Sometimes it’s easy to see why a person pursued a particular career when looking at his family history.
Other times a man’s path can seem very different than that of the relatives who came before him.
Dr. Durant Abernethy, 30, is an example of the latter.
His father, Richard, was a college football player at the University of Kansas and played for the national championship in the 1969 Orange Bowl. His grandfather, D.S. Abernethy, dealt mostly in novelties and, after teaming up with a man by the name of John Merritt, went on to invent the Bomb Pop, Neapolitan ice cream bars and what is now called the Chipwich. D.S. Abernethy’s original name for the cookie and ice cream treat was UFO, for Unidentified Frozen Object.
Although Abernethy worked with his grandfather on at least one frozen creation — an ice cream bar designed in honor of the popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles of his childhood — Abernethy ultimately embarked on his own path.
On Monday Abernethy will officially join High Country Healthcare’s Frisco office as a dual specialist in internal medicine and pediatrics. It’s not only rare for doctors to possess training in both disciplines, but it also makes Abernethy a valuable addition to the High Country Healthcare team.
Internists are best recognized as specialists for adults and pediatricians as specialists for children. His dual training enables Abernethy to eliminate the common practice for patients to transition from a pediatrician to an internist when they turn 18.
Abernethy’s training also allows him to provide a full complement of services from general primary care to prevention, diagnosis, and compassionate care for the entire spectrum of disease from temporary illnesses, such as flu, rashes, aches and pains, to complex chronic conditions, like asthma, diabetes and arthritis, throughout a patient’s lifespan.
“With Dr. Lackey’s retirement this month, we are excited to have a provider with special expertise in caring for both adults and children joining our team,” said Rhonda Koehn, CEO of High Country Healthcare, in a news release.
Despite Abernethy’s unique training in both child and adult care, what really sets him apart as a health care provider is his intimate knowledge of one chronic condition he specializes in treating.
Born and raised in Kansas City, Kan., Abernethy earned his medical doctorate from the University of Kansas Medical School. Prior to medical school he graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy.
It was during the week before his commencement from Vanderbilt that Abernethy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
“Guys don’t typically weigh themselves that often, but I had also recently made the commitment to getting back in shape,” Abernethy said. “I weighed myself in March and I was 198 pounds. When I went home in May to borrow the family truck to move from Nashville (after graduation) my parents were concerned about my weight.”
Abernethy weighed himself again during that trip home and the scale read 172 pounds. He had lost 26 pounds in just less than six weeks.
“I tried to tell my parents that I was slimming down from working out, but after I weighed myself I knew exactly what was going on,” Abernethy said. “No one loses 26 pounds in six weeks naturally.”
A visit to his hometown doctor confirmed what Abernethy already knew, but the young doctor said his commitment to maximizing his control over his disease has paid dividends in his ability to provide sound advice to patients suffering from the same illness.
He cited a conversation with a local man at the Frisco Safeway who had recently been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. During the course of the conversation Abernethy discovered the man had no plans to take the pills prescribed by his doctor.
Typically patients diagnosed with type 1 diabetes are prescribed five different medications to manage the disease and control their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, Abernethy said.
“Like weighing themselves, guys also aren’t very good at taking their medication, so I said to him, “What if I told you could get all the medication you need from two pills?’” Abernethy said. “That’s what this job is all about, providing that education so people can improve their quality of life.”
In addition to easing transitional medicine for local patients, Abernethy said he also hopes to partner with local elected officials and the Summit School District to increase healthy food and drink options for kids and local residents, particularly for the management and prevention of diabetes.
Right now there are more than 60 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the U.S., Abernethy said. About 5,000 of those people live in Summit, Eagle, Lake and Park counties, according to 2010 data.
“I always focus on drinks first because most people don’t factor (sugar intake from) drinks into their daily diet,” Abernethy said. “One 12-ounce soda, consumed every day for 365 days, equates to 15 pounds you either gained or didn’t lose.”
Abernethy has big plans for his new job in Summit County, but he’s also looking forward to enjoying everything the High Country has to offer with his wife of a year, Maggie, and his two Great Danes.
“When my residency was wrapping up (at the University of South Alabama Medical System) it was Colorado or bust for us,” Abernethy said. “A lot of people work to someday buy a second home or retire to a place like this. We just decided to move to where we wanted to retire right away.”
“That’s what this job is all about, providing that education so people can improve their quality of life.”
Dr. Durant Abernethy