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A Sterling Achievement

Urologist Ray Brenton Terrell passed up a potential athletic career, but finds himself still in the game 27 years later

MOUNT STERLING In baseball, there’s no better feeling than rounding third and heading for home to score the game-winning run. It is a feeling Brent Terrell, MD, felt many times, first as a high school baseball star at Morgan County High School in eastern Kentucky and then as a member of the baseball team at Georgetown College.

But baseball was far from Terrell’s only interest. By the time he was in junior high school, he already had an interest in medicine and perhaps becoming a doctor. Both those dreams remained very much alive until he faced a moment of truth in college.

“I remember I was at Georgetown College, having the tough decision whether to go on the spring baseball trip or to stay home and prepare for the MCAT,” Terrell recalls. “I chose to stay and prepare for the MCAT. If it hadn’t been for this absolute preset path I had in my mind, I might have considered making a run in the minor leagues. But I knew there was something else I had to do and if I did anything else it would take me off track, so I had to sadly walk away.”

After Georgetown College, Terrell went to the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, followed by a urology residency at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Urology was not his first choice, but ultimately it was the right choice.

“I had laid the groundwork to pursue another surgical subspecialty, but I realized that my choice was not what I wanted to do,” Terrell says. “I had a medical school colleague

A star on the Georgetown college baseball team, Dr. Terrell pursued a medical career over a shot at the major leagues.

who was going into urology and he encouraged me to look into urology. Once I did, I fell in love with it.”

Terrell found that urology fit many of the things he enjoyed most about practicing medicine. He appreciated the academic and research components of urology combined with the practical and surgical applications. He also found the universal need for urology to be very rewarding.

“Urology is underappreciated until you need it,” Terrell says. “Most people are going to need it at some point in their life, kind of like a plumber. I always say we are human plumbers.”

Returning to His Roots

After his residency in Iowa, Terrell came back to set up a solo practice in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, in 1996. He maintained that solo practice for nine years before expanding his scope of work to locations such as hospitals large and small, outreach clinics, and ambulatory service centers. Throughout his career, he has stayed in Kentucky and has maintained a presence in Mount Sterling.

On January 15, 2024, he returned to his roots, when he joined CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group in Mount Sterling.

“That community has been in my blood for 27 years,” Terrell says. “I have always maintained some scale of practice there. Now I feel like I’m home and am getting back to my roots. It feels full circle.”

At age 61, Terrell is as passionate as ever about urology, but he has also embraced the need for more work/life balance. He estimates that he works about 40 hours a week now and is off at least one week per month. Terrell lives in Lexington and drives 45 minutes to Mount Sterling daily.

“I think everyone has had an awareness of a different work/life balance paradigm,” Terrell says. “My practice has evolved about 180 degrees over the last 27 years, but the fact that I’m able to still stay in the profession is a testament to how we have all evolved and have become more understanding of different ways of doing business. I’m in a different practice model than I’ve ever been. I hope it’s going to provide me some longevity to practice as long as I’m physically and mentally sound.”

A Broad Patient Population

Today, most of Terrell’s practice involves outpatient surgical procedures. Contrary to the misconception that urology is just for older men, Terrell sees patients of all ages and demographics, both men and women.

“We all have urologic problems regardless of our age, sex, or other demographics,” Terrell says. “Men and women and children all experience similar overlapping urinary. tract disorders. These disorders can present in a variety of ways, such as stones, blockages, bleeding, tumors, and infections, to name a few. We work to serve everyone, and it brings me great joy to do so.”

Terrell says that he has a special interest in the diagnosis and management of prostate cancer. Over the course of his career, he has seen the advancement in prostate cancer screening, including the early days of prostate specific antigen (PSA) screening tests, and more recent developments in prostate cancer detection and cancer risk assessment. Prostate cancer treatment used to involve aggressive radiation therapy, open prostate removal, or surgical castration. The options were few and foreboding. Now, the surgeries are minimally invasive through the use of robotics, and radiation techniques are more targeted, safe, and effective. CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans have all become essential tools in managing prostate cancer and customizing treatment options.

“We are now able to take prostate MRI data into a procedural setting where we fuse those images with real-time ultrasound to allow precise targeted biopsies,” Terrell says. “Even in advanced prostate cancer, we have enhanced treatment options that allow, in many cases, prolongation of life and improved quality of life.”

Terrell cautions that, despite the advancements, prostate cancer remains a serious medical condition.

“One of my missions is to get the word out that this disease is still there and it’s very prevalent,” he says. “It’s still a killer, but we now have better ways to tailor the detection and the treatment and we are moving more and more toward lesser invasive modalities with lesser comorbidity and risks from those modalities.”

Having always enjoyed the research and technology components of medicine, Terrell is especially excited to see the advancements in detection and treatment that promise better outcomes for his patients.

“This is kind of a golden time for us in the profession, and that’s one of the reasons I stay in it,” Terrell says. “I think we have a lot of room in Central Kentucky to advance and do better for our patients. We are all patients at some point in our lives, and I enjoy the patient interaction. I hate to see anybody suffer and I sure don’t want to see more prostate cancer coming through my clinic. I can’t help that, but what I can do is to be their teacher and advocate at all points along the way.”

Rural Care Is Needed

It is not lost on Terrell that he is often among the few options for the rural patients in his area. Healthcare provider shortages are particularly unsettling to rural and underserved populations, such as those areas in and around his hometown.

“You don’t have to look very far to find people that are underserved,” he says. “For twenty years I would drive to West Liberty and do a clinic, and they still don’t have urology there. We are dealing with more underserved areas now than we ever have. Bringing healthcare to the public and making it as convenient for them as possible is something that I have always prided myself in. It gives me a lot of joy to be the person to do the driving and for me to be the one that makes the effort to be there for people who have shaped who I am as a human and as a provider. For me it’s been a call to service.”

It is a calling that he still heeds. He keeps working because his patients need him, because he loves caring for them, and because he knows what he’s doing.

“I still have a passion for what I do. I haven’t lost the spark and I hope I don’t for quite a while,” Terrell says. “Getting back closer to my roots, my home, is also adding more wind to my sails. I feel like I’ve got some good to do and I get joy out of that. I hope in the process of that, I benefit somebody.”

Spoken like a true teammate, still playing for his team and his love of the game.