Fulfilling a lifelong dream while serving her country.
We all had dreams of what we’d be when we grew up. For Sabrina Whitehurst, MD, it was her childhood dream to be a doctor who brings babies into the world.
As an only child, Dr. Sabrina Whitehurst, an obstetrics and gynecology physician at Geisinger Gray's Woods in Port Matilda witnessed the struggles her own mother faced when trying to have more children — an experience that shaped her passion for women’s health.
Dr. Whitehurst’s dreams started to become reality when she was accepted to medical school. But that can be very expensive. Not letting anything stand in her way, she applied for the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) through the U.S. Army and was selected as a recipient. The scholarship covered Dr. Whitehurst’s medical school tuition in exchange for her service as a physician in the Army.
“This opportunity allowed me to live out my dream of becoming a physician while serving my country,” says Dr. Whitehurst, director of Geisinger’s women’s health in the western region.
Reporting for duty and caring for patients
After earning her medical degree from Howard University and completing her residency at the Reading Hospital Medical Center, Dr. Whitehurst set off for Fort Polk, La. It was there that she learned the value of teamwork and a strong work ethic.
“We only had two ob/gyns on the Army base,” explains Dr. Whitehurst. “I quickly learned how to work side by side with all my teammates, including nurses, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, to care for our patients. It’s a lesson of teamwork and mutual respect I’ve tried to apply every day in my work.”
She left Fort Polk for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where she completed a fellowship in minimally invasive gynecological surgery. She later served as Walter Reed’s chief of general ob/gyn and chief of minimally invasive gynecological surgery. She credits this experience for shaping her into the open-minded leader and optimistic troubleshooter she is today.
“The military teaches you that there’s always a way to get the job done,” says Dr. Whitehurst. “You just have to think outside the box and learn how to create solutions — like making lemonade out of lemons.”
Bringing her women’s healthcare skills to Geisinger
These critical-thinking skills made her transition from six years of military life to civilian life a smooth one. Instead of mulling over a problem, she focuses on the solution and encourages her team to do the same — a constructive approach that’s helped her in her role at Geisinger.
“It all comes down to our goal of providing excellent patient care,” says Dr. Whitehurst. “But how do we work together to achieve that goal? Everyone on the team has a voice, and I encourage them to use it — that’s when real change happens, and solutions are found.”
Dr. Whitehurst says it’s her teams at Gray’s Woods clinic and Geisinger Lewistown Hospital that inspire her to be her best every day.
“When you’re doing what you love with teammates who feel like they’re family, you know you’re in the right place,” says Dr. Whitehurst. “I felt that in the Army, and I feel it now at Geisinger.”
For Dr. Whitehurst, family plays an important role in her life, whether she’s at work or at home. In fact, it was a family move that led her to Geisinger. Her husband’s job brought the family to State College, an area Dr. Whitehurst knew well from attending Penn State University as an undergraduate.
Back in central Pennsylvania, Dr. Whitehurst jumped at the opportunity to work at Geisinger, an organization she was familiar with from her college days. She explains that coming to Geisinger was an easy decision.
“I truly appreciate the efforts the organization is making toward diversity and veteran support, and I feel fortunate to work for a military-friendly employer.”
As a member of the Army Reserve, Dr. Whitehurst has a military obligation to meet. She says Geisinger’s newest military leave benefit — which offers up to 80 hours of paid leave for employees serving in the Reserves and National Guard for training — shows support for our employees in the armed forces.
“Instead of using all my PTO or taking unpaid time to fulfill my military obligation, Geisinger provides a benefit to help me meet my commitment to my country,” says Dr. Whitehurst. “I couldn’t ask for a more supportive organization to work for.”