Casal: Living the American dream
Liz Engel Clark
Friday, Jan 27, 2012
Dr. Michael Casal sits with his family.
He was 13 or 14 years old, he says, when his family left the Philippines, the place he was born and raised, for better opportunities in the United States. Today, he’s visibly grateful for that experience, which has certainly played a role in how he’s shaped his medical practice, Women’s Health Services in Cookeville, and as the owner/medical director of the Infinity Birthing Center, one of just four such facilities in the state.
“We grew up very poor and didn’t always have things we wanted when we were young,” Casal said. “But this country provided us a lot of opportunities, like allowing us to get an education and be anything we wanted to be, something we wouldn’t have had in the Philippines. So we’re very grateful.”
Following the state-side move, Casal’s family lived in New York and New Jersey, but mostly in California, he said. He was “always interested in the medical field” and followed through by attending medical school at the University of California Davis and completing his residency at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles. He found his calling in obstetrics while in the midst of his studies; it was actually a specialty that he, at first, tried to fight, albeit unsuccessfully.
“I actually wanted to not like obstetrics, because I knew that it would require a lot of time, with having to be on call 24 hours,” Casal said with a smile. “But once I did my first delivery, I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Casal made the move to Tennessee after working at a Las Vegas practice for several years. He was recruited here by Dr. Silas Terry, an obstetrician/gynecologist in Livingston.
“I wanted a place where I could have more one-on-one relationships,” Casal said. “When I was working in Las Vegas, we had close to 15 obstetricians, and I would deliver between 15-20 babies a day, but I didn’t know my patients. I decided I wanted to be in solo practice. And Cookeville was a nice area to raise our children, so we made the move.”
Casal opened Women’s Health Services in Cookeville. The practice expanded in 2008 to include the upstairs Infinity Birthing Center, a three-suite facility in which low-risk pregnant women can experience an out-of-hospital, minimal intervention, natural type childbirth.
While the OB business started with just three employees, today, there are approximately 35 employees, five midwives and a nurse practitioner. And about 30 percent of Women’s Health Services’ deliveries take place in the birthing center, a number he’s hoping to boost each year.
“It was really just an extension of my own practice,” Casal said of the center. “Patients who really want to have a more natural and holistic childbirth seek us out, we have patients who drive 2-3 hours to come here. That’s made our practice grow tremendously over the last few years.
“We’re very proud to be one of a select few (birthing centers) in the state,” he added, saying that women often seek birthing centers for their low c-section rates, freedom of movement and support staff. “It’s really about them.”
Outside of work, Casal and his wife of 22 years, Gladys, have seven children – five girls and twin boys - who range in age from 18 to three-and-a-half. He enjoys playing – and now mostly coaching – basketball. He spends most of his free time with them. He also has quite an extended family, a host of relatives in the Philippines as well as three brothers and a sister. His sister is a lawyer, two of his brothers are pharmacists and the other is a business owner.
“If there is such a thing as an American dream, I would say our family is definitely one that was able to have it come true, and that’s due to the fact that we moved to the United States,” Casal said. “(When) my parents immigrated, it was probably the best thing they ever did, because it really changed our lives.”