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Meet the Doctors who work in the dark at OMC

Meet the Doctors who work in the dark at OMC

Radiologists at OMC play a very important role in patient care

On Valentine’s Day this year, local resident Brenda Land posted on her Facebook page, “Valentine’s Day has a lot of special meanings for us. There is one Valentine’s Day in 1997 that stands out in my mind as one of the most significant.”

In October, 1996, Brenda’s husband, Larry, was thrown from a horse and sustained a serious head injury. After two brain surgeries and several weeks spent in a neurotrauma unit in Springfield, the Lands thought he was on the mend. “His neurologist in Springfield ordered a follow-up CT of his brain here in West Plains at OMC for our convenience,” Brenda said. “This was to make sure the problem was gone and everything looked good. I remember it was Valentine’s Day and I was at a business meeting for work when I got a call from Larry.”

Dr. Rob Armstrong, radiologist at Ozarks Medical Center (OMC), had reviewed Larry’s scan and saw an aneurysm in a different area of the brain from the injury. “Larry’s neurosurgeon was confident that this couldn’t be true, as many doctors had reviewed his scans in Springfield and no one saw this,” Brenda said. “We were instructed to bring the scans and meet with the neurologist the next day in Springfield.”

“The doctors in Springfield had been focused on another part of the brain, where the injury was, and had totally missed the aneurysm. Surgery was scheduled the next day. The surgeon told us if the aneurysm ruptured during surgery, there would be nothing that they could do. Thankfully, the surgery was successful,” Brenda said.

“I cannot say enough about my appreciation for OMC’s Dr. Rob Armstrong. He caught something the doctors in Springfield all missed. OMC is so blessed to have him. We celebrate another Valentine’s Day, thanks to Dr. Armstrong,” Brenda said.

OMC has four board certified radiologists on staff: Dr. Rob Armstrong, Dr. Beth Cooper, Dr. Jerry Howard, and Dr. Jeffery Gordon. Working in the OMC Imaging Department, these physicians specialize in diagnosing and treating disease and injury through the use of medical imaging techniques such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound. They act as expert consultants to the referring physician by interpreting the resulting medical images. Radiologists also perform minimally invasive, image-guided therapeutic interventions such as biopsies, injecting contrast agents to enhance various organ systems followed by an imaging procedure, drainage procedures, and more.

Dr. Rob Armstrong, Board Certified Radiologist

Dr. Rob Armstrong is in his 30th year at OMC. Dr. Armstrong grew up in West Plains and graduated from West Plains High School. He went to college at Missouri S&T in Rolla and then medical school at University of Missouri in Columbia. He spent one year as a clinical instructor in the radiology department at University of Tennessee in Memphis prior to coming back to West Plains and OMC.

Dr. Armstrong has seen a lot of changes in the field in the past 30 years. In his opinion, the biggest change is the number of procedures performed and the complexity of the procedures. “We have moved from radiography and fluoroscopy (images using X-ray) to a digital imaging environment that is driven by CT, MRI and ultrasound,” he said. “It is an ongoing learning process through either formal instruction or self-learning with the technology,” he said.

“We’ve also gone from a family practice-driven environment to a specialist-driven environment,” he said.

When asked what he does in his free time, he said, “I read mammography…I’m serious.”

Dr. Armstrong and his wife, Jerris, have two daughters, Kelli and Amy. Dr. Armstrong does have some free time and he enjoys competitive skeet and trap shooting, deer and turkey hunting, and spending time on his acreage promoting wildlife and conservation. Dr. Armstrong is consistently named to 417 Magazine Top Docs list.

Dr. Beth Cooper, Board Certified Radiologist

Dr. Beth Cooper grew up in Maine and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the University of Maine. She completed medical school at the University of New England College of Medicine, residency at Geisinger Medical Center, and fellowship at Brown University at Rhode Island Hospital.

Prior to coming to OMC, Dr. Cooper was a radiologist at The Medical Center in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Her daughter was 8 years old and she was working a lot of shift hours. “I didn’t like being gone all the time and felt like I was missing out on things with our daughter. I wanted to find something that was more of an 8 to 5,” Dr. Cooper said.

In 2012, she and her husband, Tom, relocated to West Plains where she took a radiologist position at the OMC Imaging Department. “My professional career as a radiologist is very rewarding. I truly enjoy what I do,” Dr. Cooper said. “I have been lucky to have always had a wonderful staff to work with.”

“Technology changes so rapidly in the field of radiology. Radiologists must be willing to be progressive and embrace the new technology that is constantly evolving. This is so beneficial to the community and our patients,” she added.

Dr. Cooper’s husband, Tom, is employed by the West Plains R-7 School District. By trade, he is a mechanical engineer and through Project Lead the Way, he teaches beginning engineering classes to 7th through 12th graders.

In their spare time, they enjoy traveling. “Each year we choose a different national park to visit,” Dr. Cooper said. The family also enjoys sporting events and visiting family in Maine and Florida.

Dr. Jerry Howard, Board Certified Radiologist

Dr. Jerry Howard is in his sixth year at OMC Imaging Department. Dr. Howard grew up in Alaska and after medical school at Loma Linda University, completed his residency at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Wanting to stay in Missouri to be close to family in Branson, Dr. Howard and his wife Carmen were excited to come to West Plains.

Dr. Howard finds being a radiologist a very satisfying job and enjoys the collegial aspect of working with clinicians. “Having the ability to have an impact on patient care and the well-being of the patient through imaging means a lot to me,” Dr. Howard said. “Being able to interact with a patient during a procedure and helping them by relieving symptoms is truly one of the reasons that I chose this field.”

The Howards recently adopted a baby boy, Gabriel, from the community where Dr. Howard grew up in Alaska. The Howards had looked into adoption for several years, and were contacted in December of 2015 by a childhood friend. “We had just two weeks notice that this adoption was a possibility,” Dr. Howard said. “Carmen flew there immediately and was there for the birth. I joined her shortly after. Our little boy keeps us busy and is a blessing to us both.”

In their free time, the Howards are involved in their church and enjoy traveling to Springfield and Branson to visit family.

Dr. Jeffery Gordon, Board Certified Neuroradiologist & Spinal Interventionist

The newest member of the radiologist team at OMC is Dr. Jeffery Gordon. Dr. Gordon is a board certified neuroradiologist and spinal interventionist. Dr. Gordon graduated medical school from the University of Mississippi in Jackson then completed his internship, fellowship, and residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Prior to coming to OMC, he was employed at Consulting Radiologists, Ltd., in Minneapolis, Minn.

Dr. Gordon grew up in Mississippi and he and his wife, Tracy, recently relocated to West Plains. “We are happy to be close to Tracy’s parents in West Plains, Travis and Kathy Morrison,” says Dr. Gordon. Tracy is on the faculty at Arkansas State University as Chair of the Occupational Therapy program.

“I enjoy consulting with other physicians and solving difficult cases,” said Dr. Gordon. “The field of radiology is constantly evolving at a rapid pace. OMC has done a good job of keeping up with the advancing technologies. The community is fortunate to have such a state-of-the art imaging services at their disposal.”

The Gordons are getting settled at their home in West Plains. In his spare time, Dr. Gordon enjoys hunting deer, dove, and duck; spending time with his dogs; running; and working out.

“We have outstanding physicians who have trained at the Mayo Clinic, Brown University, and the University of Missouri. Healthcare is about the people, touching lives and making a difference,” said Tom Keller, President and CEO of OMC. “Our radiologists are behind the scenes, touching lives every day.”

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