
How do you try and maintain a balanced life outside of work?
I love raising my two girls, Claudia (9), and Evelyn (6.) My husband passed away unexpectedly in the summer of 2017, so it is just the girls and me. I am very busy! We live in a house that is also a passion – it was built in 1830 and is located on five acres on the battlefield of Franklin, where we have a golden retriever named Teddy. It is special to live here and more recently we have a friend who is helping us dig up and amass an impressive collection of civil war relics - including cannon balls, buttons, mess plates, gun hammers, to name a few of many. When we bought the house, we renovated the new parts and restored the old parts to make it historically accurate. From the nails in the floor to the plaster on the walls and everything in between, we did everything like they would have done it in 1830, including décor! I also enjoy entertaining at my home – sometimes big parties. This satisfies my love for music, food, and merriment in general. I am also a tennis player and golfer, I love to hold and cast a fly rod on a pretty river, and the girls and I love to travel.
Who are some of your medical “hero’s”?
My father, for all the reasons I described above – one of my favorite quotes of his was “I have been fortunate to learn from some of the legends in my field, to stand on the shoulders of my heroes in medicine – but my greatest mentor of all was my patients.” I believe we are taught the ‘art’ of medicine from our patients. When I think of how I do things now, both clinically and otherwise, it occurs to me that I have learned most of it by paying close attention to my patients. So I would also say that my heroes are the patients that trust me to carry them through their journey, whatever it may be. It is such an honor and privilege.
What motivates you?
Doing the right thing, and how I can continue to strive to do just that, better and better. In residency, a great surgeon used to answer detailed questions presented to him by residents with, “Just do the right thing.” I loved it. What a powerful teaching point. I also think about “do or do not, there is no try.” It sounds a little harsh, but I believe in it’s guiding message – that to believe in oneself is the basis for being who God made one to be. I like to think that I am on that path.
How has COVID19 impacted your work?
Not a ton in our world. Apart from following all the standard recommendations for distancing, masking and screening, patients still need orthopedic surgery, and we are here to get them through it, safely.
Getting to Know the Doc
What is the best part about living in Franklin? I love Franklin’s history and how it has been preserved very thoughtfully. Living in a house that can contribute in a small way to this spirit of preservation is rewarding. I love little downtown; I can be there in 5 minutes and the girls and I walk around on any random night enjoying whatever is happening. The festivals that the town puts on are all fabulous. Franklin has a rich, historically significant past and sense of community that you can feel when you live here. It’s a special place, and Williamson County is absolutely beautiful.
What are some movies you really enjoyed?
I think Sliding Doors is powerful in its concept, and seems to be something I reference throughout life. And I, like most people, enjoy all the feel-good movies where people with good intentions end up winning or lovers end up together, like Hoosiers and Urban Cowboy.
What amazing adventures have you been on?
I have been fortunate to live in some cool places. My husband was English, so for a small period I was able to live in England during residency. There we travelled much of Europe, but more of an adventure was learning about and living in the British culture. What a bunch of plonkers! (haha) We also lived in Bozeman Montana for almost two years. Too many adventures to tell. I also lived in New York City (Tribeca) for one year before starting medical school. All of these places were full of amazing adventures and I am so thankful for the experiences in each.
Favorite Restaurants in Nashville?
I think City House still has the best food. I have been going there since 2007. Its good without trying too hard and without being like everyone else. “Everyone else” (and there are lots of them,) is fun to have in Nashville – a new restaurant shooting up every time you turn around, but I think we lack in excellent food in a comfortable place where things don’t feel forced or trying to be ‘too cool.’ There’s an art in pulling that off and Nashville is still young in its culinary explosion.
Favorite vacation destination?
For beaches, I love the South Carolina coast and Boca Grande/Gaspirilla on the Florida gulf. For mountains I enjoy Montana, and the great Appalachia - those old hills are special and spiritual, and I feel ‘at home’ in them. I love New York City. I also enjoy taking the children to England to visit family.
Among your friends, what are you best known for?
Maybe that I just want everybody to feel good and have a good time, that I love sports and music, and that I am passionate about things. That I love to make a big breakfast on a fun weekend, especially homemade biscuits and gravy from scratch. And that I’m a “can-do” type rather than a “can’t-do.”
Photos by Nikayla Skolits Photography @nskolitsphotography