The Selma native moved to Birmingham in 1982 to pursue an undergraduate degree in computer science from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. After graduating in 1986, she began her ten-year stint as a computer analyst for BellSouth.
“I always wanted to go into medicine,” she says. “But I had no physician role model. I like puzzles and analytical thinking. That’s how I ended up in computer programming.”
The world of medicine emerged as a real possibility after she gave birth to her first child, Kayla, who had hypoplastic left heart syndrome and coarctation of the aorta. The infant died shortly before being put on a transplant list. During the four weeks of Kayla’s life, Pettus says, “I was around a lot of physicians and clinicians.” While trying to determine the best medical options, Kayla’s surgeon mentioned that he had to do more research. “He was a great surgeon and when I heard that, it made me think he’s human. I respected that. Before, I thought doctors knew everything.”
It took a while after Kayla’s passing before Pettus began considering medical school. “I already had a career. I kept telling my husband, ‘I would be 40 before I became a physician.’” Vince Pettus gave her a matter-of-fact answer. “You’re going to be 40 anyway,” he said. “You might as well go back to school.’”
So in her early 30s, Pettus entered UAB Medical School, graduating in 2004. She completed her internal medicine residency at Carraway Methodist Medical Center in 2007. To cover tuition costs, she agreed to practice in a medically underserved area for four years. She joined the practice of Claude Osula, MD in Walker County with offices in Carbon Hill and Jasper. She liked it so much, she stayed beyond her commitment. She and her husband live in nearby Dora with their children, Jonathan, 14, and daughters Shannon, 16, and Traci, 9.
“It’s a small town. I like the community and my patient base. I love my colleagues,” she says. “My patients know me and they know my kids and I know about their kids. We see each other in the grocery store, in Walmart, in the Dollar Store, in restaurants.”
Two years ago, Pettus increased her community commitment, becoming the medical director of Hope Clinic of Walker County, a free clinic for uninsured patients. “It’s run by volunteer physicians, nurses and staff and is funded by donations,” she says.
Practicing medicine in two offices, running a medical directorship, and having a young family would seem sufficient for most folks. Not Pettus. In 2009, she segued out of medicine entirely, opening Silver Lining Consignment Boutique in Hoover. “When I was in medical school and in residency, I bought consigned clothes,” she says. “I had my children while I was in medical school and residency so we were all about saving money and finding great deals. I loved it.”
She still does.
As part of her retirement “game plan,” she opened the shop, which offers gently-used designer brands ranging from Ann Taylor to Louis Vuitton. More recently, she opened DeVon Designer Fashions, new styles for those customers who prefer never-owned fashion finds. Both Silver Lining and Devon operate out of Suite 129 at 2341 John Hawkins Parkway in Hoover. She chose the Hoover location because she frequently visits family and friends in the area and attends the Church of the Highlands.
“I’m not a fashion expert,” she says. “For that, I depend on my wonderful employees, who run the daily operation. My 16-year-old daughter helps with the trends.”
She says, “It’s something nice to look forward to when I retire.” By then, the computer analyst-turned physician-turned medical director-turned boutique owner may have added a few more career moves to her resume.