& Free Trip to Margaritaville
“Wherever the art of Medicine is loved, there is also a love of Humanity.”
This quote, attributed to Hippocrates of Kos, a Greek physician in the 4th Century BC who was referred to as the “Father of Medicine,” well describes our featured guest, Dr. Lane Aiena. Dr. Aiena is a Board-Certified Family Practice Physician and accompanies his medical skills and knowledge with a deep enjoyment of the patients he serves.
I was born in Beaumont, Texas and grew up in the booming metropolis of Sour Lake, boasting a whopping population of 1400. I remember fishing with my dad and spending time with mom, dad, and my sister at Toledo Bend. My grandad, Bobby Gunn, was an athletic trainer for the Houston Oilers, and was always interested in health, wellness, and helping people. In fact, he was one of the founders of the National Athletic Trainers Association, which today has an enrollment of 45,000. He wanted to become a physician, but World War II got in the way. We discussed medicine frequently, and because of these early conversations, he was very influential in my decision to go into the medical field.
I attended Louisiana State University for my undergraduate degree and then received my medical training at Texas Tech University, two years in Lubbock and two years in Amarillo. The two years I spent in Amarillo were what steered me into the area of family medicine. During my third year in medical school, I did several different rotations including internal medicine, surgery, psychiatry, emergency medicine, and family medicine. I enjoyed surgery and psychiatry and loved the ER, but I was most comfortable with the family medicine physicians. Dr. Rodney Young and Dr. Jerry Kirkland were great mentors for me during this time. They seemed so happy and their patients loved them. You ultimately must ask yourself what kind of life you want and which field of medicine will be most compatible with that decision.
Growing up in a small town was tremendous, and I wanted to raise my family in the same atmosphere. I did my residency training at Conroe Regional Medical Center and Lone Star Family Health Center. While nearing the completion of my training, I contacted a service that was able to identify several locations where I could fulfill my dream of having a private practice in a small town. Huntsville was suggested as one location. It seemed the right size city and close enough for visits to my family in Sour Lake, and my wife Missy’s family in Tomball. So, in 2017, I set up an interview with Dr. Wells at Huntsville Family Medicine and arrived, impeccably dressed in my best suit and ready to impress. His first question was, “Why are you wearing a suit?” We’ve laughed about that ever since. I immediately felt at home in this clinic and in Huntsville, and the experience has been a true blessing for my practice and my family.
COVID-19 changed everything. It was like flipping a light switch. We knew it was coming our way and knew that it was going to be bad. Fortunately, when it did hit in March of 2020, our clinic had policies in place based on our understanding of the virus at that time. Of course, as the saying goes, we had to “build the plane while we flew it.” At that time, there was no certain knowledge on how it was spread, and there were mixed messages on the effectiveness of face masks. We decided that masks must work, so we implemented this policy in our clinic immediately. And, although we were already scrupulous in facilitating hygiene procedures, we doubled down on these. If a patient was suspected of having COVID-19, we would wear gown, mask and double gloves and visit them at their car. So far, we have not had a single case of COVID-19 spread in our clinic and, although there was one week when we practiced telemedicine only, we have not been closed a day. Having our policies in place from the start has benefitted our patients and our practices. And on a positive note, we have seen fewer cases of flu, strep throat, and the common cold, and we attribute this to masking and social distancing.
I got involved in the Texas Medical Association (TMA) and the Texas Association of Family Practitioners (TAFP) at an early stage, while a medical school student in Amarillo. One of my mentors, Dr. Young, was politically active in the TMA, and this got me going. Also, another mentor for whom I have great admiration is Dr. Doug Curran in Athens, Texas. He served as President of the TMA in 2018-2019 and would speak at the convention…. without notes! Dr. Curran is who I desire to be like in forty years. He is funny, kind, and a very genuine person. He would jokingly say, “Going to work now is like hanging out with my friends each day, and I even get paid for it!” If I can become a tenth of what he is, then my practice will be a success!
I went to advocate to the Senate committee over a bill that would increase funding for student loan repayments for doctors who chose to serve in underserved communities over a period of four years. It was far from a “sure thing.” It had both a democratic and republican co-sponsor, so I opened my remarks with, “Thank you for letting me come testify on the Unicorn Bill.” As we were discussing the bill, I was asked, “We understand you want us to increase funding, but what keeps you from taking the money and running after four years, leaving those underserved communities?” I responded, “As a family medicine physician, I may not get paid as much as a specialist does, but I get more hugs. It’s hard to leave once you start getting those hugs.” He loved the answer. He was a veterinarian. The bill passed and was referred to as the “Unicorn and Hugs Bill.”
I’ve continued to be involved with the TAFP, and in 2019 was awarded the Texas Association of Family
Practitioners Political Action Committee award. And, I have been in direct contact with the offices of Senator Charles Schwertner and Representative Ernest Bailes on a regular basis. They have been fantastic and have helped me every step of the way. Being involved in this way enables me to reach out and get help on where to go with COVID-19 and getting vaccines for our county. We had a county-wide meeting of the Office of Emergency Management, the City of Huntsville, and Huntsville Memorial Hospital, and all are working hard to be heard in Austin and to have the vaccine needs of our community and county met. We continue to fight and advocate for our community every day.
Politics turn the wheels of medicine whether we like it or not. If you want to be effective as a physician, you’ve got to be involved in politics as well. Medicine is a lot more than diagnosing and treating. That is my primary job, and I’m very blessed to help 24-30 people a day, diagnose them, work with them, treat them, and make them feel better. But if you can advocate and get a bill passed, a hub application approved, and a vaccine event planned, then you can help hundreds or thousands of people. This fact has been cemented for me during this COVID-19 pandemic. Being a physician in the office is especially important, but being a physician and an advocate for your community is an integral part of the overall success of meeting your goals.
Be patient. Work hard. We are all in this together. Don’t be afraid to advocate. One voice can make a difference!
I enjoy fishing with friends, especially since I’m atrocious at golf. A lot of my physician friends fish, so these outings have been big bonding experiences for us.
My wife Missy and our two children Madelyn and Miles (who I got to deliver, by the way!) enjoy being outdoors and look forward to camping and other activities when the weather is warmer. It is such a blessing to come home after a long day at work and be with them. Missy and I met when I was about to take my medical boards, and she has been supportive of me through every step. I have been incredibly blessed with a wonderful family, enriching friendships, and stellar patients! This is the life I dreamed of and I’m so grateful to live it!