You saved my life
Joseph Stringfellow, MD, joins families and gives back
When a mother gives birth to a baby, Joseph Stringfellow, MD, has his hands full in more ways than one. He’s constantly assessing and monitoring both the mother and child, so he’s ready to intervene if necessary. And once the baby arrives, he’s there with open arms.
As an ob-gyn at Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center, Stringfellow finds every delivery to be an exhilarating experience.
“When you deliver a child, you hear the child crying, the mother crying and the father’s crying,” Stringfellow said. “Usually, the father’s crying more than the mother. There’s a lot of emotion in the moment. It’s fresh every time.”
Stringfellow joined Novant Health in 2017, upon completing his residency. He didn’t always intend to pursue gynecology, but he found the field combined a love of surgery with a chance to further health equity at the community level.
“I was interested in how I could use my career in healthcare to disrupt the vertical transmission of poverty,” Stringfellow said. “So, how do you make one generation healthy enough, so the next generation does not have to suffer the same barriers? Being an ob-gyn seemed like the perfect entry into better serving our community.”
In fact, improving health equity is so important to Stringfellow he has donated in support of several women’s health initiatives through Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center Foundation. He contributed to a fund to provide an additional year of mental health services for new mothers on Medicaid.
“Postpartum depression can occur anytime within the first 12 months after delivery,” Stringfellow said. “There’s a large group of women who are suffering from this diagnosis and don’t have access to care. My donation went to a relief fund for these women, so for 12 months after delivery, they can receive the care they need, even if they’re uninsured or don’t have the financial means. This project hits close to home for me and my patients.”
Another community resource Stringfellow has supported is the Baby Café program at Thomasville Medical Center. The café provides new or expectant mothers with breastfeeding guidance from lactation consultants and peer support. Stringfellow said the café has been quite successful, and he finds it rewarding to see patients benefit from his support.
“I haven’t met a patient who has used the Baby Café and not benefited from it in a big way,” Stringfellow said. “It’s very therapeutic for mothers to have a space to come together and talk about their experiences. It’s an exceptional resource.”
Stringfellow recently became a father himself, and he believes supporting individual and community health is a vision everyone can get behind.
“At the end of the day, each of us may differ in the politics we subscribe to or the economic framework we believe is most efficient and effective, but every single one of us has the option to help ourselves and the person next to us to be well,” Stringfellow said. “We want our families, our neighbors and our communities to thrive. If we can agree on this vision, there’s a lot we can get done together.”
More than a career: Part of caring for a community is responding quickly when trouble arises. Unfortunately, not every delivery goes according to plan. Stringfellow recalls one mother who developed life-threatening complications after delivery. Stringfellow and his team quickly intervened and stabilized the mother’s condition, but the mother underwent a hysterectomy preventing her from having more children. In what was a devastating moment, Stringfellow experienced a moment of grace.
“I walked into the room ready to explain what happened and where we ended up,” Stringfellow said. “She looked at me and said ‘Dr. Stringfellow, you saved my life.’ She was glad she could be alive and take care of her children. This is the kind of moment as an ob-gyn when you become family with your patients. Out of that dark moment, this woman was able to shine a light.”
Stringfellow finds fulfillment in these emotional moments with families and serving a higher purpose. He is a Christian and said his vocation is an important part of his faith.
“Our craft is the way we serve our neighbor,” Stringfellow said. “So being an ob-gyn is not just a profession. It’s not just the way I care for my family or earn a paycheck. It’s the way I serve my community.”