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Bringing health care closer to home

POSTED: July 4, 2013 2:50 p.m.
Photo by Paul Floeckher/

Effingham Health System CEO Norma Jean Morgan, holding scissors, tells the crowd at Monday’s ribbon cutting of the significance Effingham Family Medicine at Guyton will have in the community. The clinic is the first practice for Drs. Audie Sanks, at Morgan’s immediate right, and Tony Miranda, at her left.

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Having grown up in the small town of Jackson, Dr. Tony Miranda appreciates the importance of helping neighbors.

Miranda has carried that over to Guyton, where he and Dr. Audie Sanks have opened the first medical practice the community has had in years, Effingham Family Medicine.

"There is a huge need in this area. It has been under-served for many years," Miranda said. "Anytime there’s an opportunity to help the community, I think we should take advantage of it."

Effingham Family Medicine at Guyton opened for business Monday with a celebratory ribbon cutting. The clinic, located next to Medicap Pharmacy on Hidden Creek Drive, is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Effingham Health System long had wanted to open a doctor’s office in Guyton, CEO Norma Jean Morgan told the local leaders at the ribbon cutting. The community had not had a clinic since 1994, she said.

Morgan turned to Guyton Mayor Michael Garvin and said, "Mayor, you have a doctor’s office in Guyton," drawing applause from the crowd.

"I think it’s a big step providing some health care close to home," said Sanks, who lives in Guyton.

For the past year, Sanks has been Effingham Health’s hospitalist, a physician who focuses his practice on the care of hospitalized patients. In deciding where to open his own practice, he looked no further than the city he calls home.

"With so many family members and friends who live in this community, I feel a lot of pride in being able to start something here," Sanks said. "I think each smaller community in Effingham, as time goes on, feels stronger and stronger about not wanting to drive into Savannah (for medical care)."

Sanks and Miranda met when they were internal medicine residents at Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah. Miranda recently completed his residency, which included a month-long rotation at Effingham Health.

Meanwhile, Sanks, who was a year ahead of Miranda in residency, was busy recruiting his friend to join him in opening a medical practice in Effingham.

"After I got involved here at the hospital and realized how much I liked it here, I personally chose him to come on board with us," Sanks said.

"Working with Dr. Sanks, who grew up here, and listening to him, I think this presented an opportunity I couldn’t pass up," Miranda said.

Effingham Family Medicine at Guyton will serve adult and elderly patients. Patients’ children will be referred to Dr. Frank Zhong at Effingham Family Medicine at Goshen.

Like Sanks and Miranda, Zhong began his practice Monday. The community is invited to a reception at Zhong’s Rincon practice July 8 from 1-3 p.m.

Effingham Family Medicine at Guyton is housed in a building leased from Medicap Pharmacy. Morgan credited Medicap owner Amy Jacobs and her husband Herbert for making the office space a reality.

"We were excited to be able to locate next to a pharmacy," Morgan said. "We’re here because they stepped up and said, ‘We will build a building if you’ll bring the doctors.’"

Morgan concluded her remarks at the ribbon cutting by giving Sanks and Miranda each a copy of the daily devotional guide, "The Upper Room." She said she gave the gift as a reminder to the doctors that their talent to heal "comes from somebody other than you."

"I tell the physicians how blessed they are that God gave them the ability to be physicians," Morgan said. "Not everyone receives that appointment. Physicians, like Saint Luke, are given the ability to heal, and we take that very seriously at Effingham Health System."

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