A Legacy of Care

Organizations & People

“Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.”
– Albert Einstein

 

Medical Professionals Following in their Fathers’ Footsteps

By Tory Irmeger | Photography by Hacker Medias

From generation to generation, the medical profession constantly expands and shifts, but what remains consistent is a need for providers committed to patient care. Here, we take a look across specialties to explore how local physicians were inspired to care for their communities by following in the footsteps of their fathers. These seven physicians reflect on what led them to their current roles, how having a physician parent paved the way for them, and what continually motivates them to provide the highest level of patient care.

dr. bryn meredith and dr. gary meredith

Bryn Meredith, DO

Pediatric Diagnostic Associates

Father: Gary Meredith, MD

Dr. Bryn Meredith always knew that he wanted to be a doctor, and this path would end up taking him all around the world and back again to Chattanooga.

Dr. Bryn’s parents introduced him to the medical field early on. His mother worked as a pediatric nurse, and his father, Dr. Gary Meredith, was a pediatrician for over 40 years, so it comes as no surprise that Dr. Bryn followed in his parents’ footsteps. “My father had a huge influence on my life in many ways, and he certainly had a massive impact on my decision to pursue medicine,” says Dr. Bryn. “He really enjoyed what he did. You could tell by his interactions with his patients outside of the office that he made a meaningful impact on the families he cared for.”

Prior to returning to the Chattanooga area, Dr. Bryn worked for four years as a general pediatrician in the United States Navy. This provided exciting travel opportunities for Dr. Bryn’s family, including three years living in Japan. Dr. Bryn speaks fondly of this experience but acknowledges that he was ready for a more permanent medical practice.

“Due to the transient nature of military life, it was difficult to establish lasting relationships with families,” he says. “I was really envious of the wonderful relationships my father established with hundreds of families over his long career, and it was something that really drew me to his practice.”

In 2020, Dr. Bryn joined his father at CHI Memorial Pediatric Diagnostic Associates, where he has the opportunity to interact with patients that are the third or fourth generation of their family to receive care from this practice. Upon Dr. Gary’s retirement in 2021, Dr. Bryn is honored to continue care for several of his father’s patients and their children.

Dr. Bryn’s current medical practice might be more stationary than his time in the Navy, but this work continues to keep him on his toes. He says, “Getting to establish relationships and help guide these families over the next 20 to 30 years is really exciting.”

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dr. peter boehm jr. and dr. peter boehm

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Peter Boehm Jr., MD

Erlanger Neurosurgery and Spine

Father: Peter Boehm, MD

For Dr. Peter Boehm Jr., it has been an honor to not only follow in the family business, but also to have the opportunity to scrub in alongside his father, Dr. Peter Boehm Sr.

“In the field of neurosurgery, it’s probably not very common to have multiple generations practicing together, but it’s been a great thing for us,” says Dr. Peter Jr. “My father has always enjoyed his career, and that trickled down to me.” The pair can often be found collaborating on patient cases.

The Boehm family tree is host to several other medical professionals in addition to Dr. Peter and his father. His uncle, Walter, was a neurosurgeon, as well as his grandfather, Dr. Walter Sr., who founded the Neurosurgical Group of Chattanooga and the Walter E. Boehm Birth Defects Center. “My dad was the third one to return here after school to practice medicine,” says Dr. Peter. “When it came time for me to decide where to practice, it was a no-brainer from my standpoint. Chattanooga is such a nice city to return to.”

Dr. Peter joined Erlanger Neurosurgery and Spine in 2011, where he performs a variety of brain and spine operations, often with the expert assistance of his father. Dr. Boehm Sr. is able to offer the medical team a wealth of knowledge from over 40 years of experience, as well as mentorship and guidance. “What my father practices, and what he always taught me, is to love your patients, and they’ll love you back,” says Dr. Peter. “We always aim to give the patients the time and compassion they deserve.”

This reciprocity of care has created a fulfilling career for Dr. Peter, and along with his team, he has witnessed countless patients overcome adversities. He says, “Sometimes this job is very challenging and we face tough outcomes, but we also see some miraculous recoveries that exceed anything we can do as physicians. It’s the patients themselves that have done it. The best part of this job is seeing people in recovery.”

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dr. colton, dr. tom, dr. bryson

Colton & Bryson Popp, DDS

Team Popp Dental

Father: Tom Popp, DDS

Brothers Colton and Bryson Popp had a long-standing dream of working together with their father in the dental profession.

“Growing up, my siblings and I would be at the office and see how our father affected peoples’ lives,” says Dr. Bryson. “Seeing Dad make a difference inspired me to do the same.” Dr. Colton echoes this, adding that he decided in early high school to follow in his father’s footsteps. The brothers always spoke about the possibility of working together at their father’s practice, and that dream is now a reality.

Team Popp Dental is a family practice to its core, with Dr. Tom Popp leading the way alongside his two sons and daughter-in-law. Dr. Colton joined the practice in 2018, while Dr. Bryson followed suit in 2022. Dr. Colton coached middle and high school sports during his time in undergrad, which inspired him to specialize in pediatric dentistry. “That is one of the great things about our family,” Dr. Colton says. “In the past, different dental specialties used to have solo practices. We are able to cover three different specialties under the same roof: orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, and general dentistry.”

Having both a parent and a brother with similar interests has helped Drs. Colton and Bryson throughout their career journey. Whether managing the difficulty of dental school or complexities that arise day-to-day, the brothers have a built-in support system to turn to. “Owning and operating a family-owned dental practice has daily challenges,” says Dr. Colton. “I am so grateful to work with my dad and learn how to navigate those challenges with his experience. It’s exciting to see the amazing ways the dental profession is improving oral health, which translates to overall health.”

The Popp team is able to offer a diverse set of skills united by a central goal. “We have a strong desire to help the people in our community and provide them a service that is both professional and friendly,” says Dr. Bryson. “It’s so rewarding to interact with different members of the community and make a positive impact in their lives.”

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Chad Smalley, MD

Center for Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics

Father: Lee Smalley, MD

The road to becoming a surgeon is far from easy, but Dr. Chad Smalley was encouraged along this path as he saw his own father balance a medical practice and a fulfilling personal life.

“I have admiration for what my father did as a surgical ophthalmologist,” says Dr. Chad about his father, Dr. Lee Smalley. “I think because he managed his medical practice so gracefully and was able to incorporate that into a healthy home life for us, it allowed me to have less reservations about pursuing medicine.”

Although Dr. Chad mirrored his father by becoming a surgeon, he decided to go a different route by studying orthopedics and specializing in knee and shoulder arthroscopy. Refining this subspecialty took Dr. Chad from the East to the West Coast, including a stint working as a team doctor for the San Francisco Giants. Dr. Chad joined the Center for Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics in 2006, and he’s grateful to have settled back in his home state. There was a time, however, when Dr. Chad’s career might have gone a different direction.

“In college, I pursued some art interests as well as the sciences,” he says. “I had to decide between being an artist with a medium like glass or ceramics, or perhaps my medium would be using my hands to help people as a surgeon.” The tactile, fine-tuned nature of arthroscopic surgery has proven to be a rewarding trade for Dr. Chad.

Despite differing specialties, having a father familiar with the medical field has been an invaluable resource for Dr. Chad. “Medicine is a bit of a foreign language,” he says, “so having somebody who speaks that same language is extremely helpful.”

Dr. Chad is excited about some of the cutting-edge discoveries being made in orthopedics, and it all goes back to improving the quality of patient care. He says, “My father and I both went into medicine with the goal of helping people get better by resolving their physical problems. That, I think, is what allows a career in medicine to be sustainable long-term.”

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dr. charlie hooper iii and dr. charlie hooper jr.

Charlie Hooper III, DDS

East Brainerd Dentistry

Father: Charles Hooper Jr., DDS

The foundation of Dr. Charlie’s dental practice is building lasting relationships, which is something he learned long ago from his father, Dr. Charles Hooper Jr.

Growing up, Dr. Charlie was no stranger to dentistry. His father was a dentist and established East Brainerd Dentistry, where his mother managed the office after retiring from nursing. Dr. Charlie’s uncle and grandfathers were also healthcare providers in the medical and dental spheres. Seeing family members in these roles helped Dr. Charlie envision a career path for himself. “The medical field has always been a part of my family,” he says. “Working with my dad professionally just came naturally.”

Although the path of dentistry was clear to Dr. Charlie early on, it was the dedication he saw in his father that made the work more meaningful. Between fishing trips and spending time at the dental practice, Dr. Charlie observed the work ethic his father brought to the profession. “Dad’s attention to detail and tenacity in every job done well drew me in to dentistry and care-giving,” he says. “His natural way with patients and his gentle demeanor were an inspiration. He is patient, kind, and truly enjoys the camaraderie with his patients.” This legacy of hospitality is carried on through Dr. Charlie, who now co-owns his father’s practice alongside two other dentists.

For Dr. Charlie and his father, there is nothing more fulfilling than developing relationships with patients year after year. “We are blessed with a lively practice and have great families who enjoy coming to see us,” says Dr. Charlie. “It is an honor to maintain relationships throughout the years with children who become young adults, then have families of their own who continue to see us.” Now retired, Dr. Hooper Jr. still enjoys visiting the practice often and chatting with patients.

Despite changes to the profession over the decades, Dr. Charlie and his team strive to personalize the practice and create an office that continually feels like “home” to the community. “I am proud to watch our office grow and accept the challenges presented,” says Dr. Charlie. “To restore the smile of someone needing and wanting is truly rewarding.”

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dr. michael and dr. stephen greer

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Stephen Greer, MD

University Surgical Associates

Father: Michael Greer, MD

Dr. Stephen Greer had long entertained the idea of becoming a doctor, but it was an experience working in a hospital that cemented his passion for the profession.

“Going into college, I tried to keep my options open,” says Stephen, “But I had a job in a local operating room where I really fell in love with medicine and surgery.” Stephen’s father, Dr. Michael Greer, was also a surgeon and specialized in vascular medicine. “When I started training,” Stephen says, “everybody – including myself – thought I would probably be a vascular surgeon like my father. There were a lot of operations that I enjoyed, but ultimately I had a realization at 2 o’clock in the morning that I was interested in another path.” Stephen decided on general surgery, which offers plenty of variety in his day-to-day.

In 2019, Stephen joined University Surgical Associates, and he finds it continually fulfilling to have a positive, tangible impact on the lives of his patients. The procedures he is able to perform are a testament to the advancements made in the medical field. “When my father started practicing surgery, there was mostly just open surgery,” he says. “Now, the majority of the cases I do laparoscopically or robotically and are minimally invasive. Incredible advancements in technology over the past 30 years have really improved operations, allowing for patients to have much easier experiences.”

Ongoing advancements require a philosophy of lifelong learning, which both father and son share. In a surgical role, Stephen enjoys educational opportunities with medical students and residents. Dr. Michael has stepped back from surgery in recent years but in no way has left the field. He currently works as interim assistant dean at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Chattanooga.

Stephen is grateful for the work philosophy his father instilled in him, which carries over into his practice. “My father has always been a big patient advocate,” he says. “My whole family has always emphasized doing the right thing, so the base of my decisions is rooted in doing the right thing for the patient.”

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dr. matthew and mr. michael hollie

Matthew Hollie, MD

Galen Medical Group

Father: Michael Hollie, MD

Growing up, Dr. Matthew Hollie always had a passion for helping others, and there was only a question of how he would apply it. 

“From a young age, I initially wanted to be a veterinarian,” says Dr. Matthew. “As I grew older, I still loved animals, but my heart for people grew.” This shift came about as Dr. Matthew witnessed the impact his father, Dr. Michael Hollie, has had on the community as an allergy and asthma specialist. “I would often see patients of his come up and thank him for all the help he had provided in improving their quality of life and helping them feel better. Seeing the difference he was able to make inspired me to pursue medicine.”

Dr. Matthew practices with Galen Medical Group, specializing in endocrinology and diabetes management. He is one in a long list of MDs in the family, including his father, mother, grandfather, an aunt, and two uncles. “I grew up around medicine,” Dr. Matthew says. “Hearing medically-inclined discussion was a matter of course, and it further piqued my interest and encouraged me to pursue the field.”

With many family members paving the way in the profession, Dr. Matthew has been grateful to turn to those who have walked the path before. “Whether it be tough medical school tests, difficult attendings, or early challenges of life outside of training, having someone who has been through it before can be enormously helpful,” he says. Although the medical field looks different now than it did 20-30 years ago, the Hollies are able to support each other and continue learning how to best provide patient care.

Dr. Matthew and his father may practice difference specialties, but their approach to providing care is universal. “Learning about who your patients are as people – beyond their specific medical issue – adds a personal connection and at times can offer further insight into how to best manage their medical issue,” says Dr. Matthew. He is excited about the future of medicine, especially developments being made for diabetes management options. He says, “What is and will be possible as more and more technological advancement fuels further innovation is really exciting.”

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