Essential Threads is a Chattanooga- and Western Pennsylvania-based company formerly known as Aegle Gear. With garments designed by physical therapists and athletic company experts, Essential Threads are premium scrubs made to perform using athletic cuts and protect via antimicrobial, water-repellent, four-way stretch, ripstop fabrics.
Our three physician owners, Drs. Helton, Bruce, and Smith, along with Rose Mikel and Lisa D'Antonio (who have a combined 70-plus years in sporting goods and athletic apparel retail and wholesale), are experts.
- Our doctors wear these scrubs nearly every day, whether they are rushing to the emergency room to manage a trauma patient or examining patients in the office.
- Rose and Lisa, both former athletes, offer experience in product development and procurement as small business owners their whole careers.
With new colors and styles, Essential Threads garments now offer performance and protection in addition to a professional, clean look and feel.
Women entrepreneurs are creating new businesses, disrupting established industries and developing innovative products at a record pace. Essential Threads is proud to be a woman-owned business (3 of our 5 owners) and woman-managed (2 of our 4 board members), and we hope to be an example for others. Mentorship is important to all of us, and this new enterprise is just one more part of our professional experience. All five of us have embarked on this journey with one goal: creating this brand because with our combined attributes we understand the unique needs of the essential professional, the people who put on scrubs and go to work to get the job done.
Read below to learn more about each of us.
W. David Bruce, M.D.
- Experience matters and Dr. Bruce has a variety of experiences to offer a well-rounded, practical approach to his patients. Born and raised in Opelika, Alabama, Dr. Bruce is a 4th-generation Auburn graduate who then matriculated to the University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Medicine where he earned his M.D. Training for 6 years at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine—Chattanooga Unit based at Erlanger Medical Center.
- He completed two postgraduate fellowships. First, Dr. Bruce trained in sports medicine and shoulder surgery under Drs. Champ Baker and Jack Hughston (the "father of sports medicine") at the Hughston Clinic in Columbus, GA, where he covered sports teams including the Atlanta Braves baseball team, the Atlanta Hawks basketball team, Valdosta State University, and Brookstone High School in Columbus, GA. He then spent one year in pediatric orthopedic surgery at Children's Primary Hospital and Shriners Hospital Intermountain in Salt Lake City, UT where his training included regular clinics in Juarez (Mexico), Denver (CO), Boise (ID), and Phoenix (AZ). He is the author of several textbook chapters and journal articles. Dr. Bruce returned to practice in Chattanooga and is the team doctor for both Baylor and McCallie schools.
- Dr. Bruce is committed to the Chattanooga community. He was the Medical Director for Ironman Chattanooga's inaugural race and nine more Ironman events including the 2017 70.3 World Championships for both men and women. For his service to the city in this capacity, Dr. Bruce was awarded the Volunteer of the Year award from the Chattanooga Visitor's Bureau and the Distinguished Service Award from the Tennessee Medical Association, both in 2017.
- Most recently, Dr. Bruce's service to the region focuses on the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic, and includes advising and development of personal protective equipment for our region and helping local businesses and schools develop mitigation techniques. He is one of two medical directors of One-to-One Health's COVID Services along with his wife, pediatric surgeon Dr. Lisa Smith. Together they have two sons and two daughters and reside in North Chattanooga.
- How does Essential Threads fit into Dr. Bruce's bio? Dr. Bruce began wearing these scrubs after trying them during his time with Ironman. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Bruce not only purchased multiple sets of Aegle Gear scrubs for himself, but also his brother, Homer "Buddy" Bruce, a practicing veterinarian in Auburn/Opelika. The founder of Aegle Gear called Dr. Bruce to ask why he purchased so many, and he replied, "These are the best scrubs on the market!" Dr. Bruce knew the durability and quality of the garment, and the antimicrobial activity gave him peace of mind as he continued treating patients throughout the pandemic.
- Dr. Bruce is busy in the office with physical exams and he wears Essential Threads for their four-way stretch and athletic cut, moving efficiently throughout his work day while looking professional due to their wrinkle resistance. Dr. Bruce's orthopedic staff at RiverRun as well as his brother's veterinary staff in Alabama all wear Essential Threads.
Lisa A. Smith, M.D.
- You never know where you'll see her next! With a variety of interests ranging from Auburn University and Pittsburgh Steeler football to Disney World and other family travel, Dr. Smith is never without something to do or some place to go! Putting family first, she has pursued a career as a fellowship-trained pediatric surgeon at University Surgical Associates, a vested partner for over 20 years. She holds dual appointments as an assistant professor in the departments of Surgery and Pediatrics at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine--Chattanooga Unit.
- In addition, to her practice of pediatric general surgery, she is the medical director of the chest wall reconstruction program, and coordinates the efforts of her award-winning program, "Pectacular!", a multidisciplinary program for children and adults with chest wall deformities and is the surgeon in the Chattanooga region performing these complex reconstructive procedures.
- The COVID-19 pandemic offered opportunities to help the community. Along with her husband, Dr. Bruce, she designed gowns that went on to be, with a few adjustments from manufacturing, the gowns that filled the national stockpile and provided jobs for four factories at the beginning of the pandemic. She and David helped essential businesses during the shutdown navigate the complex advice of the CDC. And she did it all wearing these antimicrobial scrubs.
- She joined Dr. Helton along with her husband as medical directors of One-to-One Health's COVID Services where she is a consultant for multiple schools and businesses, hands-on creating the "playbooks" for dealing with the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, interpreting the ever-evolving science into safer everyday behaviors. She writes a weekly newsletter, has published multiple scientific papers, and even made regular appearances as a health expert on local news throughout the pandemic.
- Along with helping to care for her aging parents, Dr. Smith is a wife to Dr. Bruce, mother to two teen girls, and stepmother to Dr. Bruce's two sons. Family time is spent at their home in Chattanooga, at the beach, and at football games, and travel is a family event.
- How does Essential Threads fit into Dr. Smith's bio? She has been a fan since wearing them to triage the medical tent for 10 Ironman events when David was the medical director! She outfitted her entire staff in the original line and organized group orders for the nursing staff at Chattanooga's children's hospital at the beginning of the pandemic, choosing their antimicrobial and fluid-resistant qualities for her colleagues.
- Professional appearance is important to Dr. Smith, the second woman to finish a surgery residency in the program when she trained. She chooses Essential Threads when seeing patients in both the office and the hospital, frequently choosing a vest in place of a white coat like many physicians who prefer to wear nothing below the elbow. Antimicrobial and water-resistant qualities along with a professional style create the perfect work wardrobe, pairing both athletic shoes and operating room clogs. Mentoring young women and men, Dr. Smith helps future professionals daily as they develop their careers.
Keith Helton, M.D.
- Do Good. Help Others. That's the mission statement of Dr. Helton's One-to-One Health. The founder of five innovative healthcare companies, Keith has been a practicing specialist in internal medicine and pediatrics as well as a managing partner with one of East Tennessee's largest and most respected medical groups, Galen Medical Group. He served as Executive Vice President of Physician Services at a leading academic medical center, Erlanger Health System, and currently serves on the board of directors of the UT Research Foundation.
- One to One Health is an entire system of patient-focused, physician-managed healthcare system, and in addition to being president of the company, Dr. Helton is an active practicing physician. A devoted husband and father and now grandfather, Dr. Helton is a pillar of the Chattanooga community where he grew up.
- How does Essential Threads fit into Dr. Helton's bio? He was one of an original group of investors in Aegle Gear. When the opportunity developed to restart the company, Dr. Helton joined the effort because of the product quality. "Unlike any other scrubs, this product is the premium scrub on the market and everyone should have the opportunity to have the right uniform to interact with the public," he tells us.
We think that by being part of our company, Dr. Helton IS doing good and helping others in yet another way!