|Orangeburg Surgical Associates-
Continuing the Tradition of Patient-Focused Care
ORANGEBURG, SC—If you talk to any of the five surgeons with Orangeburg Surgical Associates (OSA) about their practice you will get the same message – their practice has always been about providing the best care for their patients. A large part of that has meant staying current with technology and the latest surgical procedures.
The Orangeburg Surgical Associates surgeons (left to right): Dr. Joseph Redcross, Dr. Julius Babb, Dr. Paul Banish, Dr. Arden Weathers and Dr. Michael Hill.
The tradition of patient-focused care started with the practice’s founder Dr. Randolph Smoak back in 1967. Dr. Smoak built a strong foundation of general surgical services and a close alliance with the Regional Medical Center where OSA operations are performed. When he retired from practice in the 1990s, he continued his involvement in the medical field by serving with the American Medical Association, becoming the national chairman in 1998.
Dr. Smoak recruited Bowman, SC native Dr. Arden Weathers to Orangeburg Surgical Associates in 1967. “We have come a long way from the days when we had Call every other night and covered the ER for all surgical procedures,” said Weathers.
“Our strength as a group is that we are truly a general surgery practice including chest, vascular, abdominal, endoscopic… We do all kinds of operations. We’re probably the only practice in the state that’s truly diversified as far as the kinds of operations we do,” said Dr. Weathers. “In bigger towns one is limited in scope to what you can do. You become more specialized. In this practice we have surgeons who have expertise in all areas.”
Dr. Weathers said that Dr. Smoak believed in staying up to date on changes in surgery. “Dr. Smoak thought that one of the best ways to keep up is to bring in a new surgeon to the practice every five years or so. It’s refreshing as well as informative. A new surgeon brings new energy into the practice,” said Dr. Weathers. “We have continued to do that.”
Dr. Weathers said that the five surgeons at OSA often assist each other in surgery. “On most of the major operations we have two surgeons in the operating room. If you go to Columbia or Charleston for instance, you usually only have one. We work together as much as possible,” said Dr. Weathers.
Dr. Julius Babb, a Greenwood native, began working with Dr. Weathers when he joined OSA in 1980. In addition to general surgery, Dr. Babb has focused on vascular and endovascular surgeries, which help correct deficiencies in circulation. “Because of the prevalence of diabetes, family history, genetics, and chronic use of cigarettes in our population, we have a large volume of patients who require vascular surgery,” said Dr. Babb. “We didn’t offer endovascular surgery until we realized that we had one of the highest rates of limb loss in South Carolina and endovascular surgery was something that was needed in this area.”
“Endovascular surgery can restore flow to the legs and brain. For example, we can place carotid stents as well as perform an operation to help with stroke prevention,” said Dr. Babb. “And we can repair abdominal aneurysms with stent grafts in patients of all ages. We’ve seen a drop in amputations and ruptured aneurysms at the hospital – that’s a very positive thing for our patients.”
“I spent five years traveling across the country and in Europe studying endovascular surgery while I was still working here,” said Dr. Babb. He also completed a vascular fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX and became board certified in general vascular surgery. A large part of Dr. Babb’s practice is use of stents, stent grafts and minimally invasive vascular surgery.
“Over the years there has been a change to less invasive operations because they can help patients get out of the hospital quicker with fewer complications – it’s better for the patients,” said Dr. Babb.
Dr. Paul Banish joined Orangeburg Surgical Associates in 1997. In addition to general surgery, Dr. Banish has focused on trauma. He serves on the SC Trauma Advisory Board and as director of trauma services at the Regional Medical Center. “At the state level, we try to determine how the state should best handle triage. We have received some funds, and we try to get those funds to the right places throughout the state.”
“The Regional Medical Center is a level III trauma center which mandates that a doctor is available to treat trauma patients within one hour at all times. We get our share of trauma cases because of our proximity to I-26 and I-95,” said Banish.
Banish said that the Regional Medical Center has everything that the surgeons with Orangeburg Surgical Associates need for their surgery patients from experienced support staff to state-of-the-art equipment.
“We were the first hospital in the state to implement the fully integrated, voice activated Endosuite® several years ago,” said Banish. “It’s nice to have this interactive equipment – it’s all designed to work together. We have large LCD screens and video monitors that free up the surgeon and nurses so they can coordinate procedures better. We’re ahead of state-of-the-art. I really think our equipment is better than most hospitals.”
“We’ve got experienced staff in the operating room. A lot of places have traveling nurses. As a whole our OR has been run by people from this community with a great deal of experience. The majority of RN’s have been here for a long time. The scrub, recovery and all of the OR staff are skilled, professional and experienced. They make the operations a heck of a lot easier,” said Banish.
Dr. Michael Hill who has been with OSA since 2000, echoes Dr. Banish. “I like to encourage people to look at the levels of experience and technology we have in Orangeburg. We want people to know that with surgical intervention or acute problems, they can take advantage of what’s here. They don’t have to go to anywhere else.”
“Dr. Banish and I have had a lot of experience with trauma and critical care – I think that’s what we have brought to the practice. We’re doing things now that we learned recently, for example laparoscopic colectomies, ventral hernia repairs, and sentinel node biopsies. Three or four years ago all colon procedures were open operations.”
Dr. Hill’s interests also include cancer surgeries. He serves as the cancer liaison for Orangeburg and Calhoun counties for the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer. “The Commission on Cancer tries to make sure that cancer programs all over the U.S. are accredited. It’s associated with the American Cancer Society. Liaisons act as facilitators to make sure that cancer programs are prepared for accreditation every three years. The Mabry Center for Cancer Care at the Regional Medical Center was recently accredited,” said Dr. Hill.
“For many things like colon cancer, the technology and treatment are the same whether you’re are in Orangeburg or any where else. The goal is to give you same standard of care,” said Dr. Hill.
“As far as our Breast Health Center, our stereotactic biopsies can give a quick diagnosis of breast cancer. We can get people diagnosed quickly and turned around early,” said Dr. Hill.
The newest surgeon at the practice, Dr. Joseph Redcross, is another believer in the patient-focused care at Orangeburg Surgical Associates and the Regional Medical Center. “I think the care here is excellent. The patients here are not just a number – they actually get personal attention. That was a big draw for me in coming here. I wanted to be a part of the process of taking care of patients.”
A Huntsville, AL native, Dr. Redcross joined OSA in August 2008. When asked if his name influenced him to become a physician he said, “All my life I got teased about my unique name. Actually I’m the first doctor in my family.”
One of the things that Dr. Redcross experienced in medical residency in Harrisburg, PA was working with a DaVinci robot. “The robot is being used in surgery to make different turns and angles that humans can’t make. Just seeing, experiencing and being a part of that was great. My experience was with OB/Gyn operations using the robot, but you have to have a surgeon there to make the decisions and give directions. It opens your eyes to possibilities,” said Dr. Redcross.
“I might be bringing high technology with me as the newest surgeon with OSA, but the advantage for me in joining an established general surgery practice is that it is like a continuation of my residency. I’m learning from the other surgeons while I’m teaching them what I know. They have some tricks that I’ve never seen – its great,” said Dr. Redcross.
It’s clear that the five surgeons enjoy working with each other, and they enjoy serving the people who live in this area. Dr. Hill sums it up well, “Definitely practicing in a small place can be very rewarding. You get to know your patients, and they appreciate that. You know you’ve been here a long time when you have operated on a whole family from grandparents to parents to children, and they all recognize you and speak to you out in the community.”
With the five surgeons on staff and plans to recruit an additional general surgeon to the practice in the near future, Orangeburg Surgical Associates is continuing the tradition of patient-focused care that Dr. Smoak started 41 years ago.