STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mercedes Terrell makes a point of getting to know her patients.

Terrell, the newest physician at OCH Medical Associates, takes care of what she calls the "bread and butter" of internal medicine — managing diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, some forms of heart disease, asthma and other conditions.

Terrell came to Starkville from her home state of Maryland in November, with her husband, 4-year-old son, 19-year-old stepson and 94-year-old grandfather.

The move is her first time living in the Deep South, and Terrell said her family is adjusting well to life in Starkville. In her practice, Terrell keeps the same principles at the forefront that she has everywhere she's worked.

"Medicine is not one-size-fits-all," she said. "Whether it's here or in Maryland, I still carry those same principles with me to learn about the patient and their medical status. Hopefully, they're open and honest with me because that better allows me to actually treat them effectively.

The more I know about them, the more helpful I can be to answering their health concerns, preventing some of those medical conditions and treating those that they have," she continued. "It has to be a good relationship that we develop so that we can work together for the better good of their health."

Despite only being in Starkville for a few months, Terrell is already making an impression on patients. One, 72-year-old Ronnald Kimbel, said Terrell is among the best doctors he's ever had.

Kimbel and his wife met with Terrell in January, after searching for an internalist who could suit his needs. He said she immediately made a good impression.

"I have never had a doctor spend so much time with me at a first appointment," Kimbel said. "I was in her office for an hour-and-a-half. Don't you think that didn't impress me? I had a couple of questions that day, and I'll be doggone if she didn't call me back that evening and give me answers. I thought, 'Wow, we're really on to something here.'"

Cindy Strickland, a licensed practical nurse who works with Terrell, said she truly shows care for her patients.

"It's very important to the patients," Strickland said. "It makes them feel like they're cared about. They want someone who will listen to what they have to say — not feel like they're just being pushed through real quick. She takes time with each one and makes each one individual."

BACKGROUND

Terrell grew up in Princess Anne, Maryland, where she also attended the University of Maryland Eastern Shore for undergraduate school.

It was during her undergraduate years that she discovered her interest in the medical field. During her freshman year in college, a friend who knew Terrell was interested in possibly going into optometry, suggested a pre-medical summer program at Case Western University in Ohio. At the program, Terrell had the chance to shadow doctors, speak with students and go into the clinics they worked in.

"Suddenly my eyes were open and I saw wow, this could be an exciting world of medicine," she said. "It could be an excellent career where you can make a positive impression on someone's life and make long-lasting relationships."

Terrell went to George Washington University for medical school and trained at Franklin Square Medical Center in Baltimore.

After finishing medical school and her residency training, Terrel's first job was at Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, where she worked as a physician with thousands of patients and taught students.

The work, she said, provided a strong foundation for her medical career. In teaching, Terrell not only mentored students but continued to learn from them.

"I enjoy teaching," she said. "The medical students kind of keep you on your toes. Learning never ends, so working with medical students allowed me to keep abreast of the latest in medicine and allowed me to share clinical pearls with them and seeing their growth and development was actually very rewarding."

Terrell has also worked with Veterans Affairs. She said that work, in particular, highlighted the need for mental health care, in addition to physical care.

"The clinical conditions can be similar," she said. "I think for our veterans, I was more exposed or privy to mental health — PTSD, depression or anxiety. I realized how great of a need it is to take care of our veterans once they're discharged from service."

Now, in Starkville, Terrell said her family is settling into life in the town. She said everything so far, from meeting her patients, to getting to know the community, has gone well.

"The past few months have really been well received," she said. "As they say, there's good Southern hospitality — we feel like we've experienced it."