Physician Spotlight: Dr. Jerry Edwards

by Sharon H. Fitzgerald

Physician Spotlight: Dr. Jerry Edwards

According to Dr. Edwards, the detailed nature of the CTA image (shown above) allows physicians to specifically hone in on the coronary arteries to detect blockage or narrowing.
New imaging technology at Tennessee Christian Medical Center in Madison is improving the diagnosis and treatment of emergency cardiac patients and is earning the praise of the hospital's emergency medical director, Jerry Edwards, a doctor of osteopathic medicine.

The new Computed Tomography Angiography (CTA) technology is an advanced diagnostic tool to image the flow of blood through arteries. "The new technology enables us to specifically hone in on the coronary arteries and see if there appears to be a significant blockage or narrowing," Edwards explains. "We see the flow through the artery, rather than just the 'footprint.'" Because of the detailed nature of a CTA, physicians can also see other vessels, lung abnormalities or clots, collapsed lungs, and even problems related to the liver or the spleen, he adds.

"Obviously, this is extremely important with respect to emergency medicine and emergency evaluation of a chest pain patient," Edwards continues. To obtain a CTA, intravenous dye is injected into the patient and circulation is followed using X-rays taken from several different, thin angles. Using powerful computer software, a 3-dimensional image results. The test is superior to a catheter angiography because it's much less invasive, using a smaller needle to inject the contrast material into a smaller peripheral vein. Most patients undergo CTA without being admitted to the hospital.

Edwards says problems that wouldn't show up on an electrocardiogram show up on a CTA. "The nice thing is we get the added advantage of possibly seeing gallstones, seeing collapsed lungs, seeing fluid around the heart, seeing hiatal hernias, seeing other disturbances which in fact may be causing the patient's chest pain," he says.

At Tennessee Christian, Edwards orders a CTA, which is then performed by a specially trained technician with a nurse administering medication to slow the heart to 50-60 beats per minute. The results are interpreted by both a radiologist and a cardiologist. Other providers are using CTA for additional studies, including brain imaging.

As a doctor of osteopathic medicine, noninvasive diagnostics just come naturally to Edwards. DOs are medical physicians with extra training in the musculoskeletal system. According to the American Academy of Osteopathy, DOs "focus on preventative care. Instead of just treating specific symptoms or illnesses, they look at the whole body. … This additional training gives DOs a better understanding of how an injury or illness in one part of the body can affect another part of the body; therefore, DOs have a therapeutic and diagnostic advantage."

A native of rural West Virginia, Edwards recalls that his family doctor was an osteopathic physician. "Traditionally the osteopathic physicians I was aware of practiced in rural, underserved areas. Being from a rural, underserved area in West Virginia, that was very attractive to me," he recalls. "The philosophy of osteopathic medicine, being a more holistic approach, I thought was on target, particularly for the '70s when I began medical school." He adds, "It just actually opened up more doors for me personally, because I had the opportunity to take both straight DO training programs or mixed training programs."

A graduate of the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg, W. Va., Edwards did his residency in emergency medicine at the University of Kentucky. He was managing an Emergency Department group in Kentucky, he says, when he recognized that he had "some deficiencies with respect to my knowledge of the business side of medicine. I decided that the best thing to do, rather than flying by the seat of the pants, so to speak, was to go ahead and obtain some more training." Thus, Edwards enrolled in Vanderbilt University, where he earned a master's in business administration in 1999.

While attending Vanderbilt and still living in Kentucky, Edwards and his wife Theresa learned that their young twin sons, Jeremy and Jason, were both dyslexic. "Our boys were evaluated at Vanderbilt's Child Development Center. They mentioned, 'It's a shame you don't live here, because we have some excellent programs here in the area.' So that's the direct tie to Nashville," Edwards says. The family moved.

Today, Edwards is affiliated with EmCare, a contract group that manages emergency medicine practices at sites across the nation. He's EmCare's local medical director for Tennessee Christian and a medical director for the Southeast region.

The Edwards live in Hendersonville, where the twins, now 14, graduated from Sumner Academy last month. Daughter Samantha is 15. Yet the family hasn't stopped growing. By the end of this year, the Edwards' adoption of a baby girl from Brazil should be complete.

"I had done some medical missionary work with some people up the Amazon River, and we developed some friendships. I've developed a bond with the people of Brazil, and we just decided that was a good thing to do," Edwards says. Their new daughter's name will be Reagan.