February 28, 2024

Iowa Family Physician of the Year

By Curt Swarm

On Friday night, Nov. 17, Ginnie and I were so pleased and honored to sit in the audience at the award ceremony for Family Physician of the Year by the Iowa Academy of Family Physicians (IAFP) held at the Sheraton Hotel in West Des Moines. We listened to Dr. John Thurman give his acceptance speech, crediting for his success his wife, Audrey, his family, the fine staff at the SE Iowa Regional Medical Center (formerly Great River Medical Center), his patients for their support, his training as a West Point Army Officer, football player and combat veteran, and three men he played football with and served with, who were also present.

The reason Ginnie and I had been invited to the ceremony is because we nominated Dr. Thurman for the award. I say “we” because Ginnie is my editor. I did the writing and all the leg work involved in compiling the information for the award: the interviews with patients (which included Ginnie and me), and other doctors, nurses and staff members who work with Dr. Thurman. God laid it on my heart to write the nomination and wouldn’t let me rest until it was completed. Actually, I consider the nomination to be my best work ever. Why? Because it was for someone else, and I wholeheartedly believed in what I was writing and who I was writing it for.

Dr. Thurman was Ginnie’s and my doctor when he was at the Great River Medical Center in West Burlington. We liked him so much that we would find excuses to go see him. He’s an excellent doctor, great communicator and motivator, has a wonderful sense of humor, and really cares for each and every one of his patients, whom he considers personal friends. We were devastated when he and his wife, Audrey, decided to leave West Burlington for Chicago. We would have to find other doctors, tsk, tsk.

But Dr. Thurman and Audrey came back! They’d had a little boy, William, and wanted to raise him in a small town. Ginnie and I were elated, and so was the SE Iowa Regional Health Center. They immediately placed Dr. Thurman in the Ft. Madison clinic where they were short-staffed. Audrey and John say they are here to stay. Whew!

Actually, Great River Medical Center or SE Iowa Regional Medical Center is no stranger to Family Physician of the Year. There have been three former recipients: Dr.’s Dave Carlson, Doug Peters and Mike AbouAssaly. It is the main reason John Thurman initially chose and then returned to West Burlington: the opportunity to work with such a fine group of professional, caring doctors. Dr. AbouAssaly was instrumental in bringing Dr. Thurman to Iowa and personally mentoring him.

In addition to Family Physician of the Year, the Academy gave an award for Lifetime Achievement and two Farm Bureau scholarships.

One little story: Ginnie and I were on vacation this summer. We were in a motel in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and it was 10 p.m. I was having a medical issue — my ankles were swollen significantly. This had never happened before. Ginnie wanted me to go to the emergency room. Instead, I contacted Dr. Thurman by Facebook Messenger. Mind you, he wasn’t even our doctor at this point. Dr. Thurman and I discussed it via Messenger and decided the ankle swelling was due to all the driving we were doing and that I could wait until we returned home and visit our Primary Care Physician (PCP). I was quite impressed that Dr. Thurman was so easily available. But that’s the kind of doctor and person he is.

His model for living that he shares with patients and staff to help improve their lives is: (1) Control the controllables (2) Define your why (3) Be present and intentional (4) Practice kindness daily (5) We all have permission to have emotions.

Contact Curt Swarm at curtswarm@yahoo.com