Over the last several months Simpson County has seen a number of new healthcare providers take up residency between Magee and Mendenhall. Two of those new providers are particularly interested in supplying more healthcare services to women.
Dr. Hollie Ables, 29, began working at SGH Medical Clinic in August, 2021. She completed a family practice rotation elective and shadowed Dr. Chip Holbrook with the clinic and Simpson General Hospital. For one month she saw patients in the clinic, hospital, nursing home and jail.
“I learned so much so I definitely had Simpson General on my radar when I came back,” she explained. A Florence native, Dr. Ables said, “I’m glad to be back in the area to work with him.”
She graduated summa cum laude (with highest honors) from the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi with a bachelor of science in biology in 2014. That same year she enrolled in the University of Mississippi Medical Center to begin work on her medical degree.
Magee native Michelle Windham, 46, began with SGH Medical Clinic in July, 2021. She has been in the medical field for 20 years, first as a nurse, then as a nurse practitioner. Windham graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2000 with a bachelor of science in nursing in the first graduating class of the USM nursing program.
Her first nursing position was with the VA Hospital in Biloxi. That was relatively short lived as Windham lost one of her favorite patients when she was not working. She realized this was not to be her career path.
Windham found a position with Forrest General Hospital and worked several areas including the medical/surgical unit and labor and delivery. It was while she was on the labor and delivery floor that Windham realized, “It was over. That was my niche.” She became a certified nursing midwife in 2013.
Dr. Ables completed her residency in Anderson, South Carolina, alongside her husband, Dr. Jonathan Sappington, who practices in Magee. The two met while Hollie was at Ole Miss and Jonathan at Mississippi
State University. “We are definitely a house divided!” However, both knew they wanted to go to medical school and they hoped to go together. “We did the couples match for residency. We either match together or we don’t match at all. We were grateful to be matched together,” Dr. Ables explained.
She was licensed in South Carolina in 2018 and received her Mississippi licensure in 2021, board certified in family medicine. “I can see anyone from birth to end of life. We are trained to care for the entire family. I particularly enjoy women’s health. We are trying to get a more comprehensive women’s health service here at Simpson General hopefully to include prenatal care. That’s something that I’ve trained in.”
The major difference between a medical doctor and nurse practitioner is the required education. Windham stated, “Nurse practitioner is the overall term for advanced practice nursing. This includes family nurse practitioner, mental health nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse practitioner, certified nurse midwives, and certified nurse anesthetists.”
Once Windham became certified in nursing midwifery, a friend asked that she visit Alaska to interview for a midwife position there. Windham fell in love with the community of Kotzebue and its people, Inupiaq Alaskan natives. However, she always had the desire to return home to serve her own community. “I always wanted to bring my services to my home, to my people. Midwifery is not as well known in the south like it is on the East Coast or the West Coast, and Alaska.”
Both women had a desire early in life to enter the medical field. Dr. Ables’ mother is a nurse practitioner and her older sister chose to become a nurse. “I was always exposed to medicine. They would talk about medicine and I would listen to the conversations, all the people they helped. I’ve always loved science. I really thought I could help the most people by becoming a doctor.”
The deal was sealed for Dr. Ables after working with RideABILITY Therapeutic Riding Center in Brandon, Miss. She saw improvement in children both from the physical and mental standpoints. “I wanted to be able to help children like them and care for the family.”
Windham chose nursing when she was 13. Initially she only wanted to be a homemaker and mommy. Then her grandfather fell ill and was taken first to Magee General Hospital and then transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg. That was in the days when no child was allowed entry to the ICU. “But a nurse snuck me in to ICU. She told me about the different lines, EKG, IV, and told me not to be scared. She held my hand and let me go into the ICU to see my grandfather… he passed the next day.” Windham still tears up recalling the memory. She continued, “She had a huge impact on me; I remember her compassion, her care, her love for me. She didn’t know who I was. She didn’t have to do that but she did.” As a result, Windham wanted to create something positive out of a difficult experience for others.
Both women share similar hobbies including love of family and reading. Windham lives on what she calls the Windham Compound, where her brother and mother and father each have their own homes, along with Michelle. She also admits to being a true SEC girl and follows the Alabama Crimson Tide. Every Saturday during football season, Windham will be found in her home ready to root for the Tide.
Dr. Ables grew up on a farm and enjoys all that entails – gardening, baking and cooking. She is also mom to three miniature schnauzers that Dr. Ables admits are spoiled. “They are our children.”
While no comprehensive program exists at this point, SGH offered the following statement: “We are entertaining the thought of offering women’s services. We have noticed a need and would love to offer OB care to our community. Addressing our women’s health needs will allow us to promote OB health, disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment and help us offer direction of OB care. Most importantly we are here to listen to our patients, respond promptly, and be willing to get feedback. Our number one goal is to be dedicated to meeting the healthcare needs of our community. We are willing and open to collaborating with our local health care providers for referrals.”