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Bring it on Home

Bring it on Home

If Mountain Home ever needed a poster boy, it would be Dr. John Austin Carlisle.

Carlisle was born here, educated here, met and married his wife here and after a nearly 10-year absence to complete his medical training, has returned here to set up his practice. It’s the fulfillment, he said, of the grand plan he and his wife Jordan held throughout their time away from Baxter County.

“Coming back was always kind of in the cards,” he said. “We always had the idea that we’re probably going to want to come back here because we grew up here, we know it’s a great town to live in, in general. Thinking of the future of our kids, it’s a great town to raise a family in.

“People think of Mountain Home as, ‘Oh, there’s 12,000 people and there’s not a lot to do,’ but just living here, there are things to do here that we knew we enjoyed quite a bit, like hiking and fishing. That, in addition to family being around, was obviously a lure.”

John Austin and Jordan (Ezell) first laid eyes on each other in fifth grade and became fast friends through school and church activities. By junior year of high school, the relationship had matured to dating, and they graduated as a steady couple. Both shared a love of family, of place and the thought of going to medical school.

“I was thinking about where to go for my undergrad, and my sister went to the University of Central Arkansas, but obviously the University of Arkansas is good, too,” Carlisle said. “I told Jordan ‘I really don’t know where I’m going to go,’ and she said, ‘Well, I already know I’m going to Fayetteville.’ So that answered that question of where I was going to go to college.”

Jordan was influenced to go into medicine as the daughter of the late longtime Mountain Home physician Dr. Scott Ezell, who also played a key role in John Austin’s career decision. “I had developed at least an interest in medicine sometime around junior high school,” Carlisle said. “I had an interest in the sciences and also an interest in helping people in general, and for whatever reason, medicine fit into that picture. It’s definitely been kind of an evolution from there.

“The other inciting factor that encouraged me toward medicine was my father-in-law, who was a family practice doctor here. He went back to school and did some undergrad, and then went to medical school and did a family practice residency and moved back into town. That was another thing that definitely inspired me to go in that direction.”

After graduating from Fayetteville, the couple married and headed to Mississippi and William Carey University of Osteopathic Medicine in Hattiesburg. By this time, Jordan had decided not to pursue medicine and stepped into the role of confidante and coach for her husband as he navigated the grueling years of study that lay ahead.

“Jordan has supported me throughout this entire process, and I can tell you without a doubt, she has had a harder job than I have,” Carlisle said. “She had that understanding because of her father of what it takes to go through medical school and a residency for five years. You think you know how much time is spent away and how long the hours are and the difficulty of residency, but until you do it, it’s hard to even put it into words.

“I can think of times people would say, ‘I haven’t seen my significant other in 24 hours,’ and I’ve heard Jordan say, ‘Well I haven’t seen him in four days.’ She definitely has been a rock in our relationship and in the process of going through all this.”

Carlisle knew his professional path was in medicine, but he didn’t know specifically what area until his third year of medical school.

“I did a surgery rotation on a trauma surgery service, and after that, the hands-on aspect of patient care and being more active in treating patients really piqued my interest,” he said. “I actually switched my last rotation of the year from a medicine elective to another surgery so that I would have another month or two of surgery. It just kept going from there.”

Following medical school, the couple moved to Oklahoma State University Medical Center in Tulsa, where Carlisle completed his residency in general surgery. By this time, the young family had grown to include two of a brood that now numbers five children.By the time his requisite training was completed, the wandering Arkies had been gone for nearly a decade, and now, it was time to come home. He landed at Baxter Health in August, and from Day One, it’s felt as though he’d never left.

In fact, without naming names, Carlisle said he’s already served several patients who have known him from his growing-up years. It’s a patient-physician dynamic that’s a little surreal at the start but something to which he’s quickly become accustomed.

“Those situations happen, and they’ve happened a handful of times already,” he said. “It’s just more personal here. You’re dealing with patients, and you’re making decisions with patients. You’re treating your friends; you’re treating your neighbor. You’re treating someone that maybe you have more in common with compared to a big city where it feels like sometimes it could be just a random person off the street.

“For me, that’s a point of comfort with where I am and where I’ve brought my family back to. We’re small-town people who had the goal to live in a place where there’s a good quality of life. Honestly, this place feels very similar to when we left, which is what we wanted. It feels like home.”

Photography by James Moore