Neighbor: Dr. Kurt Eaton

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 4, 2000

family makes Troy home


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August 3, 2000 10 PM

Kurt Eaton and his wife, Cille, rode quietly into Troy for a sneak-preview of the town they might call home. It passed with flying colors and now Troy is home for the Eatons and their two children, Paul Thomas, 13, and Taylor Anne, 4.

On Wednesday, Eaton officially hung out his shingle and began seeing patients at his new clinic, Pike Family Practice. That was the beginning of the realization of a lifelong longing and a daring, bold move from the known into the unknown.

Eaton traces his desire to be a doctor back to a family physician who would take him on his knee and let him play with his stethoscope and other doctor "toys."

"Dr. Shelby didn’t set children on the examination table," Eaton said. "He would pick us up and put us on his lap. I can remember wanting to be just like him."

That image was planted firmly in Eaton’s brain but he took the long way around to the world of Dr. Shelby.

First, he answered the call of Uncle Sam and marched off to serve his country for four years as an Army infantryman. Then, he married his high school sweetheart, a "lovely" girl from Tennessee, and entered the world of business.

They weren’t rich but they were living a comfortable life and settling easily into family life with their young son, when Eaton decided to give up the security of his world and enter the unknown.

"Medicine had always been in the back of my mind," he said. "Cille and I had discussed it but never seriously. One day, I came home from work and told her we needed to sit down and have a serious conversation. I told her how much I wanted to go into medicine and that I felt like it was now or never."

Cille Eaton listened intently to her husband’s words. When he finished, she gave him all the encouragement he needed.

"Cille said, ‘Go for it. We’ll make things work,’ and that was all I needed to hear," Eaton said.

So, Eaton said goodbye to 84 Lumber Company and a Friday paycheck and went back to school.

"A lot of people leave a job for another job, but it’s different when you leave a job to go school," he said, with a smile.

But, his wife was true to her words. They made it work.

Eaton finished college and applied for medical school. He received his undergraduate degree in psychology and chemistry from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He then attended the University of South Alabama College of Medicine where he received his medical degree. He completed his internship and residency training with the University of South Alabama’s Department of Family Practice and Community Medicine.

Almost 10 years after embarking on the unknown, Eaton could finally put M.D. after his name, hang up his shingle and announce, "The doctor is in."

But where?

The Eatons called Birmingham home but they were looking for a home away from home – some town with the amenities of a big city but with a small town atmosphere. It was time to do some shopping around for just the right place to call home.

While attending the Physicians of Alabama Opportunity Fair (PA-OF) in Fairhope, Eaton rubbed elbows with the administrator of Edge Regional Medical Center, David Loving. Eaton was impressed by Loving and what he had to say about his hospital and the community it served. Troy and Pike County just might be exactly what he and his wife had in mind.

However, they wanted to see for themselves and they wanted the self-guided tour. So they took it.

Nobody knew the Eatons, so nobody was trying to impress them but, nonetheless, the Eatons were impressed with Troy and Pike County. They liked everything from the friendly people to the beautiful countryside.

"Troy was the kind of place we were looking for and hoping to find," Eaton said. "Things worked out for us and we couldn’t be happier. We are excited to be in Troy and Pike County. This is home to us now."

The Eatons have bought a house with enough land for children to roam and to pasture a horse or two and plant a garden.

Sailing, reading and hunting are Eaton’s hobbies; horses and gardening are his wife’s.

Their new hometown offers opportunities for them to enjoy their hobbies. And, just as soon as they get completely settled, Eaton said there will be a horse in the pasture – a Tennessee Walker, of course.

But right now he is concentrating on building his practice.

"There are three ways to build a practice," he said. "First, through advertising. Then, through the generosity of the medical community who will send patients your way. But, number one is through patient referral. When a patient goes away from a visit and tells his or her friends, ‘That doctor really listened to me. He paid attention to what I said and seemed genuinely interested and concerned about me.’ That’s the best recommendation I, or any doctor, could have."

Eaton is a

pediatrics to geriatrics doctor. His practice is designed to treat everyone in the family.

"I want to be a family’s doctor," he said. "I love kids and I’ll be looking for opportunities to work with them outside the clinic. I have a special interest in asthma, especially among children. But, I treat all patients for all types of conditions. I do sports medicine, pre-participation physicals, routine care for chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, women’s health care and so forth. In short, I’m a family physician."

For Eaton, it’s been a long journey that began on the knee of his family doctor. His commitment now is to give that same special kind of care to those who come his way."