Archived Story

Dr. Eric Tyler

Published 6:16pm Friday, April 1, 2011

Award-winning pediatrician works for patients, lake community

When Dr. Eric Tyler wakes up on a typical work day, the pediatrician has a full day ahead of him.

His work day begins around 6:15 a.m., when Tyler arrives at Russell Medical Center to see patients for about an hour. Then he drives to his practice, Pediatric Associates of Alexander City, where he typically sees his first patient at 7:30 a.m. The doctor then works until about 6:15 p.m. – taking only a 10-minute lunch break – then returns to RMC for another round of visiting patients before he goes home.

“On a typical day – on an outpatient side – I’ll see between 30 and 40 patients,” he said.

The busy schedule is all in a day’s work for the doctor, who has been the owner and president of Pediatric Associates of Alexander City, and a member of the RMC medical staff, since 1985.

“I fell in love with pediatrics during my rotation in pediatrics,” Tyler said. “They don’t like to be sick for the most part – young children – they really want to get well. I think that they have a spirit that is extremely appreciative of almost everything you can do for them. Even a smile, even a joke, even a high five – they are accepting of that and they like that. They’re honest. They, many times, are vulnerable and need protection, so I’ve got a real love for medicine in the real small preemie babies because they need more protection perhaps than a 21-year-old who’s in college, but you find that even they want someone who is kind of an encourager who can push them toward the next step of their life with good direction.”

It’s that attitude that has helped make Dr. Tyler – who was The Alexander City Outlook’s Reader’s Choice for best physician in the community in 2003, 2004 and 2006 – one of the most beloved doctors in the area.

“I enjoy playing with the patients,” Tyler said. “I pick at the patients. I like to make them laugh. I like for them to make me laugh. I want good things to happen to them. I want every patient that I see to live to be 100. I want all of them to get a really good education. I want all of them to be successful. I want them all to find the path in life and place they’re supposed to be – that’s what I want for all of them and I try my best when I walk through the door to help them think about those things.”

Originally from Columbia, Tenn., Tyler earned a bachelor’s degree in general science from Harding College in 1977 before attending medical school at the University of Tennessee Center for Health Science College of Medicine, where he was the 1981 medal award winner for the study of pediatrics.

He completed his residency with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Alabama, where he served as chief resident and director of critical transport and units from 1984 to 1985. (He later received the Master Pediatrician Award and UAB Distinguished Alumnus Award.)

Then, as fate would have it, Alexander City entered the picture. The pediatrician says location is what sold him on the area. He wanted to take his resources to a smaller town and his wife, Fran, is from Birmingham, so he was looking for a place where she could easily get back and forth to be with her family. Since Birmingham is only an hour and 15 minutes away, and Auburn is only 30 minutes away on a major thoroughfare, Alexander City was the perfect move.

“I kind of fell in love with the people of the community and that’s why I wanted to come here,” Tyler said.

“Even though I’m not a native, and even though I don’t remember where the old post office was, all my children (Emily, 27; Mallory, 24; and Molly, 20) were raised here and I guess I’m sort of an adopted native – these are still the people that I call ‘my people.’”

He said RMC’s promise to take a risk on building a part of the hospital that was specifically for pediatrics – because there was not a dedicated place for pediatric patients to be kept at the time – also helped seal the deal and that the addition has been “a wonderful blessing for the patients there.” Tyler has even served as a board member for the Russell Hospital Corporation for the past seven years.

“Mr. Jim Peace (President & CEO of Russell Medical Center) has done an outstanding job in continuing the work and the vision of the leaders that were there before … and recruiting wonderful new physicians to the staff.

“I think they’re very responsive to the needs of the physicians and patients,” Tyler said about the Medical Center. “I think they have a great plan for the future. I couldn’t envision being here and doing what I do and not having that as a resource. In fact, I probably wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have that as a resource. That’s why I believe so strongly in helping them with their goals.”

Pediatric Associates, which also has an office in Kellyton and has two physicians in addition to Tyler as well as three nurse practitioners, is involved in several community enrichment programs. They assist with a lactation program at RMC designed to encourage women to breastfeed; they developed a community project on improving asthma education; and they are co-sponsors of the Read to Me program, along with the Russell Medical Center Foundation, the Adelia Russell Library and the Alexander City Schools System. The Read to Me program is designed to emphasize the importance of reading to all area children.

Tyler, who has written several comical interactive murder mystery plays performed in the community over the years, said the most important job that he has is to be an educator.

“It, sometimes, is about writing a prescription for medication, but sometimes it’s about writing a prescription for perseverance, for endurance, for making a hard stand,” Tyler said. “I like to listen to my patients. I like to get involved in their lives. I like to know what’s going on in their lives.

“But, every day I walk into a room when I see patients and I know that those people had a choice to go wherever they wanted to go to get health care, and when they come here to see me that means that they really do trust me and that’s not something that you can ever take lightly and you can never rest on your laurels – it’s something you have to earn every day.”