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CRMC a ‘diamond in the rough’

Cookeville Regional Medical Center has experienced growth in what was believed to be unimaginable ways when surgeons Drs. Scott Copeland, Charles Huddleston and Jeff Moore were growing up.

“I’ve always said that CRMC is a ‘diamond in the rough’,” Copeland, a Cookeville native, said. “It has grown so much and offers the community and region a lot of great things.”

Both Copeland and Moore practically grew up in the hospital.

“My dad was a veterinarian and he would send me over here for supplies,” Copeland said.

It was a different facility at that time. Lifestyle was different too.

Medicine runs in Moore’s family. His grandfather helped establish the hospital. His uncle is a well-known urologist. And his dad is a retired CRNA.

“I would spend a lot of time in the lobby watching TV or at a nurses’ station,” he said. “It was sort of understood that I would go into medicine.”

Back when Cookeville General Hospital had a softball team, Moore was a batboy.

“I was about seven or eight years old,” he said. “I remember those green uniforms.”

Copeland and Moore also served as orderlies — during different time periods – and learned a lot through that experience.

Huddleston went a different route. Growing up in Livingston, he worked with the late Dr. Austin Jones in radiology at the Livingston hospital during high school.

“I loved it,” he said. “I could remember when I was a child having an episode where I had to go into the hospital and get an X-ray. I would come and visit my grandfather when he got sick and had to be in the hospital, and my aunt worked here, so it seemed like a natural progression to continue to go to school.”

All three excelled in the sciences.

Copeland knew being a veterinarian was not an option.

“It turns out I’m allergic to animal hair,” he said with a laugh.

Copeland went to East Tennessee State University where he earned his medical degree in 1989. Huddleston also attended East Tennessee State University where he earned his medical degree in 2001.

Moore continued his family’s footsteps and went to the University of Tennessee in Memphis to earn his medical degree.

When Copeland completed his residency, Cookeville Regional was on the cusp of a huge expansion with service lines, something he credits the leadership in pushing.

“The surgeons here did a bit of everything, but not vascular surgery,” he said. “I was finishing surgery residency, I had a lot of vascular surgery training along with general. I was interested in doing vascular surgery and the timing was good, as the transition in the ‘90s going toward advanced cardiology, oncology, cardiac surgery and vascular surgery was a part of that well. I had a chance to bring that to the hospital. It was – and still is — a needed service. The hospital was going to invest in bringing in new specialties and on the cusp of that transition, I saw a great opportunity.”

When he came back, the north tower wasn’t here, but several additions were made when he was out of town.

“Being able to practice as a general surgeon, we’re trained to do a lot of things and be experts at them,” Copeland said. “In some places with super specialists, you’re narrowed down in a big city. Here you truly get to enjoy each day in the OR because there is a variety of different cases.”

He is now wrapping up the 27th year of Middle Tennessee Surgical Specialists and was recently appointed a new member of the CRMC board of trustees, continuing in his father’s footsteps.

Moore was originally going to go into the field of obstetrics and gynecology. That quickly changed.

“I knew I was going to go into medicine, but I wasn’t sure which field,” he said. “The neat thing with surgery is that I have job security. I can go where I want to go. But home is where I wanted to be.”

He joined the group 13 years ago.

“Both sides of my family all live here,” he said. “My wife’s family is also from here. We love Cookeville. We have everything we need here. I knew what this hospital has to offer. I knew the vision of the hospital, I’ve seen it grow. And there’s no better place to practice and live than here in Cookeville.”

Throughout his time as a surgeon, he has seen growth occur all over the place.

“The operating rooms have been constantly updated,” he said. “We now have two da Vinci robots, which are top of the line surgical technology.”

The best part, he said, is seeing his patients around town.

“I love taking care of my neighbors and friends,” he said.

Huddleston also came back to be near family.

“Right out of residency, I took a job in Tullahoma for three years,” he said. “During that time, my wife’s mother was diagnosed with leukemia, my mother had Parkinson’s, and when that contract was done, we left and spoke with Dr. Copeland to see what kind of options we had. It worked out great timing wise. Jeff had just started. And being on my own allowed me to get experience. I started a bariatric practice in Tullahoma and brought it with me and it has grown tremendously since then.”

Huddleston is celebrating nine years in practice.

“The biggest thing is the hospital has been keeping up with the technological advancements: from paper charting to electric records,” he said. “The operating rooms had updated their laparoscopic equipment. But the robot is key.”

Both he and Moore are trained with the da Vinci surgical robotic system and both say it is a game changer when it comes to surgery.

Huddleston’s favorite part about being a surgeon – especially doing bariatric surgery — is seeing how his work changes lives.

“Cookeville is a great place to live and raise a family,” he said.

CRMC CEO Paul Korth said physicians like Copeland, Moore and Huddleston make the hospital the best place to practice in the country.

“They have vision,” he said. “They see potential and they seize it. They have history in this community and region and that is essential in seeing and helping the hospital grow. I am happy they chose CRMC to practice.”

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