Southern OB/GYN in Valdosta, Georgia, has always prided itself on treating patients with care rooted in core family values since its establishment in 1955. While working together to bring the latest in technological advancements and care to all their patients, Southern OB/GYN is also a family-oriented work place.
Dr. Nikki Yarbrough is a doctor of osteopathic medicine who has been part of the team since 2004. She believes having close work relationships at Southern OB/GYN benefit the team and her patients. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, her job was one aspect in life that helped her through it.
Dr. Yarbrough is a Valdosta native. She attended undergraduate school at Valdosta State College, went on to medical school at West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, and completed her residency at East Tennessee State University.
You’d think Dr. Yarbrough wouldn’t want to move back here after getting the chance to travel to complete her studies. However, she decided to return home when choosing her medical specialty after graduating.
“I decided I wanted to be an OB/GYN and wanted to come back home, I mean, really just come back to where my roots were,” she said.
Dr. Yarbrough has always wanted to be a doctor, something she credited to her childhood being spent around a lot of their offices.
“When I was 11 months old, I had a Wilms tumor, which is a cancerous tumor of the kidney,” she said. “So I kind of grew up in doctors’ offices and was used to being around doctors. And that’s probably what sparked it [being a doctor] and also just helping people.”
Dr. Yarbrough knew she wanted to be an OB/GYN after her schooling and thinks working at Southern OB/GYN has offered her the best aspects of having a medical degree.
“I like the surgical aspect of medicine, but I also like the continuity of care, and with OB/GYN you get both,” she said. “You see people every year for their annual exams, but you still have the surgical and obstetrical side of our field. ”
Keeping herself motivated has never been hard for Dr. Yarbrough. She enjoys interacting with all her patients while also helping them solve their medical problems.
“I love doing what I do,” she said. “It’s not a job; it’s more of a calling. I just enjoy being with different people in the community. It’s fun. It’s a part of who I am.”
Dr. Yarbrough loves how family oriented the physicians’ team at Southern OB/GYN.
“It’s kind of like we’re a big family here,” she said. “We want our patients to be happy, number one; that’s why they can see anyone in our group. We all get along really well, and we try to help each other out, and I think that’s an important part of medicine.”
While getting to interact with patients is enjoyable for Dr. Yarbrough and her fellow staff members, it also serves a practical and important purpose. Getting to know the patients allows the physicians to earn their patients’ trust and respect so they can deliver the best treatment possible.
“I think one of the most important things is to just sit down and listen to your patients,” Dr. Yarbrough said. “They’re going to tell you what’s wrong. If you give them the time and just sit and listen to what they have to say, the medicine part is going to fall into place because they’re going to tell you what’s wrong with them if you give them the opportunity to talk.”
Dr. Yarbrough was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer in 2009. Since then, she has used her personal experience to relate to patients, which makes giving advice and talking through available treatment plans easier.
“It was scary,” she said. “I found a lump in my breast while I was in the shower, so I came to the office, spoke with Dr. Moseley, and said, ‘Let’s look at this and see what you think,’ and the ball just started rolling. I had a 1-month-old baby and a three-year-old when I found it. I think that probably had a big impact on me actually doing something about it because doctors are typically the worst patients. Having small children drove me to actually looking into it and not putting it off, and that was a blessing because I had Stage III breast cancer.”
After getting the initial diagnosis of cancer, Dr. Yarbrough said she stayed positive by continuing her work at Southern OB/GYN and helping patients.
“I had the diagnosis, and then I worked through my treatment,” she said. “I had six months of chemotherapy and then six weeks of radiation therapy after that treatment. I was glad I was at Southern OB/GYN because I had people here that supported me through this time so that I could continue to do what I love, and it’s one thing that kept me going. Life still goes on. It’s a hurdle, but we still have to cross it.”
Dr. Yarbrough’s successful fight against cancer greatly impacted her as a doctor and her outlook on life.
“Once you’ve gone through it, it’s a lot easier to talk to patients about situations that they’re going through because you have experience to fall back on,” she said. “Being able to share my experience and use it to my advantage and reassure them is great.”
Dr. Yarbrough beat her cancer, but she is always grateful that she found it in time and went to the doctor immediately.
“I wouldn’t be here,” she said. “Take responsibility for your health. Do the self breast exams once a month and go to the doctor if you find something. You always think that it’s not going to happen to you, but it does. ”
Revolutionary technology is at our fingertips. At Southern OB/GYN, we’re proud to be the first facility in Lowndes County to offer Genius 3D Mammography, and we have recently added a second Genius 3D machine in our facility.
This new technology has proven to detect 41% more invasive breast cancers and reduce false positives by up to 40%. With early detection, the five year survival rate is now almost 100%.
What is 3D Mammography?
Also known as digital breast tomosynthesis, this screening tool is the best way to discover signs of cancer at the earliest possible and most treatable stage. It converts images into a stack of very thin layers or “slices,” building a three-dimensional reconstruction of the breast that is much clearer to read.
“The new images obtained on the Genius 3D mammography machine have so much more detail due to our high definition detector. The patients seem to not have as much discomfort, and the quality of the images is simply amazing.”
Chasta Stewart, R.T., R.M.
Southern OB/GYN Lead Mammography Tech
Written by: Alex Dunn
Photography by: Aaron Musgrove