A Calling, Not a Career
Well-respected surgeon to retire after more than 40 years of service
In the late 70s, Terry Bingham entered the doors of Harriman City Hospital as a medical student. Over 40 years later, he will leave what is now Roane Medical Center as an accomplished and respected surgeon.
Creating a Calling from a Career
Growing up, Dr. Bingham lived next door to a primary care doctor. After years of hearing about his work, Dr. Bingham decided he, too, wanted to go into medicine. He began medical school at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis in 1974, where he planned on following his neighbor’s footsteps in primary care, but instead found his calling in surgery.
His career with Roane Medical Center, formerly Harriman City Hospital, began as an orderly during his third year of medical school. At that time, he worked with and assisted general surgery staff. During his residency, he worked in the ER and trauma units gaining experience as a surgeon. After finishing his residency, Dr. Bingham opened Roane Surgical Group in 1981 with the goal of bringing advanced technologies and the latest treatments to Roane. This brought him back to Harriman City Hospital to conduct his surgeries, where he would remain throughout his career.
Making His Mark
Laparoscopic surgery, a minimally invasive surgical technique that utilizes small incisions, began to grow in popularity in the 1980s and 90s. Having learned about and practiced basic non-video laparoscopic surgery during residency, Dr. Bingham was instrumental in growing its use at Harriman City Hospital. Dr. Bingham and the hospital served as a pioneer of the surgery in Tennessee, bringing dozens of surgeons from all over the state to learn about its benefits and usage.
“One of the things I’m most proud of in my career is my contribution to growing laparoscopic surgery in Harriman. In the operating room, you have the unique chance to do something really good that is much better for the patient and I got to be a part of that.”
Returning to his roots at the hospital, Dr. Bingham also spent 10 years teaching residents in their senior residency about laparoscopic and endoscopic surgery. Over the years, he would often hear of former residents who went on to work in surgery or primary care because of their experience working with him.
“I never considered what I did to be work. It was my passion and I loved it. It is very rewarding helping patients with their surgical needs. It was fun for me to train residents and help them accomplish their goals.”
“I have never worked with such a caring physician whose compassion for his patients has driven his passion to provide the best care possible. Roane Medical Center would not be the hospital it is today if Dr. Terry Bingham had not been here for the last 40 years.” – Jason Pilant, chief administrative officer of Roane Medical Center
New and Improved
In 2008, Roane Medical Center, the new name for Harriman City Hospital, joined Covenant Health. The health system already had an extensive health care network across East Tennessee, which now extended to Roane County and the city of Harriman.
Previously, many Harriman and Roane County residents would travel to Knoxville to get their care because of the updated technology and trust they had in those facilities. In 2013, thanks to joining Covenant Health, a new and improved Roane Medical Center opened with state-of-the-art technology.
“It was nice to have a facility to be proud of and give patients a reason to get their care in Harriman. At the time of it opening, and still today, the hospital had some of the best operating rooms in the Covenant Health system.”
While the new facility encouraged local residents to get their care in Roane, it only added to what Dr. Bingham had known for over 30 years: this hospital does a good job, and he’s proud to be a part of the care team.
“Dr. Bingham believed in having a local hospital to take care of the community he loves; he had that same commitment when he started as he does today. Our medical staff and entire hospital team have benefited from him being here as a physician and as a leader over these forty-plus years. I want to personally thank Dr. Bingham for all he has done and can’t express enough gratitude for what he means to our hospital and healthcare community of Roane County.” – Jason Pilant, chief administrative officer of Roane Medical Center
An Evolution in Health Care
From starting Roane Surgical Group to moving to an updated hospital, Dr. Bingham has seen it all in his tenure in medicine. When he first started in medicine, his work in laparoscopic surgery was one of the newest surgical techniques available. Since then, advanced imaging like CT scanning and 4D ultrasounds have been created as well as non-invasive cardiac procedures. Advanced treatment in breast cancer, lymphoma and prostate cancer have come a substantial way. A more complete understanding of the role genetics have in a disease and now disease treatment have led to new vaccinations and medications that prevent and treat various diseases and illnesses more effectively.
Another era of health care he experienced? The COVID-19 pandemic. While not directly on the front lines, as it is not usually a surgical disease, Dr. Bingham was still performing multiple emergency surgeries daily. From perforated organs like appendices and bowels to ruptured gallbladders, his surgical load remained steady, even if the daily case number was less without elective surgeries. Like most of the world, the pandemic also enabled him to spend some more time at home, kick-starting projects that he plans on continuing in retirement.
While he admits he will miss his interactions with his patients and colleagues, and the opportunity to use his knowledge and technical skill needed for each surgical case, Dr. Bingham is ready to pass the torch to the new surgeons. His advice: “Be a good guy to be a good surgeon. Being a good surgeon is more than making no mistakes; it can mean making your rounds twice a day instead of once, or forming a deeper connection with your patients and their family. You have to know your limitations and do what you do well.”
Upon retirement in late October, Bingham plans to improve his golf game, fish, continue yardwork and woodwork projects that he started during the pandemic, spend time with his grandchildren and enjoy the fall, his favorite season.
Reminiscing on his calling-turned-career, he says, “It’s been a good ride.”