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Medical Profile: Dr. Huddleston happy to be home

Liz Engel Clark
Wednesday, Sep 5, 2012

Dr. Charles T. Huddleston.

COOKEVILLE – There are several sayings that speak to how it feels to finally come home. For Dr. Charles T. Huddleston, Cookeville Regional Medical Center’s newest surgeon, it feels pretty darn good.

Huddleston, who spent the last several years in Tullahoma, made the move to CRMC in August and immediately started seeing patients. He left the practice he had started there in 2009, his first three years out of residency training.

So why the move? Both Huddleston and his wife, Ammie, grew up in this area. Both their parents still live in Rickman, and they wanted their two young sons, Carter and Austin, to grow up around their grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. He’s also joining a growing practice at Middle Tennessee Surgical Specialists. In addition to performing the full gamut of general surgery, Huddleston has a special interest in advanced laparoscopic cases, metabolic surgery and bariatric, or weight loss, procedures. Bariatric surgery is one of the most effective and long-lasting treatments for obesity, according to the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery.

He’ll be the only such specialist in this area.

“It was a good time for us to come here, because they had a need. Cookeville is a much bigger community (than Tullahoma),” Huddleston said. “It’s a bigger hospital. It has many more ancillary services available. There’s also more subspecialties available to help care for patients, so if anything, I think it would help a bariatric program grow.”

The first bariatric procedure was performed in 1954, and, over the last several years, there’s been an increase in demand. It’s estimated 220,000 such surgeries were performed in 2009, the most recent year in which data is available.

“(Bariatric procedures) are becoming more common. Obviously obesity is becoming a more common and more prevalent problem,” Huddleston said.

Today, about 98 percent of weight loss procedures are performed laparoscopically, Huddleston said, which means better outcomes and faster recoveries for patients. The ideal candidate would be 100 pounds (or more) overweight, he said, with associated weight-related problems such as diabetes and/or sleep apnea.

The direct and indirect costs to the health care system associated with obesity are about $117 billion annually.

Huddleston first became interested in this subspecialty during residency. Huddleston, a 1993 graduate of Livingston Academy – and the class valedictorian – received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Tennessee Tech University. He attended medical school at East Tennessee State’s James H. Quillen College of Medicine.

“I went into medicine because I enjoyed going to school,” he said. “It seemed like a natural progression of education, wanting to learn more and more. In residency, I enjoyed watching those (bariatric) patients transform their lives.

“I love the technically challenging aspects of bariatric surgery and feel that it is such a rewarding field,” Huddleston added. “To see someone get the benefits that come with the weight loss following bariatric surgery is so very fulfilling.”

Huddleston is also an active member of the 278th Armored Calvary Regiment, Tennessee Army National Guard, as a field surgeon with the rank of major. He said that experience – he’s done two rotations in Iraq as a medical officer in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, signing up just three months before Sept. 11, 2001 – has made him a better doctor and surgeon.

“That means a lot to me, because it’s a way for me to give back to my country,” he said. “It gave me a greater appreciation for the equipment and the technology that we have here at our disposal.”

Huddleston will be living in Cookeville with Ammie, Carter and Austin. They are looking for a church home and stay busy with their kids’ sports and music activities. Huddleston says he enjoys riding motorcycles.

“We’re very family oriented,” he said. “I love my wife and kids. I love what I do.”

Charles T. Huddleston, M.D., is a physician at Middle Tennessee Surgical Specialists, 203 N. Cedar Ave., Cookeville. For more information, call (931) 528-1992.

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