Health Sciences Campus

A family physician returns home

By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

Dr. Steven Manning
WILLIAMSTON, N.C.  (Oct. 14, 2011)  —  Steven Manning decided to be a family doctor even before he applied to East Carolina University's medical school.

As an undergraduate student in exercise physiology at ECU, he worked on some projects with Brody School of Medicine physicians and was exposed to family medicine practice, which seemed a perfect fit.

"The comprehensiveness of care is what I like," Manning said. "To be a family physician means you take care of the whole family. Each thing I did confirmed that's where I wanted to be."

After his residency, Manning thought he would stay in Greenville, where he would care for patients and work in academic medicine. He enjoyed the clinical and teaching mix and didn't want to lose it by leaving ECU. But a rotation with an orthopedist in Kinston got him thinking.

"It was a small practice in a small town. He knew all his patients," Manning said. "I began to think about what that would look like here. There is a need."

There are less than a handful of family physicians in all of Martin County, which has about 25,000 residents and draws more patients from nearby smaller counties. In Williamston, the county seat and Manning's hometown, the other family physician is Dr. Domingo Rodriguez-Cue.

Manning is in many ways a quintessential Brody School of Medicine graduate because he is from a rural, eastern North Carolina town who has returned to practice. ECU is ranked among the top medical schools in the country that emphasize primary care with large numbers of graduates going into family medicine, a core mission of the school.

"Steven is definitely a perfect example of Brody's mission," said Dr. Ricky Watson, clinical assistant professor and assistant family medicine residency director in the Brody School of Medicine. Watson has known Manning since early medical school, where Manning was a leader and later co-chief resident. "We discussed everything from how to treat hypertension to delivering babies together to discussing contracts with his hospital."

Manning was born at Martin General Hospital, where he now admits patients and shares on-call duty with other physicians. The son of Roger and Mary Manning, he graduated from Williamston High School, received his bachelor's degree from ECU and graduated from medical school in 2008. He and Candi Griffin Manning, his high school sweetheart and an ECU alumna, have 2-year-old twins, Berkley and Meredith. He completed his family medicine residency this summer.

Word spread quickly that Manning would be returning home, which is reflected in his caseload. He allocates 30 minutes per patient, and sees up to 15 patients a day, a goal he initially set for the end of his first year at Martin Family Medicine, a practice owned by Martin General Hospital.

The practice will have medical students on rotation, which will keep Manning in academic medicine. Hospital officials also are recruiting a second family physician for the office. Manning is seeing patients of all ages and both sexes, from older adults to pregnant women and children. In some cases, he is caring for entire families, which is valuable, he said.

"So much of medicine is not clinical or medical. It's also spiritual and social," Manning said. "Knowing the family situation helps me as a doctor to see those issues and to take all those things into account."

He sees his own patients when they are admitted to the hospital and does his own procedures from biopsies to joint injections to cardiac stress testing. "At ECU, I did a lot of procedures with the faculty there, and I really enjoyed that. That was one of the things I wanted to continue when I decided to come here," he said.

His staff includes Debbie Bryant, nurse and practice manager, Donna Nicholson, certified medical assistant, and Jamie Woolard, medical receptionist and medical assistant.

He is enjoying his work, and getting to know his patients, many of whom have known him, his family and his wife's family since he was a little boy. Manning already knows all the nurses and physicians by name at the hospital, something that is almost impossible in a larger medical facility.

"Everyone's been very supportive and very excited," Manning said. "It has been nothing but positive. I knew it would be."

Manning has the support of Cue and other physicians in Williamston, as well as the faculty and resources at ECU should questions arise. ECU prepared him to work independently, just as he's doing.

"In residency, we are trained to handle a lot of things and function on our own as much as possible," Manning said. He shared as an example his first day after finishing residency, July 4 at Pungo District Hospital in Belhaven, which hosts of a large annual Independence Day celebration and fireworks show. He treated close to 40 patients in the emergency department overnight and delivered a baby.

"It was crazy," he said. He sent an email to ECU colleagues after his shift ended, thanking them for preparing him well.

Martin Family Medicine is at 102 Medical Drive, Williamston, 27892. The office phone is 252-809-6400.

Oct. 16-22 is National Primary Care Week, and October is National Family Health Month

Contact: Crystal Baity | 252-744-3764