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Full Circle: Dr. Tara Shields’ journey into medicine brings her back home to Johnson City

Posted by on Jan 14, 2021

Dr. Tara Shields loves to go exploring from time to time, but all her favorite journeys have one thing in common – they come full circle. 

“I love to travel,” said Shields. “That’s one of the things I like to do. But I’m always happy when I come home because everybody is so warm here, so friendly.” 

Shields recently joined the Johnson City Internal Medicine team, where she serves patients alongside Dr. David Moulton and her mentor, Dr. James Hansen. 

“I started working with him in high school,” Shields said of Hansen. “He kind of took me under his wing and got me into medicine because he had such a great relationship and rapport with his patients.” 

Shields excelled at science while studying at Science Hill High School, and she quickly developed an interest in how the human body worked. When she started shadowing Hansen at Johnson City Internal Medicine, his way of communicating with patients and helping them achieve better health helped her get on the path toward becoming a medical doctor. 

Shields eventually studied biology and pre-med at East Tennessee State University before earning her medical degree from the James H. Quillen College of Medicine. Following graduation, Shields was off to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she completed her internal medicine residency at the UT Medical Center. 

During her time in Knoxville, Shields was hoping to return home to Johnson City. Her family and her husband’s family still lived in the area, but the desire to come back to northeast Tennessee was deeper than family ties. 

“I love the people,” Shields said. “It’s a beautiful place to live, but I think it’s the people that are the big draw.” 

So when Shields got the opportunity to come full circle and work at Johnson City Internal Medicine, she jumped at the chance. In addition to being reunited with her mentor, Shields found herself immersed in a culture of accountability when it comes to the health of the patients at the practice. 

State of Franklin Healthcare Associates has a Quality Improvement Team committed to ensuring everyone in the organization embraces a proactive approach to patient care. As a result of the team’s efforts over the past decade, doctors like Shields enter appointments knowing if the patient has been taking medications as prescribed and if the patient is due for a preventative test or an annual physical. 

Shields is a huge advocate for preventative care, so needless to say, she was excited to join a team dedicated to giving doctors the information and tools they need to spot potential problems before they develop into disease states. 

“It’s above and beyond what I had at my fingertips when I was in Knoxville,” Shields said. “They go through the charts and they can see if there’s anything missing. 

“They have social work, too, that makes these phone calls to these families. I didn’t have that before, and it’s just amazing. It gives a little bit more personal touch to this office, I think, because we’ve got people who are actually calling and checking in with the patients to see if they need anything.” 

For Shields, preventing needless suffering is a prime motivator. She is committed to the health of her patients so they can live life to the fullest. 

“It’s so important because we’re hopefully preventing hospitalizations, preventing heart attacks and strokes,” Shields said. “Quality of life can definitely be improved if we just are on top of it and stay up to date with all of your preventions. It’s so easy to do the prevention. Why have to go through cancer treatments and chemo and surgery when we can catch something early?” 

When it comes to living life to its fullest, Shields practices what she preaches. Traveling has not been possible during the pandemic, but Shields enjoys getting outside every chance she gets. She loves exploring the mountains of Northeast Tennessee with her husband and her dogs, and also enjoys spending time with family. 

At work, her budding partnership with Hansen and Moulton has helped her avoid the loneliness physicians sometimes feel when they enter outpatient medicine. 

“They’ve been practicing for a long time and have a lot of experience,” Shields said. “Sometimes in internal medicine, you see something unusual and you want to double-check with somebody, so it’s nice to have these two great doctors you’re working beside so you can bounce ideas off of them. 

“It’s kind of a team effort at SoFHA. You had it in residency, when you were working with your teammates. Sometimes outpatient medicine can be a little lonely, so it’s great to join SoFHA.” 

 Now accepting new patients. To schedule an appointment, please call 423-794-5520.