“Retiring isn’t quite the right word. Retreading is more accurate,” said Dr. Jon Yoder, longtime physician and head of Atmore Family Medicine. Whichever word you choose, Dr. Yoder is leaving his practice in Atmore in July and heading off into new opportunities.
“I had planned to do this at 50,” Yoder said, “but I didn’t quite make it, since I am 54. Some people believe that I am taking this step because I lost my wife, but this isn’t accurate either. Dawn and I had already talked about this, although she would have pushed for 55.”
Dawn Yoder was Dr. Yoder’s wife, whom he lost to a freak lightning strike outside their home in July of 2009.
“The timing is just right. There are two doctors committed to coming to this area, brothers Shane and Sheldon Harigel. The hospital helped pay for their education with the agreement they would come back here. This created a win-win situation. They could come and take over my practice, and instead of the area losing a doctor, it is gaining two to cover my leaving,” Yoder said.
Most of the staff of Atmore Family Medicine will be staying on, including both of his physician assistants, Janisa Quinley and Miranda Nolen.
“Janisa may spend some time going back and forth to Doctor [Jonah] McIntyre’s office, since there will be two doctors here instead of one,” Dr. Yoder said.
As for what he has planned, Dr. Yoder said he may write a book, “If I can convince myself I have something new to say. Not many doctors have lost a wife to lightning, so I have a new perspective there. If I can help someone else, then it would be worthwhile.”
Mission work is also in his future. Inspired by a mission doctor at a very young age, Dr. Yoder has always had that as a part of his plans.
“My uncle was a missionary doctor in Ethiopia. He was my role model. Over the years, I have averaged about one mission trip a year, especially over the last ten years. There are a lot of motivations people have for mission work, some good and others not so good. I have to check my motivations out. I am praying about it and I do have the opportunity because I don’t have a lot of financial obligations, so I won’t be a burden to anyone,” Dr. Yoder said.
Mission work could take him anywhere in the world.
“I speak a lot of Spanish, so I would prefer Central or South America, but that isn’t where the need is at the moment. It looks more likely that I may land in West Africa or Asia. There is a greater need there,” he said.
He plans to work through a faith-based organization, possibly one sponsored by the Mennonite Church.
Dr. Yoder’s family has all put down deep roots in Atmore. His oldest daughter, Kristen, is a nurse at Atmore Community Hospital, but it is at Atmore Christian School where the impact of the Yoder family is strongest. His other three children, Robert, Amber and Stephen, along with Robert’s wife Michelle and Amber’s husband David all serve on the faculty and staff of the school, demonstrating a strong family commitment to Christian education.
Dr. Yoder came to Atmore in 1989 from North Alabama.
“I was practicing in North Alabama, delivering babies. The malpractice insurance had gotten so high that I was paying for the privilege of delivering babies. My partners there didn’t want to stop, so I began to look for another place to practice. I knew Dr. (Harry) Moore. We had studied together. I wanted to come to a town with a Mennonite Church. Atmore was a perfect fit.
“I spent the first ten years at Physicians Associates. I then began my own practice in 1999. My greatest joy has been the patients and the relationships you build. I am treating the children of children I delivered. People trust you. They place their lives in your hands,” Dr. Yoder said.
He said the one thing he would not miss is the paper work.
“We get 200 to 300 faxed pages a day. I remember when Ben Maxwell was practicing. He kept patient records on three by five index cards. He could place ten years worth of records on one card. Now you have to document everything to protect yourself from malpractice suits and to get paid by insurance companies.
“I will miss my staff. Nettie Hollingsworth has been with me since 1989. They have all been great to work with.”
The hospital takes over Atmore Family Medicine in July, with the Harigel brothers arriving near the end of the month with Dr. Yoder staying for a few weeks after they arrive to ease the transition.
Dr. Yoder said that this could be a temporary thing. He doesn’t yet know where the Lord will lead him. He plans to take a few rotations at the hospital if he is needed, “and do all those things I never had time for. I have a lot of cedar wood that [Hurricane] Ivan provided. I may make cedar chests,” he said with a smile.