Tryon Medical Partners is excited to welcome three rheumatologists to the practice. We sat down with Dr. George, Dr. Johnson and Dr. Zouzoulas to learn more about their specialty, their background and the patients they treat.
What should people know about rheumatology?
Dr. George: In rheumatology, there is a lot of detective work. Our patients may come in with multiple symptoms that don’t seem related in any way, and it’s our job to piece it together.
Dr. Johnson: There are new medicines that are continuously coming out, which is a wonderful thing for people with these chronic diseases.
Dr. Zouzoulas: I think people have a misperception about rheumatology. They think it deals only with diseases of aging. While we do work with osteoarthritis patients, the vast majority of conditions we see are autoimmune diseases, which can affect adults from early adulthood to late adulthood. Patients are shocked that they’re getting diagnosed at 25, but that is very normal.
What kind of conditions do you treat?
Dr. George: I generally manage patients with several types of arthritis and some autoimmune disorders, such as Lupus. We provide non-surgical therapies for our patients. Many of the chronic conditions we treat affect women more than men, and age-wise, a lot of these conditions start in the 20s and 30s.
Dr. Johnson: We treat a wide range of things. Many of the people we see have an evolving condition that is not easily defined at the first visit. A lot of people with joint pain, who don’t fit a criteria for a specific disease, come to us. Conditions range from gout to rheumatoid arthritis to vasculitis. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis.
Why do you love working in rheumatology?
Dr. George: My grandmother suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. At that time, there were no effective treatments and steroids were the only option. Today, I have access to revolutionary biologic therapies. Now, remission is a realistic goal for my patients, and most can enjoy a normal quality of life. I love being able to follow up with my patients and see first hand how their lives improve over time.
Dr. Johnson: Rheumatologic illnesses can impact many different organs. It’s like a puzzle that you fit together. We treat chronic diseases that may not be as familiar — many people call it the “black box” specialty.
We see a lot of our patients every three months, some every four or six. You can see them at their worst, and then get their meds on board and see them functioning normally. The best thing about my job is the relationships I form with my patients.
Dr. Zouzoulas: I knew I wanted to do something with long-term continuity of care. I really like that rheumatology is a puzzle that unfolds over many years, and is a hands-on specialty. So much of medicine today focuses on numbers and data, but with rheumatology, you have to be present with the patient and feel their joints, be there in the moment with them.
The best thing about my job is helping people. Being able to improve or take away people’s pain, improve their fatigue, and give them back a much higher level of functional quality of life, is awesome. Seeing a sick person turn into a functional person is incredibly satisfying.
Why are you excited to work with Tryon Medical Partners?
Dr. George: I think what Tryon is doing for the patients is innovative — giving them individualized care in a time when other systems are moving away from that.
Dr. Johnson: It’s kind of like coming home. The great thing is the interplay with all the other providers, both the specialists and internal medicine doctors. At Tryon, I can pick up the phone and talk to another specialist immediately. Tryon has great doctors and is very patient-centered, which is sadly not common anymore.
Dr. Zouzoulas: I’m glad to be back in the multi-specialty model. Even though we divide people into individual things doctors treat, it’s nice to have that level of communication with the different Tryon specialists. A lot of times, patients will see all Tryon doctors, and I can touch base with those doctors easily. It’s a collaborative environment to get our patients better.
What do you do in your free time?
Dr. George: I like to use my vacation time to travel with my husband and two young kids. We love to learn about other cultures, especially their cuisine. Otherwise, I enjoy gardening, which is made much easier by the great weather here in Charlotte.
Dr. Johnson: I have a five-year-old, and we love to play soccer together. My husband and I play on a co-ed team, and we’re huge college football fans.
Dr. Zouzoulas: I have three grade school-aged children — an 11-year-old and twin eight-year-olds. So school activities and play dates keep me busy. But I still get some time to travel with my husband. Now that our kids are getting older, we’re able to do it as a family.
Learn more about rheumatology and call our rheumatology department directly at 704-900-6225.