Tylerite Phillips Works To Help African Orphans
By CASEY MURPHY
Dr. Erin Phillips' heart lies with orphans in Zambia, Africa.
She and her husband Chris Phillips are involved with the Irving-based organization, Family Legacy Missions International, and have visited Zambia three times since 2009 to put on a camp for orphans and other children in need.
"It's really just loving on those kids," she said, adding that for many of the children, it will be the first time in their lives that they feel loved. They also teach the children about Christ and how He loves them unconditionally, she said.
"So they know that there is hope throughout all of that," she said.
Dr. Phillips, 35, Tyler, said the group has also held toy drives and helped raise funds to build a house where 15 people now live.
"That's definitely where our heart is," she said of the organization.
She learned of Family Legacy Missions through a college friend and at first, made excuses about why she couldn't go to Zambia. She said one day, she heard God telling her there were no more excuses. "It really was God very clearly speaking to me that he was calling us to go," she said.
The children they have helped through the organization have also led them to adopt a child from Uganda, she said, adding that they have just started the process.
Dr. Phillips also has two children of her own -- Cameron, 6, and Rylee, 2 -- and juggles motherhood with being a physician at Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics.
"I think it's like any working mom," she said. "It's always a struggle."
For Dr. Phillips, it has been about learning how to balance work and children and feeling like she is doing a good job at both. She said she has learned to prioritize what is important and focuses on taking control of the things she has control of while doing the best she can.
She said she makes sure the time she is at home is quality time and makes sure her family knows they are her top priority. She said her work also knows that she puts family first and has been very understanding and supportive of that.
Phillips said his wife balances the demands of work, family and giving back to the community with more grace and strength than any woman he knows. "She does it all with such a huge heart and with a smile on her face as a proud (and really good) mom," he said.
Dr. Phillips began working at Mother Frances in 2008, and tailors her practice to neuromuscular diseases, dealing with any problems with the peripheral neurosystem -- anything from the nerve after it has left the spinal cord, all the way until it travels down to the muscle, she said.
She was appointed chairwoman of the Neurology Department almost a year ago.
Dr. Phillips said her father was a family practice physician, but she didn't know until she was halfway through undergraduate school that she wanted to go into the medical field.
"I knew that I wanted to do something that helped people and helped make a difference," she said.
She grew up mostly in Waco and in 1999, graduated from Baylor University, where she met her husband. They married shortly after graduation. The couple moved to San Antonio, where she graduated in 2003 from medical school at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
While in medical school, she decided to specialize in neurology, because she found Neuroanatomy intriguing, she said. "I didn't think I would ever get bored," she added.
From there they went on to Nashville, where she did her residency in neurology and her fellowship in neuromuscular diseases at Vaderbilt University Medical Center, finishing up in 2008.
Dr. Phillips said they wanted to move back to Texas to be closer to her family in Waco and her husband's family in Amarillo. A friend mentioned Mother Frances and helped set up an interview for her there. She said that was the first time they visited Tyler and they really liked it. Mother Frances offered her a great opportunity to work part-time while raising her children, she added.
The downside to her practice is that some of her patients have significant problems that can be devastating to them and their families, she said.
"I really try to be there for patients to offer support through it, rather than just being the clinical side of things," Dr. Phillips said.
Dr. Phillips and her husband, who is a real estate broker and partner of Wright Phillips and Co., are also involved in the Boys & Girls Club of East Texas, Christian Homes and Family Services and the East Texas Food Bank.