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Winding path brings physician to Marion

Staff writer

In her youth, K. Anne Phyfer didn’t expect to have a career in medicine. But she became a doctor.

As a doctor, she didn’t expect to stay in Kansas after spending six years in Liberal. But she decided to stay following a May visit to Marion that exceeded her expectations. Phyfer opened her practice Monday as the newest addition to St. Luke Physician’s Clinic.

“What really impressed me about this town is that it’s so obvious the people here care about their town. Obvious,” Phyfer said.

“Everything about it — the park, there’s a lot of businesses here for a town this size, there are a lot of interesting places like the Elgin Hotel — it’s a fascinating little town. I like it when people take pride in a town.”

Phyfer was equally taken with St. Luke Hospital.

“I liked the environment, both the physical and the people. I was impressed,” Phyfer said. “It’s so much better when people work together — that was another thing that impressed me. I thought ‘Wow, I’m going to jump all over this because it was exactly what I was looking for.’”

There was a time in her life when Phyfer didn’t know exactly what she was looking for as far as a career.

“I never dreamed I’d end up in medicine,” Phyfer said.

Phyfer grew up in New Albany, Miss. and Geneva, Ill. She attended a private girls’ school in Kenosha, Wis. to finish high school, and then went to college to study history and political science. She graduated from Western Michigan University in 1968, and earned a teaching certificate and a master’s degree in education, but found good jobs difficult to come by.

“I had probably one of the lowest paying jobs you can have. I made $7,000 a year teaching handicapped kids from zero to 3,” Phyfer said. “I thought this isn’t going to do.”

Phyfer explored possibilities in the business world, but that wasn’t for her, either.

“My mother was good in business, my father was good in business, my brother was a stockbroker, but I am not business-inclined,” Phyfer said.

It was following an interview with Xerox that she turned toward the medical field.

“I started thinking ‘What do I like that I’m interested in that there’s a market for it.’ I’d been avidly reading medical stuff, and I thought maybe nursing,” Phyfer said.

Before settling on nursing, Phyfer chose to explore the possibility of becoming a physician.

“I was accepted in nursing school, but I turned them down because I decided to risk a year to try to go on to medical school,” Phyfer said.

The risk paid off when she was admitted to Chicago Medical School, which Phyfer said was one of the most expensive medical schools at that time. The expense played a part in determining what direction she would take.

“I think I would’ve gone to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). I liked the detective work, but I didn’t think I could pay back my loans,” Phyfer said. “Family practice, I liked that, and I liked the ER, too.”

Several false starts followed after graduation, but she finally found the right niche in Perryville, Mo.

“I was there for 20 years. I loved Perryville, it was a great town,” Phyfer said. “I started out in a clinic, but I was working mostly ER, and I did some urgent care.”

But after 20 years, changes had Phyfer on the move again.

“It was a combination of things. I’d just gotten divorced. I had been trying to set up an urgent care clinic, but I couldn’t do it on my own. It fell through three times. I just couldn’t hang on any more,” Phyfer said.

She found the right opportunity in Liberal, where she worked in emergency medicine. She knew she would eventually move on from Liberal, and that move brought her to Marion.

“It was good. I had steady employment while I was trying to figure out where I wanted to go,” Phyfer said. “I didn’t really expect to stay in Kansas, but this was just exactly what I was looking for.”

Community members can meet Phyfer during a reception from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Luke Physician’s Clinic.

Last modified July 12, 2012

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