Small-Town Care With Big-City Technology Highlights Walker Baptist Medical Center

Robotics surgery, national recognition highlight quality care

Bonnie Burch
On Sunday, January 31, 2016 - 21:39

Board-certified urologist Dr. Alan McCool wanted to lend his talents to a workplace that was in the forefront of medical advances, top-notch patient care procedures and leading-edge surgical technology.

That’s why he chose employment at Walker Baptist Medical Center, a 267-bed acute care facility located in Jasper. The hospital provides jobs to 687 doctors, nurses and other medical care professionals, bolstering the Walker County economy with a $23.5 million payroll. Clinical services offered by the medical center include obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics, emergency services, pain center and inpatient psychiatry for adults and seniors.

Small Community, Big Services

“Walker Baptist is a smaller hospital, but it invests in some of the things that the larger hospitals have. So being on staff here, it’s allowed me to do everything I wanted to do. It has a big robotics group, which is a great thing for me,” McCool says.

The Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery program allows doctors to perform highly-detailed surgical procedures that reduce pain and blood loss, shorten hospital stays and leave minimal scarring. Because the robot-assisted surgery produces a smaller incision site, there is less chance of infection, and patients are able to recover more quickly.

Walker Baptist has six physicians who are highly trained in the application of this special type of robotics surgery – urologists McCool and Dr. Brian Stone, gynecological and obstetrics professionals Dr. Talia Gates and Dr. Roy Sims, and general surgeons Dr. Ryan Cowley and Dr. Matthew Knight.

In the urology field, the technology is helpful in bladder reconstructive surgery, alleviating pelvic prolapse conditions and treating urinary incontinence. The gynecologists use it to perform hysterectomies, remove ovarian cysts and treat endometriosis.

General surgery procedures for the robotics group include hernia repair, gastrectomy and colectomy, among other operations.

Walker Baptist, part of the Brookwood Baptist Health since 1995, is accredited by the Joint Commission.

As a case in point, the cardiology and pulmonary unit has a cardiac catheterization lab that is considered among the best in the country. In 2013, the Joint Commission named the group a Top Performer for scoring 99.3 percent on key quality measures in the Heart Failure, Acute MI and Pneumonia and Surgical Care categories. The hospital has also received an American Heart Association Gold Recognition for heart failure patients in the AHA's “Get With the Guidelines” program.

Accolades and Ratings

In 2014, Healthgrades, an online resource that provides information about hospitals and physicians, presented the cardiology and pulmonary unit with the Pulmonary Care Excellence Award and named the service line among the top 10 percent in the nation for overall pulmonary services. For the past seven years, Healthgrades has also awarded the hospital five stars for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Not to be outdone, the hospital’s orthopedic surgery unit, which handles joint, hip and knee replacements along with spine, rotator cuff and shoulder surgery, was also lauded by Healthgrades, which named it a five-star recipient for spinal fusion surgery in 2014.

Comparion Medical Analytics, which compares the cost and quality of medical services, presented Walker Baptist with a 2015 Quality Recognition for being ranked No. 1 in Alabama for medical excellence in orthopedic care in the CareChex Hospital Quality Ratings.

Every year since 2012, Walker Baptist Medical Center has scored an “A” from The Leapfrog Group for Hospital Safety. In 2013, Healthgrades presented the hospital with its Patient Safety Excellence Award and ranked it among the top five percent in the nation for patient safety.

For McCool, who has worked at Walker Baptist for more than a year, there is no question that he selected the right hospital.

“I’m loving it here because everyone is working toward the same goal in treating patients with the best care possible,” he says.

Walker Baptist is a smaller hospital, but it invests in some of the things that the larger hospitals have. So being on staff here, it’s allowed me to do everything I wanted to do. It has a big robotics group, which is a great thing for me.

Dr. Alan McCool


Bonnie Burch is a writer who spent 20 years working in news media and print journalism. In her free time, she enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, canoeing and camping.