ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Dr. Scot Hines ('85) shares stories of his path to and experiences in Alaska

         

When Dr. Scot Hines talks about where he went to medical school, he tells people he graduated from, “Marshall University, the best medical school in the country.” 

He’s not selling Marshall to folks around here. As a practicing neurologist in Anchorage, Alaska, Hines is bragging on his medical training to folks some 4,000 miles away. And he means every word of it. 

“Our class was 36 students,” said Hines, who graduated from Marshall’s School of Medicine in 1985. “Smallest medical school in the country, but the best. … I went to Indiana – the second largest – for my residency, and I was very comfortable with what I knew and what I could handle because I had done everything over and over and over again, whereas my contemporaries watched over the shoulders of people doing things.” 

Hines is actually not even the most northerly practicing member of the Herd. Also working at Anchorage Native Medical Center are Dr. George Banks, another neurologist, and his wife, Chelsea Banks, a pediatrician, both Marshall grads.  

Hines’ ties to Marshall are strong. His father moved to Huntington to serve as the first leader of what was then Marshall Community College, and Hines’ wife, neurosurgeon Dr. Susanne Fix, who also practices in Anchorage, has Marshall ties as well. Her father once chaired Marshall’s anatomy department. 

Now, their oldest daughter, Katie Steele, is in her third year at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.  

“I grew up hearing my dad talk about it all the time,” she said. After graduating from Davidson College in North Carolina, where she ran track like her father had for Marshall, and after living in Boston for a couple years, she applied to several medical schools, including Marshall’s.  

“I think it’s fun to check out different areas of the country. I applied broadly to a lot of different states, and I really loved Marshall,” she said. “In the interview, I felt like it was a good fit for me. They really emphasized the community feel of the school and their commitment to rural medicine. I’m still undecided, but that definitely is an interest of mine.  

“I’m trying to keep an open mind during clinicals and go into every rotation and try to get the most out of it and see what I end up liking.”  

Katie’s husband, Derek Steele, who is also from Alaska, is a student in Marshall’s physician assistant program, and they both plan to graduate in 2026. Katie looks forward to seeing where they’ll go together for their next chapter. 

In the meantime, her dad took a spring break trip to visit Marshall’s campus and see not only his daughter and son in-law, but his old stomping grounds, traveling with two of Katie’s three siblings.  

“Old Main is still the same,” he said. He also pointed to the Science Building, where he remembers taking classes while earning his undergraduate degree in chemistry. He also ran for Marshall’s cross country and track and field teams.  

Marshall was a natural choice for Hines. With a father in academia, he had lived in Kansas, Missouri, Indiana and Michigan before the family landed in Huntington, where Hines graduated from Huntington East High School. He remembers watching coverage of the 1970 plane crash on television and attending games and supporting the Thundering Herd through the rebuilding stages in the 1970s. 

Though no one in his family had practiced medicine, his interest in science attracted him to Marshall’s medical school, which had just recently been founded when he was a student in the early 1980s and thus gave those early students a remarkable amount of hands-on training.  

“We were an important part of the team. We weren’t in the way or watching from the wings,” Hines recalled. “We had responsibilities, and what we were doing was important, in terms of patient management, and they counted on us. So, we didn’t need encouragement to study because what we were doing was vital.” 

After completing his residency in Indiana, Hines practiced in Louisville, Kentucky, and then moved with his wife and practiced in Georgia because of a good opportunity she had there. Throughout those years, they’d traveled several times to Alaska, at first to visit a family member who was stationed at Fairbanks, but then continued because they enjoyed hiking and outdoor activities there. 

“I had a lot of Alaska experience and really liked it, so when the opportunity arose for a practice in Alaska, we grabbed it and never regretted it,” Hines said. “It’s a lot like West Virginia – very outdoors-oriented, and the community is very supportive, like Huntington.” 

At the medical center, Hines works with many people of native Alaskan tribes. He and his wife also have a neurology and neurosurgery practice together. 

“I can treat migraine headaches, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, that type of thing, and she’ll do spine and brain surgeries,” he said. “If you see me coming at you with a scalpel, run and don’t stop running.”  

Both living and practicing in Alaska has been an adventure, he said.  

One thing many people don’t realize is now ethnically diverse Anchorage is, with not only the native Alaskans and North Americans, but people from several countries in Asia, even many from South America, Africa and New Zealand, he said.  

“It’s a real vibrant place, and the outdoor opportunities are unparallelled,” he said. “Even in the wintertime, we have 50 or 100 miles of groomed, lit trails for cross country skiing that are free all winter long. … They’ve got skiing, people go snow machining. We call it snow machining in Alaska, it’s snowmobiling elsewhere. In the summer, it’s wonderful. Best fishing in the world. We all become fish snobs.” 

Katie agreed. As someone who loves to run, hike, bike and kayak, it’s amazing, she said.  

The Northern Lights are so brilliant so often, there are times that Hines doesn’t even go to the back door for a better look, he said. 

But there are perils as well.  

“I’ve been chased a couple times by grizzly bears,” said Hines, adding that both occasions ended without serious incident. But he knows how to hold his jacket above his head to seem bigger, and he knows not to run because bears will chase.  

Not running is not easy at all, he said. 

Living in Alaska also has its effect on his practice.  

“There’s a lot of traumatic injuries, brain and spine, because of the lifestyle,” he said. For some, it’s a very reckless lifestyle, with people not wearing helmets and imbibing some alcohol. Some injuries are due to outdoor activities like mountain climbing or ice climbing. 

“There are a lot of ways you can get injured, and people don’t shy away from that,” he said.  

“We get injuries from a bear. One of my patients, who was 68 at time, had shot a deer on Kodiak Island and was cleaning it when he got charged by a bear. The bear didn’t want the kill, it wanted him. All he had was his 4-inch Buck knife. He fought the bear, and he killed it. He got the thing in the carotid artery and killed a full-grown, Alaska Kodiak bear.  

“He showed me the scars on his arm. It was chewing his arm while he was stabbing it. I saw him when he was 82, and he still looked like he could take a bear.” 

He has many more stories as well, and whatever medical challenge has come his way, he feels like his training at Marshall prepared him. 

“If I had it to do over again and could go to any medical school in the country, it would be here,” he said as he sat in the Memorial Student Center Plaza. “I was in the right place. We probably worked harder in our clinical years than other students because we were important. But we probably had more fun, too.”  

 FEATURE ARTICLE by Jean Hardiman


Date Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2024