Tucker clan joins forces at UMMC’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Family and career are equally important priorities for the Tucker clan. It was those two priorities that led Dr. Marty Tucker and daughters Dr. Ann Tucker and Clara Tucker, a registered nurse, to the same place: the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Since January, when Marty left private practice to become chair and full-time faculty member of the department, all three Tuckers have worked together.
Clara joined the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility last year as a nurse to Dr. John Isaacs after a year working in another area of the hospital. That same year, her sister Ann, after completing her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University, returned to Jackson to work as an OB-GYN at the Medical Center.
“I was the first (at UMMC),” Clara, who works in the Medical Center’s Mirror Lake OB-GYN clinic in Flowood, points out.
While the born-and-bred Jacksonians work in different roles in obstetrics and gynecology, neither Ann nor Clara had planned to end up in the medical field like their father and their mother, a former nurse. And they certainly didn’t plan to end up in the same specialty.
Marty not only worked in private practice locally in obstetrics and gynecology, but was involved in the field on a national level his entire career – culminating in his current position as president-elect of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Clara admits she took classes in college in almost every single major before landing on exercise science with plans to be an occupational therapist.
“Considering my whole family is medical, I was determined to do something different in college,” said Clara, pointing out another of her sisters, Dr. Mary Grace Sessums, is a physician. “I took classes in every field – accounting, CSD (communication sciences and disorders), economics – only to find myself majoring in exercise science my junior year.”
After a surgery interfered with her ability to complete all the prerequisites for OT school, she decided to apply to nursing school. She graduated from Belhaven University with her bachelor of science in nursing in 2018 and began working at UMMC in University Hospital.
Ann had a similar story, completing two majors (international studies and Spanish) and two minors (gender studies and biology) at the University of Mississippi, with thoughts of doing humanitarian work one day.
But her biology minor reignited an interest in science, and, at the same time, she realized medicine – especially OB-GYN – is a multifaceted field.
“OB-GYN crossed paths with everything I was interested in,” she said.
Seeing three of his daughters pursue careers in medicine was an exciting surprise to Marty. And Sarah, the youngest daughter, is a CPA engaged to a third-year medical student at UMMC.
“I never recruited them into it, so I’m just tickled to death at whatever I did that may have encouraged them,” he said.
He may have been tickled when three of four wound up in medicine, but when he found himself working at the same hospital in the same department as two of those daughters in January, he was thrilled on another level.
“They (Clara and Ann) were my biggest recruiters. They were the ones who encouraged me to make the leap and take the job here,” he said. “I’m very, very proud of them.”
In particular, no one expected Ann, who always traveled extensively and studied abroad in South America and Spain, to return to Mississippi. But last year, while finishing her residency in North Carolina, she realized she wasn’t ready to leave her home in Jackson for good.
“While I liked North Carolina, I was missing every family function and having to look at my calendar months in advance to plan when I would come back for this or that. I realized for the long term, I didn’t want to be permanently away,” she said.
Her dad describes himself as a “Mississippian through and through” and pointed out the family’s strong bonds in the Jackson community.
He and his wife, Robin, had a child enrolled in Jackson Academy for 23 consecutive years, beginning in 1991 and ending in 2014, and they are active in St. Richard Catholic Church.
Ann missed her family and those Mississippi ties, but her time in North Carolina confirmed something else important to her. She’d always heard how Mississippi had a lack of resources and care, particularly in the medical world, but she really understood it after her experience at Duke.
“People always say Mississippi is really underserved, but when I went to Duke, I saw the difference in the resources that are available not only to people who are in training, but also to the patients,” she said. “I thought this was probably one of the places that not only could I have a lot of potential for professional growth, but probably one of the places I could make the biggest impact.”
Now, she spends most of her time in the hospital, with a couple of days a month in clinic. Her passion is hospital work because she loves being part of a team of physicians, nurses, residents, fellows and other health care professionals. She also enjoys not knowing what might come up each day.
The Medical Center provides Marty, Ann and Clara the opportunity to each make a big impact in their own way.
After nearly a year working in the Progressive Care Unit at the hospital, Clara got the chance to work with Dr. John Isaacs, one of three reproductive endocrinology specialists in the state. She loves working as part of a small team.
“We get to know our patients really well,” she said.
And with the COVID-19 pandemic and the spread of the virus beginning in Mississippi in early March, the Tuckers have had the chance to step up in ways they never imagined.
Marty is leading the entire OB-GYN department through its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He and others in the department have had to rethink every step in what used to be normal procedures and processes.
“I had been at UMMC about 8 weeks, then a pandemic was declared. Several people have said to me ‘This couldn’t have been a worse time to come to UMMC,’ but I take the opposite view,” said Marty. “Being in the middle of this has allowed me to accelerate my learning curve and work with such an esteemed group and such bright minds that I might not have been able to under normal circumstances. At this point I’ve gotten the experience in two months that it might have taken me five years to get otherwise.”
He credits Dr. Rachael Morris, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UMMC, with her forward-thinking approach to the pandemic.
“She realized before the rest of us the urgency of doing things to protect our patients and our workforce,” he said. “From the logistics of getting a patient in and out of the hospital, in and out of the operating room, in and out of the delivery room, what we do about mother-baby sets (where there is suspected or confirmed COVID-19), things you just take for granted are now suddenly turned upside down.”
Meanwhile, Ann has seen the new protocols created by her father, Morris and others play out in real time at the hospital. Visitors are strictly limited, and doctors, nurses and other employees all wear masks. Mothers with COVID-19 are isolated in negative pressure rooms and deliver without their significant other or spouse, and those babies go to a neonatal COVID-19 unit with special isolettes.
“It looks a lot different (for patients) than what you probably expected when you found out you were pregnant nine months ago,” she said.
Despite the added stresses a global pandemic brought the family-members-turned-coworkers, they are still delighted to get the chance to work together.
People often ask Marty why he took the job at UMMC.
“The answer is two-fold. First, Dr. (LouAnn) Woodward gave me an opportunity I never thought I would have, and secondly, the opportunity to get to work with these two,” he said.