Small-town Upbringing Gives Them Roots … and Wings
By SHARON H. FITZGERALD
Surgeons. World travelers.
Horse trainers. Pianists. Twins.
All those descriptions fit a pair of physicians who have stayed true to their deep Middle Tennessee roots and chosen Murfreesboro as their home.
Lisa M. White, a general surgeon, joined the staff of Middle Tennessee Medical Center in 2011, and her twin sister, Lydia A. White, an orthopaedic surgeon, followed her about a year later.
The White twins, 32, grew up on their parents’ 300-acre farm in Pelham, a stone’s throw from Interstate 24 in the shadow of Monteagle Mountain. Their parents, Jack and Janice White, are Pelham natives whose parents owned neighboring farms. Mr. White is a full-time farmer, although Lisa said he claims to be retired, while Mrs. White did recently retire as a Coffee County elementary school principal. The Whites have another daughter, Carol, two years younger than the twins and pharmacy manager of Network Healthcare in Franklin. “We tell people she’s the smart one in the family,” Lisa said. The White daughters went to school in Manchester in Coffee County. “Our parents thought it was important to be wellrounded, so we were captains of our highschool soccer team,” Lisa said. “We did some journalism. Lydia was the editor of the yearbook staff, and I was the editor of the newspaper staff. And we were really involved in 4-H since we grew up in an agriculture background.”
Lydia added, “We did a lot of everything. We learned to play the piano and organ, too.” In fact, the women frequently return to the Pelham United Methodist Church to play for services.
While Mr. and Mrs. White weren’t initially too keen on the idea of their daughters riding horses, they capitulated after the girls saved their pennies and dimes and bought their own horse when the twins were 12. That horse, Sunday, is still alive and enjoying the Pelham life with seven other horses, which Lisa and Lydia ride every chance they get. They also return home on weekends when it’s time to vaccinate the cattle.
“I think it’s what got us interested in medicine … because we would help vaccinate all the calves and deliver the calves and work with the horses,” Lisa noted. In fact, in high school, the twins raised, trained and sold horses.
It’s no surprise that Lisa and Lydia majored in agriculture at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Lisa graduated from high school as the valedictorian of her class, and Lydia was the salutatorian. “It was so close. They should have tied it, because it was like one-100th of a point difference,” Lisa said.
Roommates in college, Lisa and Lydia briefly toyed with the idea of veterinary medicine, but it was a desire to help people that landed both of them in medical school. At UT, each earned a 4.0 GPA, an achievement that helped both women receive full scholarships to medical school at Vanderbilt University. While Lisa settled on general surgery, Lydia took a different route, specializing in orthopaedic surgery. “Injuries are a milestone in someone’s life,” Lydia explained. “They come with a good story, and it’s a time when people are really frightened and fearful of their future, and I get to come in and reassure them and help put all the broken pieces back together.” On her choice of general surgery, Lisa said, “It sounds cliché, but I really felt called to save the dying, and that’s what in general surgery you get to do every single day. I deal with a lot of cancer patients, a lot of trauma, a lot of emergencies. I feel like that’s a huge privilege, and it’s also a real calling.”
Lydia agreed that medicine, for her, is also a calling. “I really felt God calling me into this field. It’s hard work, all this time and effort that I have put into it. It’s a really hard lifestyle, harder than what I ever thought. If I hadn’t felt a real calling, then I know I wouldn’t have been as happy.” After med school graduation, Lisa remained at Vanderbilt for her residency, while Lydia headed to the University of Cincinnati in Ohio for her residency in orthopaedic surgery. She followed that up with a fellowship in sports medicine at the Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze, Fla. – a prestigious appointment that resulted in a job offer … but Lydia came home. She is affiliated with Tennessee Orthopaedic Alliance, while Lisa is affiliated with Murfreesboro Medical Clinic.
The women approach their professional days in similar ways. Both visit their hospitalized patients at MTMC first thing in the morning, and then divide their days between clinic hours and surgery. “We are so busy here at this hospital,” Lydia said. “This ER sees a lot of trauma, much more than I was expecting. I’ve been surprised and really pleased with how much comes through the emergency room, because I really like doing trauma surgery.”
Both women credit their parents with setting them on successful paths. “They have been our driving force,” Lisa said, and Lydia added, “They have always been so supportive of anything that we ever wanted to do, giving us good guidance.” While instilling their daughters with compassion and drive, Mr. and Mrs. White are also guilty of instilling something else in their children: a travel bug. “We’ve been all over the U.S. because our parents were so sweet about taking us on family vacations. It’s so hard to take a family vacation with three kids,” Lydia said. “Those are good memories.”
What’s more, Lisa and Lydia are still making memories. When they graduated from Vanderbilt, they took Carol along for their first trip abroad. Traveling to Europe, the trio visited several countries, including France, England and Switzerland. When Carol was in Australia for a pharmacy rotation, her older sisters visited. These travelers also have been to Japan, served on a medical mission in Kenya and Tanzania, cruised down the Nile River and walked at the foot of th Great Pyramid, visited India’s Taj Majal and gone horseback riding in Peru. The result is that Murfreesboro’s two surgeons have been on six continents.
But there’s one more to go. In February, all three White daughters will board an adventure cruise ship destined for Antarctica. “We did a lot of research and decided now is the time to hit it, while we’re all single and none of us have kids. It’s a good time to go,” Lydia said.
One thing’s for certain: There will be two people on a farm in Pelham who’ll be excited for their daughters’ extraordinary travel opportunity … and glad when they get back
From PhysicianSpotlight, n a s h v i l l e m e d i c a l n e w s . c o m