New medical society chief puts priority on healthier community

Dr. Colleen Schmitt Galen Digestive Health CHCMS 2019 President

Dr. Colleen Schmitt
Galen Digestive Health
CHCMS 2019 President

From the Chattanooga Times Free Press

From volunteering and mentoring to patient and physician advocacy, Dr. Colleen Schmitt brings her passion for serving the medical community to her new role as 2019 president of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society.

“The major priority for the medical society here is to try and create a healthier community,” Schmitt said. “That supersedes really every other part of the strategic plan.”

Schmitt, a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist with Galen Medical Group, grew up in Ringgold, Georgia, and graduated from the University of South Alabama College of Medicine in 1986. She completed her internship and residency in internal medicine at Harvard’s Beth Israel Hospital in Boston and a fellowship in gastroenterology at Duke University Medical Center, along with a joint fellowship in health services research at the Durham V.A. Hospital, where she finished a master’s degree in biometry and informatics.

Schmitt succeeds past president Dr. Justin Calvert, who said that in the last year the society “worked diligently to make this community a safer place for physicians to practice medicine by rolling out the new physicians’ well-being initiative called ‘LifeBridge.’”

“I was honored to be a part of this process during my tenure as president. I have no doubt that Dr. Colleen Schmitt will carry the torch of putting patients first and promoting physician well-being in Chattanooga,” Calvert said.

Other officers include Dr. James Haynes, president-elect, and Dr. David Armstrong, secretarytreasurer.

Of her many accomplishments, Schmitt said she’s most proud of spearheading the Leadership Education and Development program at the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy in 2015. The program helps women physicians develop specific, important skill sets that they don’t learn in medical school.

“I’m in a specialty that’s heavily weighted toward men. There wasn’t a path where women saw examples for them or appropriate mentoring,” Schmitt said. “Unless you see women in a position that you think you might aspire to, you won’t think it’s possible for you. That’s why I think it’s very important for young women to see women in leadership positions.”

Schmitt said she’s also proud to be receiving the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy distinguished service award this year, but “getting a best mom plaque” from her daughter when she was 8 is another cherished achievement.

“Women always wonder, what am I sacrificing? Being a mother to my kids, how are they going to think of me?” she said. “My message to them is they’ll be proud of you.”

Founded in 1883, the 1,200-member medical society is affiliated with the Tennessee Medical Association and works closely on an array of issues that impact the practice of medicine in Tennessee. The society partners with the Medical Foundation of Chattanooga on public service projects including the Hamilton County Project Access program, the Future Docs Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine and the Medical Exploration Program, and the LifeBridge Physician Well-Being Initiative.

Contact staff writer

Elizabeth Fite at efite@ or 423-757-6673.