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A Calling of Care

Posted on November 19, 2020

Taylor Merritt with her new babyJulio Guerra, MD, had achieved an impressive career status as a pathology resident at George Washington University Hospital in the nation’s capital.

Yet something was missing.

“I realized that I had not gone to medical school so I could sit behind a microscope, do some research and perhaps have an entirely academic career, even though I liked teaching,” says Dr. Guerra, who describes himself as a “people person.”

“I always dreamed of healing and treating the whole person, and I recalled that what I enjoyed the most in my medical school rotations was Ob-Gyn,” Dr. Guerra says. “I felt that I was a natural in that field.”

He remembered his mother, who had struggled during his childhood with little support. Watching her gave him a desire to be an advocate for women.

After much thought and prayer, Dr. Guerra changed his career path. Later, through a Christian medical organization, Dr. Guerra was introduced to fellow obstetrician and gynecologist James Koerten, MD, and began working in Sevierville.

“I never had peace until I came here and met my work partner,” Dr. Guerra says. He and Dr. Koerten, along with Richard Love, MD, are the Ob-Gyns who provide care “as a calling” at LeConte Medical Center. The hospital has been recognized for excellence in maternity services on the state and national level.

One Mom’s Story

Considered “at risk” because of high blood pressure, Taylor Merritt was on bed rest for six months during her first pregnancy. Dr. Guerra guided her through those critical months and helped her bring a healthy son into the world.

“When others would talk to me in such negative ways about how things could go, I would feel so scared and worried,” Merritt says. “I would walk into Dr. Guerra’s office and he would pray with me and tell me how awesome I was doing and how everything would be OK.”

That was three years ago, and in March 2020 she was back at LeConte Medical Center’s Dolly Parton Birthing Unit to deliver another baby. Little Kennedy weighed in at a healthy 7 pounds, 8 ounces, and her mom and dad were thrilled.

“She is the happiest baby I have ever met,” Merritt says. “My experience at LeConte was great. The facility is beautiful and the rooms are large and make your stay there comfortable.”

But it was more than the modern facilities and state-of-the-art medical care that made the experience comfortable. Merritt says her bedside nurse was “amazing,” and that everyone she encountered was ready to answer her questions and help her through her emotions.

“Giving birth can be scary and unpredictable, and they make you feel at ease,” Merritt says. “That is one thing that I love about Dr. Guerra and his staff. He is such a positive person and makes your birthing experience something you remember and cherish.”

The Right Choice

Now a mother of two, Merritt is loving family life and has fond memories of delivering her babies at LeConte Medical Center.

“It’s a day that you will look back on and want to do over and over,” Merritt says. “I know it sounds crazy! I would give birth 100 times! I love it!”

Merritt gives the kind of positive feedback doctors love to hear, and Dr. Guerra has become accustomed to hearing it a lot. New mothers appreciate the quality care and kindness at the hospital, and they’re not the only ones.

“Across the board, folks tell me that the care they receive here is so personal as well as loving,” says Dr. Guerra.

The practice of obstetrics and gynecology has grown right along with the community. For example, LeConte Medical Center has new video translation systems in place for patients who don’t speak English as a first language. For Dr. Guerra, who speaks fluent Spanish, it’s a welcome addition to the care he’s been providing for 23 years. He’s been translating for Spanish-speaking patients since he arrived at the medical center.

“Who knew then that my Spanish would be needed so much as the Hispanic population in the area increased?” Dr. Guerra says. “Yet we are here for everybody the Lord has us serving.”