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Unanticipated stint in the Navy leads Dr. Michael Snyder into Internal Medicine

The retirement of a primary care physician can be a stressful time for that physician’s patients. In many cases, those patients have trusted the same doctor with their healthcare needs for many years.

Since Dr. Christopher Hemphill retired last year, many of his patients at First Choice Internal Medicine have been greeted by a new face – Dr. Michael Snyder. When they tell Dr. Snyder their relationship with Dr.
Hemphill goes back a long way, Snyder likes to break the ice by telling them his relationship with Hemphill goes back a long way as well.

“When we first moved (to Johnson City), we actually lived right across the street from Dr. Hemphill,” Snyder said. “My first employer was Dr. Hemphill and his wife, because I started picking their weeds and mowing their lawn.”

Snyder moved to Johnson City with his family when he was around 12 years old and instantly fell in love with our region. After moving around a lot as a kid, Snyder knew he had found a place where he wanted to put down roots.

“This is an area where you really have the friendliest people,” he said. “It’s fun every single day to not only get to meet these great folks but to really take the time to learn everything about them, learn about their families. It’s just a really fun experience.”

Since the age of 7, Snyder knew he was going to be a doctor. He planned to blaze a trail straight through high school to college to medical school to his residency before inevitably becoming a surgeon. Snyder said he diagnosed himself as a surgeon at a young age because he was very mechanically minded.

He stayed on his predetermined path until medical school. That’s when Snyder saw a fork in the road and decided to take an unplanned detour on his journey to becoming a doctor. Family members were shocked when Snyder shared his decision to join the Navy, but he said it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“I don’t know if I was just stubborn or what, but I decided to just go ahead and apply for it,” Snyder said. “I don’t even know if I thought the whole thing through at the time, but it was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made, especially from an experience standpoint.”

After graduating from the Quillen College of Medicine in 2013, Snyder spent his intern year at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Virginia before embarking on four years as an Active Duty General Medical Officer that started with a huge challenge.

“I went from being essentially at an intern-level to being a medical department head of a clinic taking care of a panel of about 1,500 patients,” Snyder said. “There was a shock factor there. That was probably the steepest learning curve I ever had.”

His experience continued with a string of assignments that most doctors would call unconventional, but for Snyder, those assignments provided him with a unique skillset and changed the trajectory of his medical career. He worked in Sicily focusing on medical evacuations. Then he assisted with planning for infectious disease prevention for Marines traveling in and out of Africa, did some “backpack medicine” in California, cared for Navy SEALS, and worked on the side at an urgent care.

At the end of his stint in the Navy, Snyder said the experience had solidified his decision to not become a surgeon. During his various stops, he found himself wondering what ultimately happened to the countless patients he had seen.

“I wondered, ‘What happened with that? I wonder how they are doing?’ I was never able to get that follow-up.”

So when Snyder returned to Johnson City, he completed his residency in Internal Medicine and joined First Choice Internal Medicine, where he took over Dr. Hemphill’s caseload. Snyder said he enjoyed his time in the Navy because he felt like he was part of a team. But now that he’s at First Choice, he feels like he’s part of a family.

“That regiment part is not there, and that’s kind of nice,” he said. “This is more family-oriented. Everyone is very friendly, very helpful. It’s just been fantastic.”

Snyder also serves on the State of Franklin Healthcare Associates Clinical Excellence Committee, where he’s surrounded by familiar faces. Dr. Thomas Gill was his Pediatrician and Dr. Connie Stoots taught his high school biology class at Science Hill before she went to medical school.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Snyder, call (423) 794-5550.