Home is Where the Heart Is: Hometown Doctors

Featured Sliders / Health & Fitness / Lifestyle / Stories / January 12, 2016

We’re all familiar with the phrase or question, “can you ever go home again?” But that’s just what doctors Nolyn Nyatanga, Helen Tergin and Erin Graham did recently when they moved their lives and medical professions back to Central Missouri.

While all three doctors moved away to pursue their career and education, they’re arguably not the same person as they were when they left. They’re all older, one has married and had a child and they all bring their experiences back with them—so in essence they’re different people and so is their perspective.

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Erin Graham and Nolyn Nyatanga knew each other a bit when they both attended the same church in Jefferson City, but since returning to Mid-Missouri they have become a lot closer.

Graham, in her late 20’s, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri and graduated from the University of Misasouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry. She recently completed her residency at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine and Anschutz Medical Center. She currently works at the practice of Dr. Randal A. Scott, on East High Street in Jefferson City.

Currently in oncology at Goldschmidt Cancer Center, Dr. Nyatanga lives in Columbia. She received her degree in biology from Central Methodist University in Fayette, Missouri, and then her Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. She did her residency in internal medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, followed by a fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, Monter Cancer Center in New Hyde Park, NY.

HER asked them to share the good, the bad and even the ugly about being back in their hometown.

HER: Tell us about growing up here. What are some of your favorite memories?

Erin Graham:  I grew up in Hartsburg and love having the opportunity to return to the area. It’s nice to have family nearby, and I enjoy being able to invest in the community where I grew up. Additionally, I am thankful for the church community I had growing up at First United Methodist Church and for the crucial role it played in building me into the woman I am today. I still go to church there occasionally, sometimes with Nolyn but I usually go to The Crossing in Columbia on a regular basis.

Nolyn Nyatanga:  I was born in Zimbabwe and moved to the United States when I was 16 years old to start college. My earliest and fondest memories were built through the connections my family made through our church, also First United Methodist Church. I met some of the nicest, selfless and amazing people there and several families took it upon themselves to unofficially adopt me, and that made a world of difference for someone moving to a new place from halfway across the world. They even paid my way through college which was unbelievable—who does that for a total stranger, right? I never realized it then because I was so young, but now that I’m back home and practicing here, I’ve met some of the nicest people you’d ever be privileged to know and I realize that that was not just a church thing, it’s really the spirit of Jeff City. People are just genuinely nice and I’d say that’s my fondest memory of growing up here and it’s definitely still my fondest thing about being back home.

It must be great to be near family and friends. Are there any downsides?  

Erin Graham dentistE:  I like hanging out with my sister D’Arcy Crane and my niece. Now she can invite me over to dinner spur of the moment and I’m close enough to go. The weather here is a bit rough at times—mainly because of the humidity and having it feel much warmer or colder than the absolute temperature! I personally wish it would snow more. In Denver, the cost of living is very high and it’s also a very difficult job market. Those factors and my missing my family made me want to come home.

N:  I wish the complete opposite about the snow, but it is great to have our friends’ and family’s support. My parents are here and my brother and my nieces and nephews. People here are genuinely nice. Midwestern people are kind and really sincere. It’s good to be 30 minutes away though because otherwise my mother would drop by a lot more often. She sometimes stops by my work just to say hello, telling me “I was in the neighborhood.”

When did you decide to go into your chosen professions?

E:  Although I grew up around the profession of dentistry, it didn’t really stick until late high school. I dabbled in photography, graphic design and other artistic subjects; however, I kept returning to the medical field. I felt as though it would be challenging, but exhilarating to own my own business in the future, and I loved the opportunity that dentistry provides to impact the lives of others in a positive manner.

N:  My first rotation during my intern year at the Cleveland Clinic was in oncology on the leukemia service. I absolutely fell in love with everything about oncology and I fell in love with my patients. Hematology/oncology is such a unique field where you get the privilege to make a difference in people’s lives in a very special way. Not only was the educational part intellectually stimulating, but I also had the opportunity to make real, emotional connections with my patients and walk them through one of the most difficult times in their lives. Those connections in turn have really given personal meaning to my research and academic pursuits over the years because I do it for them. I can’t imagine myself doing anything different or more meaningful with my life.

Tell us about your patients? Your practice?

E:  I really enjoy family dentistry. Seeing children is rewarding, even though most people don’t think of kiddos and dentistry as a favorable pair. They have a lot to teach us in a dental setting, and they make it fun, reminding me to laugh throughout the day. They also put up with my singing!! If my patients enjoy their experience at the dentist, or at the very least do not dread returning, then I have been successful. I strive to make “going to the dentist” a unique experience that is beneficial to my patients.

Nolyn Nyantanga DON:  I was interviewing with hospitals across the country and when I came to Goldschmidt I really liked it and felt comfortable. Since it was close to my family it was my  first choice. I see mostly adults so they probably won’t take too kindly to me singing to them Erin–style, but I do get to have a lot of meaningful conversations with my patients. In addition to caring for their disease, we get to talk about other aspects of their lives such as family, work, and other fun stuff. I’m a city girl but you’d be impressed at how much I know about fishing, farming, ranching, haying and yes, even deer and turkey hunting. I really do enjoy learning about my patients because at the end of the day I’m not just treating their disease, I’m treating them as a whole and whatever matters to them matters to me.

What are your favorite places to go in town?

E:  Arris Pizza. Madison’s Café for a nice lunch. Gumbo Bottoms to grab appetizers or a drink with friends. There are still a few places that I’m excited to check out that have opened since I last lived in Jefferson City.

N:  I like the same places. Arris’ Bistro and Bandanas.

How is it being single here? How’s your social life?

E:  The festivals are enjoyable! Sometimes you need to spend a bit more time looking into the variety of opportunities available in mid-Missouri but it gets pretty entertaining. For instance, I went to my first barn dance north of Columbia not too long ago, and there was a live band and line dancing. It was an event put on by The Crossing and I had a grand time. I also met several guys and took one as a date to the Masquerade Ball at the Capitol that my brother, Johnny (Graham of Revel Catering) catered.

N:  I love the festivals and the locally grown produce. I went to the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival. I’ve also had the opportunity to go to several fundraisers for breast cancer put on by community members who have been through or are going through treatment for cancer and wish to make a difference in other people’s lives. There are always tons of women who come out in support and not only are these events fun, but they’re meaningful. And I have to say “way to go” to the women in this community because they always come out in large numbers to support each other and it’s really awesome to be a part of such a tight knit community that you really don’t find that everywhere else.

E:  It’s hard to find unattached, young professional men. People marry here when they’re younger so a lot of the single crowd around here are college aged and we’re at different stages in our lives.

N:  But I think there’s a lot of quality men in this area. You just have to find one.

What else do you do in your spare time?

E:  Being outdoors keeps me motivated to stay healthy and happy. Upon moving to Colorado, I began running—while I will never be a fast runner, setting goals and working to attain them is something that I greatly enjoy. My first half marathon was this past August in Estes Park, which was an exciting event seeing as I struggled to run even a mile at the end of 2014.

N:  I on the other hand am not as athletic as Erin. The most running I do is around the mall looking for bargains and sales. It’s a girl thing. I do work out on occasion though, mostly lifting weights and trying out random home workout videos. I pretty much have fallen for every workout infomercial out there for “only three payments of $19.99” so I have a nice little collection of workout DVDs if anyone wants to borrow one. But I love the outdoors, I love to travel when I have time.

Helen Tergin, MD

Helen Tergin Anderson always knew that she wanted to go into medicine. While attending Jefferson City High School, Helen Tergin worked at St. Mary’s Hospital and later attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee where she graduated with a bachelor of arts in Molecular Biology.

She then attended medical school at the University of Missouri School of Medicine in Columbia, and her first elective rotation was dermatology.

“I knew the first day of that rotation that it’s what I wanted to do. Dermatology gives me the opportunity to see patients of all ages and provides a nice combination of office procedures, medical issues as well as cosmetic,” said Tergin Anderson

She did her internship at the University of Missouri Department of Internal Medicine and residency with University of Missouri Department of Dermatology. During this time, she met her husband, John Anderson, at a Greek Orthodox church event in Chicago.

“He lived in Minnesota but we kept in touch long distance and we were engaged my last year of residency,” she said.

They married in Kansas City and then moved to Minneapolis, where she was in private practice from 2005 to 2015.

“I didn’t think we would ever leave because my husband’s family is there and he has such close ties to the area,” she said.

Their son, George Thomas, was born in 2014.  Now 21 months, he was named after her grandfather, George Tergin, and her husband’s grandfather, Thomas, who also came to this country from Greece. Her father’s middle name is James George.

“My grandfather was the center of our family and so influential in my life, my career and my future. He came to this country for a better life with nothing but hard work and determination and became a successful business owner,” she said.

“Growing up I was very close with my grandparents and they along with my parents were so supportive and they had so much history here in Jefferson City.”

Her mother and father, Irene and Jim Tergin, opened Carrie’s Hallmark Shop on High St. in 1976; and her two siblings live in Jefferson City, too. Carrie, who manages the Hallmark shop,  serves as the mayor of Jefferson City, and brother, George, along with his wife, Jennifer, owns Tergin Motors.

In a moment of synchronicity, some of the physicians she knew while in medical school contacted her out of the blue.

“They wanted to know if I was ever planning to move back here because there might be an opportunity. It was totally the right timing and everything changed after that telephone call,” she said.

By May of this year, her family had moved to Columbia and she started working for Central Missouri Dermatology, which has five locations in Mid-Missouri . She works primarily in the Columbia and Jefferson City offices.

“We treat skin, hair and nail diseases as well as general dermatology and also offer esthetician services,” she said. “We do full body skin exams and mole checks and we also do quite a bit of Botox and chemical peels.”

During an open house at Central Missouri Dermatology in Jefferson City, she was excited to see old friends stop by that have known her for years.

“I feel so lucky to be back here working with colleagues that I trained with at the University of Missouri,” she said. “When I graduated from residency, I was ready to go and open to moving away from the area, but now I appreciate being back and being able to see my family.”

On Mondays and Fridays when she’s at the Jefferson City office on Southwest Boulevard, her parents watch George.

“Sometimes Carrie stops by to say hello or we meet for dinner at Cork,” she said. “I also like being able to go to my nephew Parker’s soccer games. He is a junior at Southern Boone Co. R-1 and he and my husband are very close.”

“I couldn’t be happier to be back home,” she said. “The support of my family growing up and the role model of my Grandfather as well as my parents made me who I am today and I want my son to have the same experience growing up in this wonderful community.”

by Shelley Gabert | photography by Leah Beane

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