VALDOSTA — Dr. Justin Vining knows what it’s like to live in a health-care desert.
Growing up in Douglas, Vining said he saw primary-care doctors and that’s about it.
The same was the case for most communities in South Georgia and still is, Vining said.
It’s why it’s important for him to bring Wolfson Children’s Specialty Center to its new Valdosta location.
“In all of southwest Georgia and Valdosta, there’s primary care — that’s about it,” Vining said. “If you needed a cardiologist, you’re going to have to go somewhere.”
His new Valdosta office, located inside the Griner Medical Group Building, 3301 N. Oak St. Ext., is a secondary office of his main one in Tallahassee, Fla.
Both offices are extensions of the main Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Fla., with a focus on pediatric cardiology.
“It’s not just about building a business,” said Vikki Mioduszweski, marketing and communications manager. “In South Georgia alone, we have about 800 patients from 50 counties. We wanted to make sure it’s not a burden. When we started the Wolfson Children’s Specialty Center seven years ago, that was the point of doing it.”
Vining already had many patients from Valdosta and surrounding towns visiting him in Tallahassee, so it made sense to bring the next Wolfson Specialty Center to Lowndes County.
“Within a 100-mile radius of Tallahassee, there was something like 300,000 children, and there’s no pediatric specialist in Tallahassee,” Vining said. “Valdosta is smaller than Tallahassee, but it’s comparable. There’s a university here and two huge high schools here, so there’s a comparable need to Tallahassee in Valdosta.”
Vining’s first Valdosta clinic took place in July. Typically, patients undergo tests, such as EKGs and echocardiograms, and consultations related to congenital heart disease, heart rhythm disturbances, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
He used to come out on his own to Valdosta three days a month and could easily see the need in this community requiring more visits from him.
For now, though, he’ll be here once a month based on who gets recommended to come visit him from primary-care pediatricians.
Vining said he typically spends an hour to an hour and a half with each patient, and it’s important the child patient and their parents know what they do or don’t have before they leave his office.
“The mantra of my practice is that by the time that parent leaves, they know exactly what their child has and why they came in and they should have a very reasonable expectation of what to expect going forward,” Vining said.
Vining attended Valdosta State University for his bachelor’s degree before graduating from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. He has two kids and is married.
Wolfson Children’s Hospital has other specialty centers located in Brunswick, Waycross, Lake City, Fla., Daytona Beach, Fla., Fleming Island, Fla.
The specialty centers have different focuses — from neurosurgery and pediatric rehab to urology and electrophysiology, to name a few — but all centers serve patients with cardiology-related issues.
For surgeries and other serious medical procedures, patients must travel to Jacksonville.
For questions about Valdosta’s center and appointments with Vining, call (850) 224-8833.
NOTE: This story was changed at a later date to reflect that Wolfson Children Specialty Center is not the only practice offering pediatric cardiology care in Valdosta.
Katelyn Umholtz is a reporter with the Valdosta Daily Times. She can be contacted at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256.