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Get to know Dr. Stephen Carter

July 10, 2018
Published in: Spotlight, Surgery

Dr. Carter with his family

The first thing you may notice when speaking with Dr. Carter is his upbeat attitude and obvious passion for his work. A Southern California native, he grew up in San Diego against the backdrop of clear skies and sunny beaches. Number three of four boys, he comes from a long line of medical practitioners. In fact, all four of the Carter brothers are surgeons now.

Rewind to Dr. Carter's early days though, and you'd find a young man with a different career path in mind. An avid musician, Dr. Carter spent much of his time growing up playing the piano, writing music, and performing in bands. A career in music seemed like a natural choice.

However, after some consideration, he realized music was more of a hobby than a career path. He knew two things for sure though – he liked working with his hands, and he liked to teach. With that in mind, he entered Point Loma College in San Diego, majored in science, and ultimately decided to be a physician. "I knew it would be satisfying for me to be able to help people and see results. I liked that if someone came to me with problems, I could say, 'Well here's the diagnosis, here's what I can do to help, and let's go down this road together,'" Dr. Carter explains.

After undergrad, he headed to Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for medical school. In his last two years of medical school, he became involved in clinical research conducted by a breast surgeon named Dr. Schwartz. The research focused on treating patients with advanced forms of cancer. "I was with him a lot in his office, so I could see how he did things. I saw how he formed relationships with patients. He would listen to what they said, explain what we were doing, and what to expect. He was very much a teacher and a well-respected doctor," reflects Carter.

His experience with Dr. Schwartz would go on to influence his decision to choose general surgery with a specialization in breast surgery as his focus. In fact, after his residency at Barnes Hospital of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, he returned to Philadelphia to complete a breast care fellowship and work with Dr. Schwartz on breast cancer research. Once medical school was finished, Dr. Carter began planning his next move.

As fate would have it, he took a job in West Virginia. It turned out to be more than a career choice. It's also the place where he met his wife. "One of the first Sundays when I was at my new church in West Virginia, there was a woman on stage signing and helping lead the service. When I saw her, I thought, 'Wow, she's beautiful, and she can sing,' – the rest is history," remembers Dr. Carter. He enthusiastically credits her with "keeping him together" and being his biggest supporter.

After his time in West Virginia, Dr. Carter accepted a position in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania working at the breast center and doing general surgery. The Carters stayed in Pennsylvania for the next fifteen years and welcomed two sons to their family. Luckily, when Augusta Health announced they were seeking a general surgeon, but also a breast surgeon to build the breast care practice, Dr. Carter was intrigued. It didn't hurt that the position was based in the scenic Shenandoah Valley. Since arriving, the Carter family has enjoyed hiking, kayaking, and exploring all the Valley has to offer.

Dr. Carter has a very clear philosophy for his service at Augusta Health. In fact, you can hear the devotion in his voice when he speaks about it. "I always treat my patients like a person, not a disease process. There's the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual part of every person. I see them as that whole person, and I try to give them as much hope as possible," Dr. Carter thoughtfully explains.

Though breast cancer is a scary diagnosis for anyone, Dr. Carter emphasizes the importance of self-breast exams for early detection and having regular mammograms. He encourages people not to fear the unknown, but rather embrace the positive aspects of identifying cancer early. Though not curable, Dr. Carter reminds patients that it is highly treatable – especially if detected early.

When asked what advice he'd give to anyone considering a career in medicine, Dr. Carter is well versed. It turns out, his teenage son has been considering carrying on the family's medical career legacy. His advice is exactly what he tells his son. "First, you have to be dedicated with your whole heart, mind, and soul. Make sure you have the dedication and commitment before you start. Second, don't go into it for the money because there's actually a lot of expense involved in becoming a doctor. Finally, it's a giving career. You're going to give a lot of yourself, and it can be very emotional. Make sure you have the perspective of being of service to people," Dr. Carter advises.

As my conversation with Dr. Carter ends, he reflects again on the word 'hope."One of the main things my staff and I do here is promote hope. With a difficult diagnosis, it's easy for people to lose sight of hope. When we're helping patients with their fears, we give hope first, and then we explain things. To me, that's the greatest accomplishment – treating patients like people, not a diagnosis and giving them hope," Dr. Carter emphasizes.

Dr. Carter brings excellent skill and talent to his work – but it's his cornerstone of hope that makes his practice even more special. We're so glad to welcome the Carter family to the Shenandoah Valley and Dr. Carter to the Augusta Health Team.