If not for an enduring love of interaction with and helping people, Amanda Baxa might have been a mathematician or an engineer.
Instead, the Tampa native and 2004 Centre High School graduate has found her way home as the newest physician at St. Luke Medical Clinic.
She’d been exposed to medicine through her mother, who was both an emergency medical technician and a licensed practical nurse, but when she went to Kansas State University in 2004, she majored in engineering. The idea of medical studies was too daunting.
“I was not going to do eight years of school,” Baxa said. “That was just too long.”
But in her sophomore year, she realized engineering lacked something she wanted.
“There isn’t much interaction with people,” she said, “so I changed course two years into college.”
When she turned to medicine, it turned out she already had an able mentor.
Baxa was in junior high when she met Salina ophthalmologist Linda Lawrence, who was seeing her younger brother for an eye disorder. As a college student, she became Lawrence’s shadow.
“She’s fascinating; a very neat lady,” Baxa said. “She’s very smart. She’s gone overseas and started clinics.”
But it was a clinic in Salina that brought together specialists from different disciplines that made a strong impression, Baxa said.
“Everybody evaluated the child at one point in time and then talked to create a plan, which you don’t see very often,” she said.
Lawrence didn’t sway her toward ophthalmology, though, because Baxa knew that she eventually wanted to practice in a rural area, where fewer opportunities exist for specialists.
Her focus on family practice was honed during studies and rotations at University of Kansas School of Medicine, where she discovered multiple interests.
“When I went through my rotations I liked everything,” Baxa said. “I liked surgery, I liked women’s health, I liked pediatrics. About every rotation I said, ‘This is really neat, but I don’t want to do this all the time.’”
Family medicine provided both variety and the types of relationships she wants to have with patients. Her residency in Wichita included a stint in Hillsboro that reinforced her choice.
“You really get to know the patients in a small town, you’re interacting with them on a day to day basis,” she said. “You get to know their families, and a lot of times you can do better medicine because you know the dynamics that are going on.”
Baxa moved on from her residency to Memorial Health System in Abilene in 2015, and is pleased to be coming to St. Luke.
“It’s home, I love this area,” she said. “The people are all so friendly. Having family close by is huge as well. I want to raise my kids in an area where they can play outside and they can have people thqt are watching over them as well.”
Baxa and her husband, Tim, have three daughters: Sophia, 5, Antonia, 3, and Evelyn, 10 months. The couple met at K-State, where Tim was working on a masters degree in ruminant nutrition. In Marion, he’ll be a stay-at-home dad.
“He’s going to be watching our girls,” Baxa said. “It made the most sense and was easiest for him to stay at home. He’s an absolutely fabulous father; the girls love him to pieces.”
Among her relatives in the county, Baxa is particularly glad to be near her grandmother, Leona Kleiber of Tampa.
“She lives on her own, she’s over 90, and she’s going to stay there as long as possible,” Baxa said. “We’re both very excited that we get to see each other more, and I can help her out more.”
Baxa began seeing patients today, and said she’s looking forward to meeting new people and building relationships.
“I like to find out what’s going on with them and how I can help them feel the best to do whatever they want to do in their lives,” she said.