Health Care a Passion for New Nurse Practitioner

She was born in Germany to Russian and Uzbek parents and speaks four languages, but for Nargiza (Nora) Aliev, “this area feels like home.”

Nora is Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic’s newest Family Nurse Practitioner. She’s excited about the Clinic and her work here. “I’m very passionate about health care,” she said.

She was born in Germany into a military family and moved a lot during her childhood. Her mother was Russian and her father was from Uzbekistan, once a Soviet republic and now an independent country. She speaks Russian, Uzbek and German as well as English.

She came to the United States at age 18 to attend college. She married Rahmat (Roma) Aliev, who was from Tennessee, and the couple moved here. They live in Sevierville with their four children.  Rahmat fixes hail-damaged cars, traveling to wherever hailstorms hit. “He fixes cars; I fix people,” she laughed.

Nora has an associate’s degree in nursing from Walters State Community College. During her time there as a student, she volunteered at LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville. Next she graduated from East Tennessee State University with a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

She worked in LeConte’s intensive care unit at as an RN for three years before deciding to become a nurse practitioner. She said she reached a point where she wanted to take charge of patient care on her own. She became a FNP after two and a half years’ study at King University.

East Tennessee, which reminds her of parts of Germany, has been her home now for longer than she has lived elsewhere.

Preventive health care is a particular concern of hers. Though many Clinic patients don’t seek medical help until a condition has become acute, Nora sees education as a way to improve their situations. For example, a newly diagnosed diabetic needs to learn and understand the consequences of continuing poor eating habits, such as blindness or amputation. She says the Clinic should welcome patients whatever their situation, and make them comfortable in returning here as needed. The goal should always be to improve the patient’s quality of life, she said.

Nora manages her job and large family by being well-organized, particularly around the children’s schedules. She studied the piano intensively for years in her youth, and she likes to read, but no iPad for her. “I’m an old-school book reader” who likes to feel pages between her fingers, she said.


Former Student Joins Clinic Staff

It was a seamless transition for Suleira Rodriguez.

Earlier this month, she completed her medical assistant studies at Tennessee College of Applied Technology. The very next day, she was at work at Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic.

Suleira, who is called “Sue” most of the time, was already familiar with the Clinic. It’s where she had done the clinical hours necessary to become a Registered Medical Assistant.

Toward the end of her training, her instructor told her about two job openings. She chose Mountain Hope because, “I thought I could be more helpful here,” she said.

She’s bilingual, which is a big help to the Clinic’s many Hispanic patients. She was born in California but grew up in Mexico; her first language was Spanish. When she was 10 her parents decided to come back to the United States and moved to Tennessee. Sue attended Pigeon Forge Middle and High schools, and knows this area well.

She was studying to become an LPN but says, “I’m a hands-on person,” and switched to the Medical Assistant program when she saw the practical help RMAs can give their patients. As an RMA at Mountain Hope, she takes patients’ vital signs, does vaccinations, deals with medications, gives some types of treatments and assists the medical staff.

Sue lives in Sevierville with her husband of three years, Dewa Raka. She likes to spend time with her family, especially her 3-year-old nephew. “He’s my baby,” she said. She’s recently celebrated her pinning ceremony and graduation. She also likes to draw and paint.

She says she likes everything about the Clinic. “I especially like the way they help uninsured people,” she says. Patients receive not only physical healing, but also spiritual help, she said. The clinic provides good care to those who can’t afford regular doctors. “They help the community,” she said.


Working at Clinic Gives New View of Community

SantiagoKaren Santiago has lived in Sevier County most of her life, but working at Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic is giving her a closer look at her home town.

“You get to know the community a lot,” she says.

Karen first came to the Clinic a few months ago, taking on a part-time position while one of the receptionists was on maternity leave. When a full-time receptionist’s position opened up recently, she took it on — she’d had on-the-job training in the part-time position.

She’s bilingual, speaking fluent English and Spanish. She was born in Mexico and moved to Sevier County when she was 5 or 6 years old. “I learned (English) pretty quickly,” she remembered. Children find it easier to learn a foreign language, and school gave her plenty of incentive.

She attended Pigeon Forge High School, with home schooling in her junior year. She had a little girl, Laylani, who is now a year and a half old. She graduated two years ago.

Karen lives with her parents and her daughter, and spends much of her spare time with Laylani. When she has time, she also likes to help her former boss at Parrot Mountain.

Another advantage of working at Mountain Hope is that Karen enjoys helping people, and her job gives her many opportunities to do that.

Jason Brackins

Physician’s Assistant Joins Clinic Staff

Jason BrackinsMountain Hope’s new physician’s assistant got his training in an unexpected place — the U.S. Coast Guard.

Jason Brackins, PA-C (the C stands for Certified) grew up in Gatlinburg. He loved the water and fishing, so after school he joined the Coast Guard. He trained as a nurse in 1998. The Coast Guard sent him to Physician’s Assistant school at Fort Sam Houston, TX from 2001 to 2003, and he’s worked as a PA since then. Recently he retired from the Coast Guard after 24 years’ service.

He and his wife, Karen, have two children approaching high school age, and they decided to return to Gatlinburg. The children, Liam, aged 13, and Avery (who is known as Q), aged 11, will attend Gatlinburg-Pittman High School when they are old enough.

Karen, a nurse, has volunteered at the Clinic during health fairs. “We’re happy to be back in East Tennessee and we’re blessed to be able to work in this Clinic,” Jason said. He feels the fit is so good that it was meant to be.

The patients are different from those he encountered in the Coast Guard. His clientele there was basically healthy. Those who developed serious illnesses were often discharged. “Mission ready, combat ready really was the goal,” Jason said.

Now he’s dealing with a mix of people, some healthy, some with chronic diseases. But it’s rewarding, and his patients at the Clinic are grateful for their treatment. Though adding a full-time PA to the Clinic staff means more patients can be treated every day, “we don’t want to sacrifice quality (care) for quantity,” he said.

His spare time is spent being a “Superdad,” he said, ferrying his children to sports practices and events. He has not lost his love of fishing, either. He’s giving up his saltwater fishing gear but intends to make the most of East Tennessee’s lakes and rivers.


From Stay-at-home Mom to Medical Assistant

Reagan WilderJust 30 more times drawing blood, and Reagan Wilder will qualify as a certified medical assistant.

Reagan, a new medical assistant at Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic, began her quest to become certified in 2008. Before that, she was a stay-at-home mom. She is really close to her certification  — just 30 needle-sticks shy — and expects to complete it during the upcoming health fair at the Clinic.

As a part-time medical assistant, she takes patients’ vital signs, performs in-office lab tests, helps with charting and assists the Clinic’s doctors and nurse practitioners as they attend to patients. Though medical assistants do not have to be certified to practice in Tennessee, certification shows more dedication to education and professional standards, she said.

She grew up in Seymour, attended Seymour High School and transferred to Heritage High in Blount County. She and her husband, Edgar, live in Seymour with their children, two boys and two girls: Matthew, 11; Genesis, 8; Mychal, 5, and Mysty, 4.

Her family does not leave much time for relaxing, but if she had time she is clear about what she would like to do: “Go to the mountains. Find a creek,” she said.

She said she was attracted to working at the Clinic because of “the group of people they reach out to, and the Clinic’s passion for what they do.”