By Marti Webb Slay
When ob/gyn Greg Banks, MD welcomed his newborn daughter, Amy, at Brookwood in 1990, he knew he’d be joining the staff the next day. What he didn’t anticipate, however, was that 32 years later he would be working side by side with her as a colleague.
Amy Freeman, MD was born into the Brookwood family, grew up watching her father bring new babies into that family, and then rejoined it recently in a new role: as a neonatologist on staff.
“It’s amazing,” Freeman said. “It’s a dream that I’ve had since I started pursuing neonatology. I love the field and when I chose that path, I always thought about a scenario where my dad was there in a delivery, and he would need to come to us and hand that baby off to me.”
That event has already occurred, within weeks of Freeman beginning her new role. “We counseled the mother together before delivery and worked together through that case,” she said.
“It was amazing to see her transition from daughter to fellow physician,” Banks said. “She took over the situation and did what she was trained to do. She was calm and cool.”
Growing up as a physician’s daughter, Freeman knew the stakes of a career in medicine, but she also saw the rewards. “I witnessed my dad’s effect on people with his kindness and empathy,” she said. “We never went out to dinner without someone stopping to say, ‘you delivered my child,’ or ‘you saved my life.’ It made me want to have that effect on people.”
Freeman’s mother was a NICU nurse, and her brother is completing his residency in vascular surgery at UAB. “I would love to have him at Brookwood, too,” she said. “We often discuss our cases. It’s nice to consult with him about difficult cases that might affect us emotionally.”
“I love what I do,” Banks said. “When I asked my son if he was sure he wanted to go into medicine, he said that it was a calling, not a choice. Amy said she couldn’t think of anything else she’d want to do. That makes me feel good about their career choices. Medicine takes a lot of time, sometimes from family. It’s a balance, and I can love both. My patients become part of the family when I’m at work. My kids have seen that.”
“We’ve always been close, and he has advised and counseled me to get through medical school, residency and fellowship,” Freeman said.
She started medical school planning to be a surgeon, but during her rotations, she found her passion in the NICU. “I fell in love with it, and I did a general pediatrics residency, primarily to go into the field of neonatology,” she said. “What drew me was the relationships you build with families. Whether it’s a term baby who is there a short period of time or a 23-weeker who’s there for months or up to a year, it’s the relationships you build with the families and getting them through the happiest times and the hardest times.
“Neonatology is also a great mixture of procedures and medicine. I enjoy doing procedures, and I also enjoy the physiology aspect of it. The physiology and changes that happen before and after delivery are fascinating. I am also amazed at the resilience of babies. They fight their hardest every day. They fight harder than many adult patients I’ve taken care of. I’ve seen so many miracles during my training.”
Freeman said she has had no trouble being fully accepted as a professional among her new peers, despite their having known her as a child. “It’s fun to reminisce with them, but I’m definitely treated as a colleague,” she said.
For his part, Banks is a proud father. “I can’t tell you the feeling, watching my kids over the years as they’ve grown from children to friends in college, and now as work companions. It means so much when you hear patients and staff talk about them as professionals and as the type of person they are. For a parent, it’s one of the greatest things in the world.”