Meet Christopher Jolley, M.D., and Genie Beasley, M.D.
As a young YMCA volunteer, Christopher Jolley, M.D., learned early on in life that he wanted to work with children. Once he started high school, it didn’t take long for him to realize his love for science and particularly, the digestive system.
Jolley attended medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, then went on to complete his residency and fellowship in gastroenterology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
“While I was training as a fellow, there was a summer camp outside of Dallas focused on inflammatory bowel disease, the only one of its kind at the time. I met a nurse from the University of Florida, and she told me about the gastroenterology program at UF.”
Fast forward 15 years and Jolley now serves as the chief of the division of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at the University of Florida, a program that has been ranked highest of all pediatric gastroenterology programs in the state of Florida by U.S. News and World Report for the last two years.
Working alongside Jolley is one of his fellows, Genie Beasley, M.D., who came upon her path to gastroenterology in a slightly different way.
“I always knew I wanted to be a pediatrician, but I had no intentions of studying pediatric gastroenterology until I met Dr. Jolley,” said Beasley. “He’s an amazing teacher and person. He has served as my mentor since the time I was a student.”
Beasley is a graduate of the UF College of Medicine Class of 2007. After medical school, she went on to complete her residency and internship at Shands Hospital for Children at the University of Florida.
“I think what’s really attractive about gastroenterology is the opportunity to work with teens. They aren’t quite adults, but it is fun and challenging to get them to take charge of their decisions regarding their health.”
Fifteen-year-old patient Caitlyn Dunning is just one example of this. Jolley and Beasley both met Caitlyn when she was first admitted to Shands Hospital for Children at UF for stomach issues. After they discovered she had ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease that attacks the intestines, they were able to work hand-in-hand with her to teach her about the disease and allow her the responsibility of taking ownership of her health.
“Caitlyn had two options. She could treat her condition with medication, and if that didn’t work, we would have to remove her colon,” said Jolley. “It was 100 percent her decision to have surgery when the time came.”
Beasley and Jolley’s colleague, Saleem Islam, M.D., pediatric surgeon and expert in minimally invasive surgery, successfully performed Caitlyn’s surgery in 2011.
“Everyone made me feel so comfortable,” said Dunning. “Dr. Islam answered questions about the surgery – good and bad – and let me choose what I wanted to do. When the time came I wasn’t nervous at all because they didn’t make me feel nervous.”
Jolley and Beasley continue to work with Gainesville-area teens like Caitlyn battling IBD and Crohn’s Disease. Together, with Caitlyn’s help, they formed a support group, G.A.T.O.R.S. – Gainesville Area Teens Offering Remedies & Support, to allow local teens to share their stories, get educated and support others dealing with similar everyday challenges.
In July 2013, Beasley will complete her fellowship and officially join the UF faculty where she will head up the Inflammatory Bowel Disease program with a focus on growing this specialty and developing a clinic in conjunction with pediatric surgery.
“It’s truly inspiring to see just how strong these children are,” said Beasley. “They are stronger than I will ever be. Even our sickest teens have these amazing lives outside of the hospital. It makes me excited to help them because they want to help themselves.”