SOUTH KINGSTOWN–After spending 15 years outside of the Ocean State and Washington County, Dr. Jordan Hebert returned to South County Hospital a few months ago to serve his hometown community.
“It was kind of a homecoming coming back into and being a part of the community that you’ve always called home when you’ve been away for so long, it’s pretty special,” he said. “I think I realized during my years away that this was a pretty special place.”
Hebert has performed a number of acute and laparoscopic surgeries, many of which have been on people he went to elementary, middle or high school with. Other patients have included family friends or the children of community members he knows, but to Hebert, the purpose is always the same: to provide an immediate impact for those who are in need.
A Chariho High School graduate, Hebert first left southern Rhode Island when he went to college at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he graduated with a bachelor of science in Biomedical Sciences. He then took a year off and worked for this father’s construction company, before returning to medical school at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine. Hebert went on to complete his postdoctoral training at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals in Stratford, New Jersey, Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, New Jersey and Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Maryland.
At the beginning of his medical journey, Hebert was on track to do biomedical research in a laboratory. However, once he realized that clinical research moves slowly and does not always give concrete results, he decided to switch to surgery.
“In clinical medicine, it takes years– decades–to come to conclusions or a promising research outcome,” Hebert said. “It’s just kind of you, the lab desk and micro pipettes. It’s a very isolating, antisocial environment.”
Hebert enjoys the interaction with his patients and other hospital staff, as well as making positive outcomes occur every day.
“That instant gratification is quite exciting,” he said. “Now, in the advent of robotic surgery, it’s really exciting. There’s been an explosion in the ability to take these very beneficial procedures that have unfortunate side effects, or consequences that have been high risk, and really minimize that.”
Hebert and some of his colleagues are hoping to launch a bariatric surgery program later this year. According to Hebert, bariatric surgery is much more than just a weight loss operation; it is about all of the benefits that come along with the weight loss. These include reducing the risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea and cardiac disease.
“Patients who are in this category, their bodies have often developed what’s termed a metabolic syndrome, and it’s kind of this body wide, low grade inflammatory process that carries with it a lot of medical issues that creep in slowly together with the extra weight,” Hebert said. “Incidents of cancer are much higher in this population, risk of premature death is higher in this population as well.”
Hebert explained that last year he had a patient who was on four blood pressure medications, three diabetes medications, and medication for high cholesterol before their bariatric surgery and was using a CPAP machine for their sleep apnea so they didn’t stop breathing during the night. Once they received bariatric surgery and came in for their six-month follow-up visit, however, they were off all the medications and were no longer using the CPAP machine.
“That patient had a multitude of, I think eight or nine different medical conditions all related to this metabolic syndrome,” he said. “They were able to cut all that polypharmacy out of their daily regimen and also have the benefit of being more active than they had been in years.”
With almost all bariatric surgeries, the patient ends up in a much better place than where they started, which gives Hebert satisfaction.
This is not the same with other types of surgery.
“Often patients, you know, just a couple of days before you meet them were doing very, very well, and then they come back in very, very sick,” Hebert said. “Although the vast majority of the time you are able to make them better and they’re doing better, often they don’t always get right back to where they started or, best case scenario, get them back to their baseline.”
Hebert said that right now, the most common surgery he completes is hernia repair. The same can be said for his partner, Dr. Joseph Brady. This is another area of minimally invasive surgeries which he gets excited about, because of the increased number of approaches offered in today’s world.
He noted that there is no “typical” day at the hospital. Some days he will get to the hospital at 6 a.m. to check on his patients, then head down to the preoperative area to make sure all of his patients are prepared for their surgeries. Other days, he will be the surgeon that is designated to handle all the emergency care that comes through the hospital. Hebert generally performs four cases in the operating room on a standard day.
Though he had no preference to leave Washington County or to stay, he is grateful to have ended up in his hometown again.
“You start to miss the ocean when you’re a couple hundred miles away from it, you miss the warm summer when you’re up north in July and the ocean’s still cold,” he said. “There’s a lot of little things, and it’s nice to be able to have shared experiences in this area.”
For Hebert, it is easier to build a trusting patient-physician relationship and break the ice because of these similar experiences.
However, he does find it weird to be Jordan Hebert, MD instead of just a resident.
“It’s a really great feeling to have people you’ve known for a long time come to you seeking your input,” he said. “Whether it’s medical advice, or casually stopping when they see you out in public and asking you about the hospital and other providers you work with.”