Dr. Reva Duff Tackett is one of the most well-regarded gynecologists in Central Kentucky, a status she says has its roots in the lessons and work ethic she learned growing up working in her parents' grocery store in Floyd County.
Tackett will receive the 2012 Winners' Circle Award from the Lexington chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners on Tuesday at a luncheon at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort and Spa.
A partner at the Women's Care Center on Nicholasville Road, she follows previous winners including Betty Spain, owner of Bella Rose boutique; attorney Natalie Wilson; and Deirdre Lyons of Alltech.
Tackett and her late husband, Dr. David Scott Guiler, raised a family of four children, the youngest of whom is in college. She has one grandchild.
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She is a graduate of Garrett High School in Floyd County, now consolidated into Allen Central High. She attended Alice Lloyd College for two years and received her bachelor's and medical degrees from the University of Kentucky, where she also did her residency. She began her practice in 1985 at Physicians for Women on Wilhite Drive, where she was the first female physician to join the practice.
Tackett, 58, spoke with the Herald-Leader about how she started out working in the family business in Hueysville and the health issues facing women today. Her desk at the Women's Care Center has both gynecological journals and a Bible.
This is an edited transcript of the conversation.
Question: Was it difficult for women physicians when you started practicing?
Answer: I was a very welcome addition. That's probably one of the draws that got me thinking about ob/gyn, because I was finishing my third year of medical school when I had my daughter. Going through that experience, I decided that we needed more women in the field. So that was a draw for me, to offer an option of a female physician taking care of females.
So when I joined Physicians for Women, I think it was a big draw for the group. Patients that came to see me said that they wanted to see a female.
Q: Do you have a particular philosophy about dealing with employees and patients?
A: I grew up in the grocery business. My mother and father had a grocery store my whole life. We were taught from a very young age that the customer is always right. I actually worked in that business the whole time I was in school, until I went off to college.
I gained a huge sense of responsibility with that, because by the time I hit my teenage years, I was often left in charge of the grocery store while my mom and dad had other obligations. Obviously, it was a small grocery store. It wasn't a huge supermarket. But I think that that sense of responsibility, and the work ethic that instills in you, has been a great work ethic for me, in coming into my practice.
You take on that idea that you're providing a service, and you do it always with a smile on your face, and you go out of your way to help that individual find whatever they need.
Now, I think it's important that you show the individual respect. The people you work with, I think it's important that you always show them respect and be aware and reward excellence. You want to exhibit excellence in the way you carry yourself and take care of your staff and patients, that it's a joint venture. If you have a good staff that you're working with, and you're working with a hospital that provides the services you want, that's the best it can be.
Q: You've been practicing since 1985. Do you have a retirement date?
A: I don't have a retirement date. I get asked that a lot. I do gynecology only now. I did stop obstetrics a few years ago. But yes, I still intend to keep practicing.
Q: How did you balance doing obstetrics while raising four children?
A: My husband did obstetrics, also. Luckily for us we had two older children and two younger children. Our older children were very good baby-sitters. They had driver's licenses and were able to pick up and take to practices when we were busy.
I had a very loving husband who maintained duties at home if I was tied up at the hospital. And I have to be honest with you: If it wasn't for him I wouldn't be here talking to you about this and receiving this award. Because he made it possible for me to have the time to devote to my patients outside the home.
Q: What advice do you give to young women who are just starting in your field?
A: For women coming out, I think it's important you know you have the choice to make. ... It is possible, as long as you're in a good partnership, at home as well as at work, you can have the family and still provide excellent care for your patients. And I think your patients respect that too, when they see that part of you. ...
You can do it either way. I think that's the beauty of it. If you want your career to be your life, that's OK, but if you've got a family, you've got the time to devote to them, too. It's a conscious choice you have to make.
Q: Is there anything we would be surprised to learn about you?
A: I have a black belt in karate. Most people at the hospital are surprised to hear. ... I actually got my black belt degree when I was still a med student.
Q: What's the health problem you see in Kentucky that worries you the most? Is it that women don't come in enough to take care of their health?
A: I don't think it's their preference. I think it's when they hear about articles that are based solely on task force recommendations strictly looking at cost-effectiveness. I think that gives them a little bit of freedom to think, "Oh, I don't need to go in right now," with the newer recommendations on pap smears, let's say, and the recommendations a few years ago on mammography.
They're the caretakers in the house, they care for their parents and in-laws, so they put themselves on the back burner, take everybody else to their appointments first. We frequently have that conversation with women. When they see something in the news or in the newspapers, they think, "Oh, I'm OK. Maybe I don't have to go in that often."
The problem is, you don't just do an individual thing in an exam. You have someone who thinks that they don't have to go in but once every three years for a pap smear, that means you're not going to get your breasts examined, you're not going to have your uterus checked, you're not going to have your ovaries checked.
The mammography issue, really, it's very frustrating for me. We all know women in their 40s and 50s who have had breast cancer. The other problem is, the majority we're seeing now are not women who have family histories of breast cancer. If you tell them that because they have no family history they're OK until 50 to get screened, are you telling the women between 40 and 50 that you're willing to write them off, that it's OK if we don't catch your cancer early?