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Top Doctors in Nashville: Jeanne Ballinger, MD

Dr. Jeanne Ballinger, a general surgeon at St. Thomas Hospital takes time to listen to her patients.

Written By:  Melissa Carro

Photographers:  Mandy Whitley Photography

As seen in Top Doctors in Nashville, July 2013

Baking tarts. Removing a spleen. Perhaps only Dr. Jeanne Ballinger sees an analogy between the two. Both are fun for her.

“I know it may sound strange, but I like the act of surgery,” says Dr. Ballinger, a general surgeon at St. Thomas Hospital. “I like to put my hands in a human body. It’s a craft, like cooking, and I think most surgeons enjoy it.”

Sixty percent of the surgeries Dr. Ballinger performs are breast cancer-related. She also uses laparoscopic surgery for treating diseased gallbladders, spleens, and colons. In her 30 years of surgical experience, she has seen how dramatically laparoscopy has changed a patient’s surgical options.

“We used to do gallbladder surgery through huge incisions,” she explains. “Laparoscopy really caught on in 1988. Now we can accomplish the same thing with four small incisions.”

Dr. Ballinger was hooked on surgery when she did her surgical rotation in medical school. Not one for sitting still, surgery makes sense for her. So do her involvements in philanthropies like the American Cancer Society and Second Harvest Food Bank.

“When I retire, I think I’ll go volunteer at Second Harvest and move food around,” laughs Dr. Ballinger. “My hands have to stay busy. That’s another reason I enjoy cooking.” Family dinners were a mainstay in the Ballinger household where she raised two sons. It was an important time to stop and be together. “Sometimes I would have to go back to work after we ate, but we always stopped and ate together and talk,” she says.

“Today people are so rushed, and that extends into medicine. As physicians we need to take the time to listen to our patients’ stories and explain their treatment. The act of surgery may be fun for me, but I always recognize that patients are scared—especially if surgery is involved.”

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