When she was in the seventh grade in Oklahoma, Tina Burns took a biology class that changed her life. “For the first time, I saw how the body worked, and it was fascinating,” she says. “I knew right then that I wanted to be a doctor.”
After earning a degree in biology at Millsaps, she attended medical school at the University of Mississippi, located in Jackson. Burns had hoped to become an OB/GYN, but “you’ve heard the expression that we make plans, and God laughs”? When it came time to apply for a residency, a requirement for any doctor, she didn’t match up with the schools that had OB/GYN openings. So, with a group of fellow medical students “who were also scrambling around, just like I was,” she took her residency in family practice at St. Francis Hospital in Memphis.
It was, in the long run, a good move for her. “It was excellent training,” she says, “because we covered everything: emergency medicine, cardiology, neonatal intensive care. We did it all.”
She first began working at HealthFirst (later Prucare) HMO in 1987, and after 14 years joined the Family Physicians Group. In 2013 she became one of the six physicians at MidSouth Family Medicine, a member of the Methodist Primary Care Group.
These are challenging times for the medical industry, and Burns admits that working with insurance company restrictions and the newly computerized patient information systems can be a headache. “It’s been a huge learning curve, and it takes time to input all that information,” she says. “I’d much rather be talking to a patient than typing on a computer. Patients don’t want to be treated like they are machines.”
At the same time, she acknowledges that all those computers enhance access to crucial information. “If I’m at home, on call for another physician, I can just pull up my laptop and the records for that doctor’s patient are right there in front of me.” During this interview, in fact, a nurse brought in a laptop, allowing Burns to look at a patient’s progress and change her medication in a matter of seconds — without even pulling her chart.
As a family-care practitioner, Dr. Burns says she enjoys working with all ages of patients, from children to the elderly. “At the risk of sounding hokey, I don’t consider this a job, but a vocation. It’s my way of serving God’s purpose,” she says. “Being his hands and feet, helping people.”