Tag Archive for: staff spotlight

United Physician Group Spotlight: Vernita Pearsall, Office Manager (Decatur and Lithonia)

From candy striper to office manager, Vernita Pearsall always knew that healthcare was her calling. The magic act and the ukulele came later.

From the earliest days Vernita Pearsall can remember, growing up in Gary, Indiana, she has always been curious, and she has always loved to learn. When she was still in elementary school, she would often read her sister’s high school textbooks. One day, she started reading a high school medical book, and she thought, “Wow, that’s awesome. I want to do this for a living.”

Pearsall grew up in the same strict church community in Gary that included the Jackson family. (As little girls, she and Janet Jackson used to play together.) “I did not go on dates,” she says. “I did not wear makeup or jewelry. I went to school, went to church, and came home.”

However, she was allowed to participate in extracurricular activities, and she made the most of this outlet for her zest for life and passion for learning. She played in the band, joined the math club and computer club, and competed in track. “I was the smallest thing in the shot put,” she says. And as soon as she was old enough, she volunteered at local Mercy Hospital as a candy striper.

To get to the hospital, “I would catch two buses in Gary, by myself,” she says. “Back then, it was fine.” She volunteered in the evenings, helping out the patients however she could. “I would do everything,” she says. “The patients would call, and I was running down the hall. What do you need? Water? Ice chips?” The nurses all loved her.

“I loved helping people,” she says. “I knew that was my niche in society. Some people take drugs to get high. Helping people, for me, was my high. It gave me this burst of energy.”

Studying Medicine and Starting a Family

After high school, Pearsall started college at Indiana University Northwest. She also married her first husband and had two children. With her bachelor’s of science in nursing complete and her second child growing fast, she went back to school in Chicago to learn ultrasound.

“I would take my youngest son with me to school,” she says. “We would scan his brain, his little head. I tell him, ‘That’s why you’re so smart. We scanned your brain all the time.”

She completed her certification in ultrasound, then accepted a position as an ultrasound technician at a fertility clinic. “It was supposed to be part-time,” she says, “but I was always there wanting to do extra. I wanted to learn everything I could.”

She advanced quickly and was soon managing a fertility center in a network of such centers in Indiana and Illinois.

A Fertile Career Keeps Growing

Several years later, Pearsall was living in Charlotte, North Carolina, finishing up a bachelor’s degree so she could get to work on her M.B.A. She was considering moving back to Chicago when a fertility clinic in Atlanta reached out to her and asked her to come work for them.

She had since remarried. Her husband, a retired firefighter and professional magician from Philadelphia, told her that he’d had enough snow in his life, and Atlanta sounded good to him. So Pearsall accepted the position, and they moved to Atlanta.

Pearsall completed her M.B.A. while managing the fertility clinic. Then, after a merger and acquisition, her clinic was closed. She went looking and found out that United Physician Group had an opening for an office manager. Impressed with her resume, leadership experience, and charismatic personality, the practice quickly hired her.

She was at first slightly nervous about leaving her specialty in fertility to work in family practice. But she found the people of United Physician Group welcoming and supportive, and, she says, “It’s all health and helping people, so I’m fine.”

It was also the first time she took a position that was exclusively administrative. Her previous positions had all been a hybrid of clinical and administrative responsibilities.

“It’s new because I’m so accustomed to doing both,” she says, “but it’s refreshing. After working so hard on my master’s degree [in business], I had to let that era of my life go and concentrate on the administrative side. I’m OK now. It’s nice, because I do know the other side. When the clinical team talks to me about something they’re struggling with, I understand where they’re coming from. That’s refreshing for them. I can talk with them at their level.”

And she still prioritizes that human connection with the practices’ patients. “I still connect with patients when they call me, talk with them in the hallway, or joke with them at the front desk. I want them to feel as if they’re home. I try to make them laugh or smile, bring down that stress a little so that they feel OK.”

The Human Touch

That desire to connect with patients on a human level — to treat the whole person, not only their medical needs — is something Pearsall finds throughout the United Physician Group community. It aligns with her own lifelong desire to help people however she can.

“I’ve worked with quite a few doctors, and seen quite a few myself,” she says. “Dr. Armstrong and Dr. Sherrod are top notch. I work with them very closely, and I love it. I listen to them with their patients, on their phone calls in the hallways, in the rooms with their patients. They are very, very thorough. They do not rush their patients. They take their time. They listen, and they actually answer all your questions. They actually care.”

As the office manager, Pearsall has the Ring security camera app on her phone, linked to the office cameras. “I’ll get a notification at 8:00 at night, and there’s Dr. Armstrong, still walking in the hall. I’ll text her, ‘Go home.’ And she’ll say, ‘I’ve just got a few more notes to do.’ She wants to finish.”

That same spirit drives everyone at United Physician Group Family Medicine of Decatur. “We’re all doing our job, the best we can,” says Pearsall. “This is what you do. You help people.” With that dedication and expertise, plus a little dash of magic, they give every patient the very best in personalized care.

To make an appointment with Dr. Armstrong or Dr. Sherrod at United Physician Group Family Medicine of Decatur, or with any of our family medicine or pain management doctors, contact your neighborhood United Physician Group practice today.

United Physician Group Spotlight: Destiny Lawton, CMA

As a child, Destiny Lawton would accompany her mother to flea markets, where she sold her oils. “I watched how she would get to know people, one-on-one,” Lawton says, “seeing what they liked, what they didn’t like, what they needed, what they didn’t need. Then she would guide them in the right direction.”

That ability to connect with people, to understand their needs, to guide them wisely and well: young Destiny learned it well by her mother’s side, and it has served her career and life’s purpose ever since.

Lawton’s mother also taught her to value education and advancement. “My mother instilled in me the importance of finding a job you can grow with,” she says, “something that will always be there.”

Connecting, helping, learning, and always growing… It led Lawton naturally to a career in healthcare. “I am also a health nut,” she says. “Health has always been a part of me.”

So she majored in chemistry and pre-health at South Carolina State, then went on to graduate cum laude from Miller-Motte College, earning her CNA and CMA, and, for good measure, a certification in medical billing and coding.

She has continued to pursue additional education and training. “I do enjoy school, though sometimes I don’t know why,” she says, laughing. “The bills are high. But I love learning something new, because I know that I can use what I learn to help people.”

Doing Her Part to Ease Patient Pain

At United Physician Group Pain Management of Myrtle Beach, Lawton supports interventional pain management specialist Dr. Elizabeth Snoderly. “I’m Dr. Snoderly’s right-hand woman up front,” Lawton says. But like everyone at the clinic, she takes on many roles, doing whatever it takes to get their patients the best care.

“I work the front desk, serve as the pre-op nurse, do new patient consults, prep patients for their procedures, send clearance letters to cardiologists…” She loves connecting with patients, figuring out what they need, and collaborating with the entire clinic team to relieve their pain. “Patients know I’m here to take care of them,” she says.

It’s all very much a team effort, according to Lawton, with everyone working together to ease patients’ pain. “Dr. Snoderly is a phenomenal doctor who’s known throughout the county and even in other states. Her bedside manner is wonderful. Patients love her. Some bring her back gifts from their travels,” she says. And when a patient calls with an urgent need, a full schedule doesn’t matter. “She’ll ask me, ‘Well Destiny, do you think we can get them in?’”

“We have two other phenomenal providers,” Lawton says, naming Amy Hancock, PA, and Jammie Emerson, NP. “Ms. Hancock is my go-to for any questions I may have about a patient… or my personal life. And Ms. Emerson is so kind-hearted. Like everyone here, she’s a people-pleaser.”

Lawton reports directly to Denise Minks, LPN, the pain management clinic’s clinical coordinator. “I wouldn’t trade her for the world,” Lawton says. “Her heart is so warm. She’s so very caring, and she makes sure she supports us in every way. If something doesn’t seem right, she consults with us, then says, ‘Let me see how I can make it better.’”

The whole team, Lawton says, is united in their commitment to bring patients comfort. “They know that we’re here for them,” she says, “and I love seeing the smiles of relief.” 

“We had one patient call recently,” says Lawton. “She said, ‘Thank you so much for getting me in. I have not had this much relief for eight months. Please tell Dr. Snoderly that she’s phenomenal.’”

Calls like that make all the hard work worth it.

Still Learning, Still Growing

Lawton isn’t sure what’s next in her career. She loves what she’s doing, but she’s still taking every opportunity available to learn and grow. She thinks about moving to a back office job and advancing toward a higher position in healthcare administration. “But if I work in the back, I’m going to lose the connection with my patients and what they need,” she says.

Education and career advancement have never been ends in themselves for Lawton. They always serve her commitment to connecting with people, to helping them. Whatever her next step, she’ll find a way to keep doing that. She’s clear on what’s most important to her. “I like to see their smiles at the end.”

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Are you suffering acute or chronic pain? The people of United Physician Group Pain Management want to help. Schedule an appointment today at one of our pain management clinics in Myrtle Beach, Piedmont, or Spartanburg.