COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Although they are still learning the ropes, these Piedmont Columbus Regional residents have big goals. Julia Mattingly of Suwanee and Martin Wood of Columbus are both Georgia locals who hope to bring greater medical care access to rural communities within the state.

Mattingly and Wood applied and successfully entered Mercer’s accelerated track to get a jump on their careers. At 25 and 28, respectively, the students are several months ahead of their original classmates. The two said they chose the accelerated program because it allowed them to choose which hospital they would work with for their residencies.

“We both committed about six months into medical school,” said Mattingly, explaining that she chose the hospital because of its good reputation and faculty. The resident said she originally attended Mercer’s Savannah campus but later moved to Columbus when she fell in love with the city on a visit.

The transition from student to resident has not come without a new level of pressure. Mattingly and Wood explained they often work 12-hour shifts, 12 days in a row before getting two days off and repeating the process.

Wood said, “The first time someone says, ‘Doctor, what do we do?’ Yeah, it was a big moment.”

In order to keep up with their new responsibilities, Mattingly and Wood said it is important to truly see medicine as a practice. Wood explained repetition, as well as referring to other residents and attendings when uncertain about a decision, is key.

Wood said working at Piedmont for his residency is especially beneficial because he is able to get experience in every specialty at the hospital.

“That’s what I think the strongest point about the program is,” Wood said.

When the two move into their careers as practicing doctors in the future, they will face additional challenges which they are already thinking about.

As Wood and Mattingly bring their practices to rural areas, they want to prioritize heath education and preventative healthcare.

“I’ve seen so many folks that had medical [issues] that could have been avoided by just routine medical care,” said Wood. He hopes to bridge the gap by creating his own private practice while also maintaining a strong relationship with local hospitals.

Mattingly explained this is part of why family medicine is so important. She said routine check-ups healthcare providers reach patients before chronic health issues develop, or before they progress further.

However, Mattingly stressed that increased health education, in conjunction with regular appointments, is crucial. Creating a dialogue between patient and provider is important for helping patients lead healthier lifestyles on a daily basis, she said.  

“We are advocates for the patients, we’re here to support them and help them,” said Mattingly. “But it falls on the patients at the end of the day to go home and make these lifestyle modifications.”