Dr. Paul L. Jett
Dr. Paul L. Jett is happy with the path he's chosen as a physician.
"This line of work is a good fit for me," he reflected. "Continuity with patients, really being able to help people, going off the beaten path — that's what I wanted as a doctor."
Jett, a board-certified specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, offers his services through HealthStar Physicians Group, a multispecialty provider group located in Morristown. His training enables him to facilitate recovery and rehabilitation for patients dealing with stroke, brain injury, prosthetics, cancer, and even back pain — just to name a few areas. Basically, he offers nonsurgical treatment for those with disabilities to help them improve their overall quality of life.
This desire to offer tangible help for people with disabilities should come as no surprise: rehabilitation, in one form or another, seems to have been something of a specialty for the Jett family. Jett's mother taught reading for underprivileged children, and his father is a licensed social worker whose skills range from drug and alcohol intervention to general life issues counseling. As well, he added, both parents were always extremely hard workers who modeled a strong work ethic.
"I don't want to get all spiritual," he said, "but that's how I was raised. You do the right thing; you try to help people out."
He also noted that having grown up with a cousin who was confined to a wheelchair because of a head trauma was probably another significant influence on his career choice, at least subconsciously.
Born and raised in Kentucky, Jett attended Tate's Creek High School in Lexington. His Bluegrass roots grew deeper as he attended the University of Kentucky in Lexington and then went on to medical school at the University of Louisville.
"I had wanted to be a doctor even as a kid," he explained. "But at medical school, it took a little while before I finally settled on a particular direction."
Part of the process for Jett was finding the right specialty, because he did not just want to treat diseases. He was looking for a combination of the right lifestyle (so much for emergency medicine!) and plenty of patient interaction. Significantly, his girlfriend, Jeannie – who is now his wife – was a speech therapist, which helped foster his interest in rehabilitative medicine. He said that her advice, "If you go this direction, your patients won't just be another number," rang true.
However, Jeannie was not the only influence at this juncture of Jett's life, when he was deciding on his particular medical specialty. Incredibly, further motivation came in the form of a major family setback: both his father-in-law and nephew suffered strokes.
Dealing with this challenge and watching them go through the rehabilitation process, Jett found inspiration for his own training, which he completed at the Charlotte Institute of Rehabilitation in North Carolina.
He said, "I wanted to emphasize physical medicine more, not the rehabilitation component. After the program, though, I found I liked the rehabilitation more."
Certainly, Jett has kept himself busy helping his patients. He dedicates much of his time to helping stroke survivors, among others, at Lakeway Regional Hospital, where he is co-medical director of the inpatient rehabilitation center. He is also medical director for the physical therapy center at HealthStar, where one of his particular specialties is helping people with back pain. He noted that most back pain can be treated nonsurgically — and that back pain is the second most common reason that patients cite for going to see a doctor.
"By the time they come to us, most of our patients have already had MRIs, CT scans, et cetera," he noted. "So we focus on a physical exam and use our expertise to pinpoint the real issue. Mostly, we try to identify and isolate what is actually causing the patient's pain, so that we can treat it effectively."
Jett, who joined HealthStar in August 2005, thrives on the dynamism of the physicians group and the challenge of starting his own practice.
"The learning curve has been steep," he said. "I've really stretched myself and acquired skills even faster than I had anticipated.
"It's an exciting place to work. There've been growing pains, of course, because we've started everything from scratch. Morristown is an interesting place because even though the city itself is fairly small, we draw on the area between Knoxville and the Tri-Cities, which is quite a good-sized area. And we offer a lot. We have everyone from a podiatrist to an OB/GYN to a psychiatrist on staff, and we have our own lab, MRI, PT scanner, and physical therapy center. It was a great opportunity for me to land here after completing my residency."
Professionally, Jett looks forward to the coming years, citing primarily a desire for expansion in terms of patient mix, educating and informing patients about the services he and others in his field offer, and an overall desire to provide services to the community.
"Really, there's something of a new element of stability in my life these days. Up until now, I've felt like I've been working like a maniac to get things up and running. Now, though, I've accomplished the goals I had set, and I just want to enjoy coming to work and doing what I do each day, help people, and do some good. I feel like I'm creating more time to enjoy with my family."
Indeed, one of his favorite hobbies is "watching the girl grow up." "The girl" is his 22-month-old daughter Polly.
Jett also enjoys working out, playing basketball and golf, and playing with his dogs, a Jack Russell terrier and a bulldog-husky mix.
It would seem, then, that Jett is enjoying the balancing act: working hard, playing hard, helping others — and being a family man as well. As he points out, life is good.
"Helping people like stroke survivors, for example, is an amazing thing," he admitted. "Yes, it's hard because you see what they have to go through. But then they get on the rebound, and it's really something watching the human element take over. You can't really have a bad day with a job like this. You can't feel sorry for yourself."