Physician views challenges as opportunities

GHM Group

Dr. Jeffrey Baumgardner is a man who has learned to accept the challenges of life as opportunities for growth and change.

The physician recently opened his office at 940 North Henderson Street and is looking forward to providing total healthcare for women, which will include obstetrics, gynecology, and primary healthcare.

Baumgardner is an inspiration to those individuals who desire to make a significant career change later in life. For Dr. Baumgardner, his journey began years ago, after losing his job as a nurse’s aide at the Galesburg Mental Health Center when it was closed in early 1985. “After I graduated from high school I got a job at the center as a nurses aide,” Baumgardner explained. It was at the Galesburg Mental Health Center that he met his wife Chris who also worked as a nurse’s aide. “I worked there until it closed and as I look back, I realize if it hadn’t closed I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.” For Baumgardner his loss of employment ended up being a springboard for the future.

Suddenly unemployed, the couple decided to return to college and attended Carl Sandburg College. “I knew I had to receive some kind of training to care for our family,” Baumgardner said. The couple graduated from Sandburg and was among the first students to be named in the Carl Sandburg College Honors program. “I was just so happy to get my degree from Sandburg,” Baumgardner said. “All I could think of was the song lyrics, ‘Oh my future is so bright, I gotta wear shades’,” he chuckled.

The CSC Honors program opened the door for Jeff and Chris which allowed them to attend Knox College. “It was a great education and provided the building blocks I needed to move forward,” he said. Jeff received a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and then went on to Western Illinois University where he received a Master of Science in Stream Ecology. For the next seven years, Jeff worked at the United States Department of Agriculture in Peoria during the day and taught Ecology and Biology at Carl Sandburg College at night, while his wife worked at Knox College as a research assistant for Dr. Billy Wayne Geer, PhD.

Through her research at Knox, Chris learned of grants and programs that were available to those wishing to pursue medical careers. She decided that it was time for her to pursue a medical degree as well, and she started medical school. “It was while Chris was attending medical school that I realized that I could see myself as a physician as well,” Jeff said.

Jeff spent 18 months preparing for the Medical College Aptitude Test and passed the first time he took it. I applied to medical school and got right in. “I’m not the smartest guy, but I am determined,” Jeff modestly explained.

Being parents and caring for their children are very important to both Chris and Jeff, so they both worked very hard at making sure the kids got the attention and love they deserved in spite of their parents very full schedules. “Since I started medical school three years after Chris, I was able to continue to be involved in the kids sports programs and activities,” Jeff said.

Both parents had to spend their first academic year of medical school away from home. “It was very hard for Chris to be away from the kids during this time and so I did all I could do to help ease her worries by being a supportive husband and good father,” Jeff said. Then, when I started medical school, I found myself in the same position, when I had to spend my academic year away from home. “It was a very hard and scary year,” Jeff reflected. “You never think you are going to survive, but you do.”

Jeff was determined to stay close to home during his residency so he applied to just one residency program and fortunately was accepted in the Obstetrics program in Peoria. The typical resident will work 80 to 100 hours a week and in spite of the long and difficult work schedule, Jeff successfully completed his residency and began looking for practice options in Galesburg.

Jeff chose to open his practice in Galesburg for several reasons. He believes that the rural setting provides a pleasant environment and creates a feeling of taking care of your neighbor. “People in Galesburg really care about each other and are much more compassionate toward each other as compared to larger metropolitan areas,” Baumgardner said. “I also feel blessed to be working in my hometown and finding good people to help us.”

“It is a scary venture having your own office,” Jeff said. “You have an idea of what you want your work environment to be like. My goal is to provide a work environment where everyone is happy and wants to work here while also being sensitive to our patients needs.”

Baumgardner and his staff hope every woman who comes to his office for health care will feel comfortable and at ease. He has made massage therapy available for those who might feel anxious or nervous prior to a stressful test or exam. He also made sure that the interior design of the office provided a relaxing and pleasant atmosphere. From the waiting room to the exam room, walls are painted and decorated with the patient in mind. “I want my patients to feel comfortable and confident in sharing personal information. My goal is to make an unpleasant experience as pleasant as possible,” Baumgardner said.

Sue Knuth, Office Administrator, has known Jeff for several years and speaks highly of his dedication and commitment to providing health care for women. “Dr. Baumgardner is just a very kind and caring physician who is committed to providing quality health care to women,” Knuth said. “It is refreshing to find an employer who is so compassionate and sensitive to the needs of others.”

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