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Dr. Stacy Brewington … The long journey home

Tuesday, Mar 1, 2011

Sometimes, timing can be everything.

“I am fortunate to be back home,” said Dr. Stacy David Brewington of Tennessee Heart in Cookeville.

Brewington, a doctor of interventional cardiology, is a Putnam County native from Double Springs and his wife, Sandy, is from Gainesboro.

Yet when embarking on an odyssey in the field of cardiology, it’s never clear where someone might eventually call home. Brewington has lived in Memphis, North Carolina and Michigan. When he made the foray into medicine, the medical community in Putnam County bore no resemblance to its present form. He had no idea where he might one day lay down roots.

Even getting into the medical field was kind of an odyssey for Brewington. A graduate of Tennessee Tech, his focus was on chemical engineering. He worked for a time in South Carolina for a chemical company and had also taken some EMT courses in Cookeville. After time in the business world, however, his notion for the future changed.

“I really think I’d like to set my sights on medical school,” Brewington told himself before embarking on that course.

It wasn’t just medical school, however, it was a focus on cardiology. Brewington says he focused on something he knew would be “one of the hardest things,” all the while knowing if it didn’t work out he could “back off” and change course. “That was really my reasoning.”

The journey back home

But he didn’t back off and completed medical school in Memphis. His residency was completed at UT Medical School in Nashville and he did a fellowship in cardiology at East Carolina University in Greenville. From there, Brewington did a fellowship in interventional cardiology at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oaks, Mich. He is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular disease, nuclear cardiology and interventional cardiology.

“I was 35 years old before I got my first job,” he says, somewhat being light-hearted but also being serious about the dedication and investment it takes to enter such a field.

One of the reasons he chose such a demanding field is because he “wanted to take care of sicker patients. I liked the opportunity cardiology afforded.”

Having made all of those decisions and moves, Brewington said it was time to find a place to settle down and start his practice. During the time he spent getting qualified, something was also happening at Cookeville Regional Medical Center. That something was a local decision to expand the medical community and become a regional player in health care.

For Brewington, it opened a door he couldn’t have imagined when he made the decision to change course from chemical engineering to cardiology.

“When I made that choice, the practice was not here,” he said, but noting in the end “it worked out.”

Fortunately, the changes which took place at Cookeville Regional meant more specialists were being sought, including doctors at Tennessee Heart, which was also founded in that period. It was a perfect opportunity for Brewington to come back home and practice medicine. He jumped at the chance and has no regrets.

Relationship building

For Brewington, practicing cardiology at Cookeville Regional gives him a chance to help patients because, as he says, heart disease “affects a lot of people. Even family and friends.”

Prior to this interview early one morning, he had been in the emergency room at midnight treating a heart attack patient. Brewington says it is that kind of variety which makes his profession both rewarding and invigorating.

“You build relationships with patients,” he said.

The need for cardiologists in America continues to be demanding, he said, because heart disease remains the number one killer of both women and men in the country. He said huge advances have been made over the past 20 years to prolong life for those who have heart disease. But he also notes that “hospital discharges” for heart-related problems are “on the way up,” meaning the problems persist and are likely growing.

One reason people are surviving heart disease, he said, is early recognition and the fact doctors can help their patients “every step of the way.”

Brewington also said the “Code 37” program which has been implemented at Cookeville Regional and in the surrounding areas has helped increase the survival rate of those who suffer from heart disease. The concept is based on the trauma center model and in this case, it’s a “heart attack” center concept. In layman’s terms, he said a heart attack is a “sudden loss of blood flow to the heart.”

It all begins in the field where EMT treatment has advanced so much over the years. Brewington said EMTs can stabilize patients and help them in ways only imagined just 15 to 20 years ago. Medical professionals have learned that “time is muscle,” he said, meaning the quicker a patient is treated, the better the chances for recovery. That includes the ER, he said, where there is a “shorter time to treatment.”

In the model, if a patient has a heart attack, the system kicks in when the EMTs arrive. By the time the patient gets to the medical center, the heart team is in place and ready to go into action. That time is crucial, he said, in helping with survival rates.

A local commitment

With procedures in place like Code 37, Brewington said that shows the commitment the local community has had in making sure Cookeville Regional is a top-rate medical center.

“People 15 to 20 years ago had very good insight,” said Brewington. He said “a lot” of the changes which have happened “made it positive” in advancing medical care in this region.

He believes the hospital administration and board are “committed to growth and progress” at Cookeville Regional, especially when it comes to recruiting specialists to the area. He did say recruitment is the “biggest challenge” facing the hospital, but thinks they are working hard to make sure the right people are in place to serve the region.

“What they’ve accomplished so far has gone a long way to add services to our community,” said Brewington. He called recruiting specialists in various fields like cardiology and cancer as “very unique to Cookeville,” given the relative size of the area and city itself.

One thing which does concern Brewington is the present state of health care in the country. Brewington said he is “terribly concerned” about the direction of health care and is hopeful the problems can be worked out for everyone’s benefit. He fears the direction will “devalue the health care system,” and believes that is an area in which everyone must focus to make improvements. He said the Medicare system is not consistent when it comes to reimbursements and that has to be corrected.

As Brewington points out, the costs to operate a medical practice have not gone down over the years, but some reimbursements have, making difficult circumstances for all involved. He said those issues need to be addressed in the national debate in order to keep attracting people to the medical field. If they are not, he fears people will be hesitant to invest so much of their lives (and resources) if the eventual rewards are not fruitful.

But don’t think Brewington is being negative. He’s trying to be realistic and says “we have a good medical system” that needs constant assessment and adjustment.

“I am very happy and very proud,” he said about his position in the medical profession and the fact he’s been able to come home and help the people of the Upper Cumberland.

When he’s not practicing medicine, Brewington has a full life with four children, all under the age of 12. He said church, school and sports activities keep the Brewington family on the go. But he also pointed out that both sides of their family live in this area, something he cherishes because they all have close family ties.

“I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” he said. “This is the perfect place to live.”

His office is located at Tennessee Heart, 228 W. Fourth Street in Cookeville. For more information, call 931-372-0463 or visit

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Tuesday, Mar 12, 2013 at 8:30 AM
We think is a great doctor, friend he treats you like family. we are so proud he is here.