Dalton Daily Citizen
Vascular surgeon Ian Hamilton didn?t spend his youth dreaming of donning a white coat and wearing a stethoscope around his neck. Instead he was fascinated with fire.
Putting it out, that is.
Growing up on Lookout Mountain, Hamilton followed in his father?s footsteps by joining the local volunteer fire department while he was in high school. That stint quickly led to an interest in the rescue squad, so Hamilton attended paramedical school night classes while going out on calls.
On one memorable rescue the team was sent to Ellison?s Cave on Pigeon Mountain to help a group of geology students from the University of West Georgia who were trapped.
?They were there studying and we had a quick, record rainfall while they were in there,? he said. ?It flooded to the ceiling. We had to wait for the water level to drop, which took about 15 hours. They had gone to the back of the cave where there was no water. I dove in and swam to reach them. We got everyone out in about an hour. It was written about in Reader?s Digest.?
As a paramedic, Hamilton met many physicians, including Jim Creel, an emergency room doctor at Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga. Creel suggested that he consider medical school.
?I thought I would be a career paramedic,? said Hamilton, now 48. ?I guess he saw that I had a sincere interest in patient care ? more than you normally see.?
By this time, however, Hamilton was a senior at the University of Georgia and it was too late to apply to medical schools in the United States. He attended the Autonomous University of Guadalajara in Mexico for two years, then transferred to Albany (N.Y.) Medical College.
So how did a small town Southern boy acclimate to the North? It wasn?t easy.
?Upstate New York was not used to this accent,? laughed Hamilton. ?They assumed I was a redneck.?
During his residency in general surgery at the Washington (D.C.) Hospital Center, he found a great mentor and teacher in the chief of vascular surgery, Bruce Smith, who convinced him to enter the field. Vascular surgeons operate on blood vessels and veins except for the heart. They take care of aneurysms, blockages and similar problems.
Following five years of residency, Hamilton did a vascular surgery fellowship in Chicago for a year, then headed to Glasgow, Scotland, for another fellowship ? this time in endovascular surgery. Endovascular surgery uses catheters, balloons and other devices as a less invasive surgical procedure.
?Scotland was great,? he said. ?My paternal grandparents were born in Glasgow. It?s a wonderful country and the people are so warm and friendly.?
While there, Hamilton says he developed a taste for Scotch, learned how to drive ?on the wrong side of the road? and had his family tree traced as far back as possible.
?My paternal grandfather was the first in the family to get a college degree and I was the first to get a post-secondary education,? he said.
When that fellowship ended, Hamilton made his way back to Chattanooga and served as an assistant professor in the department of surgery at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine Chattanooga Unit for six and a half years.
He eventually decided to start a private practice in Dalton, which he said lacked any vascular physicians.
?I began the vascular and endovascular programs at Hamilton Medical Center, and I also started Dare to Care, a community education and free vascular screening program, in 2006,? he said.
His practice grew quickly but Hamilton worked to make sure it was prepared.
?It?s about teamwork at the hospital,? he said. ?We all work together to help patients. Vascular patients are usually really sick. No one could do it alone. In my practice there are three technicians, two nurses and a secretary that are all topnotch. It benefits the patients. It?s actually very humbling at times.?
Hamilton obtained a master?s in business administration from Auburn University in May in order to ?help the hospital manage the resources it provided and be a better medical director.? He says he can already tell it?s helping immensely.
?Hospitals are more like a business,? Hamilton said. ?I?ve implemented several things here that have saved us thousands of dollars. The tuition has already paid for itself.?
During his spare time, he enjoys working outdoors at his ranch in Ringgold ? cleaning land, cutting trees and riding ATVs. He and his wife, Stacey, love to travel with their two daughters, Zoe and Olivia. The family just returned from a two-week trip to Costa Rica.
?I?d like to leave a legacy of a world class vascular program in Dalton,? he said. ?This community deserves it.?
Provided by Comprehensive Vascular Care