In spite of having grown up in a household with a family doctor and a nurse (her parents Hal and Sara), entering the medical field was the last thing on young Rebecca Talleys mind as she headed off to college at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. It would take four years of college followed by quite a few unexpected and fortunate turns in the road before she would discover what she was meant to do with her life.
Dr. Talley describes herself as an average student at UNC. I had a good time, had great friends, and worked hard as manager of the cafeteria at my dorm, she says. She spent one year in nursing school, eventually redirecting her intellectual energies into a major in public policy analysis, but when she graduated in 1987, she still had no idea what she wanted to do.
So, being newly graduated, high-spirited, adventurous, and jobless, Becca moved to Washington D.C., a choice that was quickly rewarded with an opportunity she still feels lucky to have had. She was offered a staff job with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Committee on Human Rights. In this position, she investigated and built cases for the release of individuals in the fields of science, medicine and engineering who were being held as political prisoners by foreign governments. There was a great deal of research involved and the process was very slow, she says, but those problems were more than offset by the unique benefits of the job: meeting and working with people from all over the world, including Nobel laureates, and international groups such as Doctors Without Borders, the World Health Organization, and Amnesty International.
Working with Doctors Without Borders, a international group of physicians dedicated to bringing medical help to those who need it most all over the world, piqued her interest in relief work, but as she investigated this avenue further, she realized it required medical skills she did not have. Never to be discouraged by a closed door, Rebecca left her job with NAS and the city she loved and headed back south. She enrolled in the physicians assistant graduate program at Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., an academic environment she describes as very nurturing and well suited to her disposition. After graduation in 1991, she was immediately hired to work in a hospital emergency room in Gastonia, N.C., where she had done a rotation during school.
The short version of Rebeccas stint as a P.A. is that she discovered she loved medicine but did not like working for doctors. I learned that I dont take orders well and need a job that allows me to make my own decision, she recalls. The next logical step was medical school. While applying, she continued working as a P.A., and was soon accepted at Bowman Gray School of Medicine, where she embarked on her formal medical education.
While Rebecca remembers her first year in medical school as a difficult, the rest of her medical education was easy, she says, because it was less scientific and more practical and clinical. I actually enjoyed my last 3 years of medical school, she says. She had always known that she would be a family physician like her father because the variety of patients and quick pace suit her personality.
Dr. Talley completed her family practice residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, St. Margaret in Pennsylvania, which she says offered a challenging program and competitive environment. I was a little lonely in Pittsburgh but I enjoyed the cold weather and the many parks and hiking trails, she says. She bought her first house there in an older blue-collar neighborhood. I was quite an enigma to my neighbors at first a single female physician from the South but they adopted me and taught me how to manage a house and a snow shovel and I still enjoy their friendship. One aspect of life in Pittsburgh she wasnt so fond of was the long periods of grayness in winter. I needed color, she said, so she grew orchids hundreds of them. It is a hobby she still enjoys.
After medical school, Dr. Talley spent two weeks visiting Costa Rica and later a month in Honduras doing relief work following Hurricane Mitch. We went into the villages and set up makeshift clinics to meet the peoples desperate need for medical attention, she explains. One day, I saw 120 patients. This experience sealed her affection for Latin America, its culture and people, and further fueled her interest in relief work.
When she returned from Honduras, Dr. Talley realized that she missed living in the South and began exploring job opportunities there. She had never intended to move south of North Carolina, but when the Center for Primary Care in Evans offered her a job, she reevaluated her priorities. She was impressed with the physicians already on board and she felt the practice was a good fit for her, so she joined the CPC-Evans physician staff. One of the deciding factors for Dr. Talley was that she had always wanted to work where she was really needed and wanted, and she felt CPC offered her both.
Since joining CPC nearly two years ago, Dr. Talley has bought a house in the historic Summerville district of Augusta and thrown herself into updating and decorating her home and grooming her yard. I love growing things from seed and container gardening, she says. Except for mowing the grass, yard work is fun for me. Aside from that, she enjoys the company of her two dogs, Holly and Emma, and her cats, Hank and Josey a friendly and curious lot.
Dr. Talleys willingness to meet challenges head on and to sample the diversity life offers might well have been predicted by her childhood. The oldest of Dr. and Mrs. Talleys four children, Rebecca grew up with her brother Joe, and her sisters, Margaret and Catherine in the small North Carolina towns of Grover and Shelby. The product of a family with a fascinating array of abilities and hobbies, Rebeccas childhood pursuits ranged from playing the French horn in the family brass ensemble to raising mice to feed to her fathers collection of snakes to nurturing a host of pets including gerbils, cats, dogs, fish and turtles.
Dr. Talley still enjoys music, a mainstay of family life when she was growing up. When they lived in Grover, she, her younger siblings, and their father were known as the Talley Family Brass, since they all played brass instruments. They played together at home all the time, she recalls, and often performed at their small church in Grover. Dr. Talleys specialty is the French horn but she also plays the trombone. These days, however, she is more likely to be seen enjoying the Augusta Symphony than performing. Dr. Talley also likes to canoe and hike when possible, but her most regular exercise is walking her two dogs along the Augusta Canal road, around her neighborhood, and on the campus of Augusta State University.
Knitting, another of Dr. Talleys hobbies, is one she finds practical, enjoyable and tremendously relaxing. She knits socks, vests, and sweaters some of her own design both for herself and as gifts for friends and family. Dr. Talleys love of yarn and fabrics and her creativity are likely the result of her mothers influence. Mrs. Talley is a talented seamstress with a particular interest in decorative sewing, such as pillows and window treatments. Her handiwork is well displayed in her daughters home.
Although Dr. Talley has yet to develop a fondness for Augustas summer heat, she has happily settled in both Augusta and in her work at the Center for Primary Care in Evans. Both are a comfortable fit and enable her to focus her energy on the work she was meant to do and enjoys best: caring for patients.