When Dr. David Billings isn't helping to bring babies into the world, he can sometimes be found taking a catnap until the next delivery or appointment. As a physician who delivers babies, he doesn't tend to get much sleep.
Contributing to his 15 minutes of local fame, Billings, who provides obstetrics and gynecology services at Trinity Health, delivered the first baby born this past Dec. 12, which carried the distinction of 12-12-12. Both baby and mom are doing wonderful, he said with a smile, and the baby's parents were very excited to see that their newborn had the 12-12-12 day. "The mother was due and came in for induction on the 11th and it just happened."
Billings is originally from Los Angeles and joined the U.S. Air Force when he was 18, which is what brought him to the Air Force base in Grand Forks, where he worked as a physician's assistant. He first came to Minot in 1985 but wanted to go to medical school, so he completed his schooling at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.
Jill Hambek/MDN • Dr. David Billings, a physician in obstetrics and gynecology with Trinity Health, is pictured in the doctor’s lounge at Medical Arts Clinic on Thursday afternoon in between patients and catnaps. Billings estimates he has delivered 8,000 babies in his 20 years of practice, averaging 400 a year. His nurses joke that babies delivered by him seem to be born most often around 3 a.m.
Originally, he had planned on becoming a dentist, Billings said, but because he didn't want to practice in one centralized area, he switched to obstetrics and gynecology. After his OB/GYN residency in Michigan, he returned to Minot in 1998 and has been here since. Including his training, he's been delivering babies for 20 years, he said. With the inclusion of residency, Billings said he estimates that he has delivered 8,000 babies. The average OB/GYN in the United States delivers 150 or maybe 200 babies a year, he noted, but he has been averaging about 400 deliveries a year, sometimes more.
"I run into patients all over the state and even the world," Billings remarked. "I recently went to Turkey and ran into a patient."
Working as a physician's assistant, Billings said he did a rotation in obstetrics and gynecology, which piqued his interest. He also ended up having to deliver his wife's and his second child something he hadn't exactly planned on doing when they didn't reach the hospital in time.
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"I was scared to death because I was a dental assistant at the time," Billings said. "My wife asked if the baby was a boy or a girl and I said I didn't look."
A typical day at the office for Billings consists of making rounds at the hospital and then spending time in his office. He sees obstetric patients in the morning and patients for gynecology in the afternoon, seeing about 40 patients a day and 110 patients a week. Also, he has an on-call schedule with his partners, but if he's in town, he will take care of his own patients, he said.
Billings provides prenatal care, women's annual medical exams and other health-care exams, discussion of birth control options and minor surgeries. He schedules Caesarean sections in the morning or at noon.
"I haven't had to reschedule appointments too often," Billings said. "Most people understand I'm delivering a baby. A baby can care less about my patient load."
The nurses joke that the most common time for babies to be delivered by Billings is around 3 a.m.
"Babies are born all hours of the day, of course, but it seems like I'm always at the hospital at 3 a.m.," he said.
In his line of work, it's a challenge never knowing when something terrible might happen in a delivery, he said.
"Pregnancy and childbirth are usually happy, but then there are the ones with problems. When you can't give someone a perfect baby or when you come across problems in the delivery," Billings explained, that is a challenge. You're dealing with two patients, the mother and the baby, he said. "But every baby is cute. That's what I tell every mother."
The excitement of bringing a new life into the world and helping moms is what brings him back to his patients and the hospital any time of day, he said. Billings also enjoys the surgical aspect, especially with the da Vinci robotics. Additionally, Billings is the chairman of his department, teaches residents and is on the admissions committee for UND's medical school. It's exciting to teach residents because they keep him on his toes, he added.
"The mixture of all different things keep it exciting," he said.
Billings also likes to give pamphlets to his patients because pamphlets have important information.
"I don't want my patients to go home not remembering what I've told them," he said.
Not much has changed in the obstetrics and gynecology field, although the da Vinci robotic surgery is the biggest innovative tool that Trinity has, Billings said. Deliveries are the same, he also said, but there are new medicines coming out to prevent pre-term deliveries. Also, there's more emphasis on providing access to health care for people in small towns, Billings added.