The NATIVE PHYSICIAN
Dr. Leighan Talton’s Stuart family practice office has a touch of home including a photo
of her twin toddlers Nat and Matt.
BY GREG GARDNER | PHOTO BY GREG GARDNER
Dr. Leighan Howard-Talton has come full circle by returning to Stuart and working for the hospital where she and her parents were born — Martin Health System.
Her parents, Tracy and Francie Howard, were brought into the world by the legendary Dr. Julian Parker, who delivered almost all of the children born in Stuart for many years. According to Francie Howard, her daughter wanted to be a doctor since she was in elementary school.
As a general practitioner, Talton sees hundreds of patients — adults of all ages — each month, but her day really begins when she arrives home at 4:30 p.m. to take care of her twin toddlers Matt and Nat. And before she retires for the night, Talton will spend an hour responding to emails and taking care of other work from her office. Her only me-time is at 5:30 a.m., when she spends 30 minutes surfing Pinterest Internet sites before arriving to work at 7:15 a.m.
A true people person, Talton bubbles with enthusiasm as she talks about her work. “I like people,” she says confidently. “I don’t think you can do a good job if you don’t know and understand your patients. I ask them about themselves and that helps me remember them. I need to know who feeds you, who waters you, who walks you.”
Talton sees about 15 patients a day and the rest of her free time is spent returning phone calls, looking over test results and writing medication prescriptions, among other duties. “This job is so hard,” she says. “If they (patients) are telling you something, it is important to them. A lot of times you feel like you are the keeper of the information, kind of like an air traffic controller. There are only so many hours in the day and sometimes you get to the border of information overload.”
As a teenager, Talton volunteered at Martin Memorial Hospital, where she photographed newborn babies. It was there she was mentored by several doctors who would go on to write letters of recommendation for medical school. And now those same doctors are among the many who refer patients to Talton.
Pediatrician Douglas Bowling met Talton during her residency rotation to treat children. “She was one of the best (medical) students we ever had,” says Bowling. “The first thing we realized was she learned everyone’s name in the first 45 minutes. By the second day she knew everyone personally. I don’t try to sell pediatrics (to students), but I wanted to sway her. And now she is practicing pediatrics with her own children.”
Bowling says Talton makes the medical profession look good. “She really likes people,” he says. “She makes the other doctors look good when she refers patients and follows up to find out how they are doing. She has to refer patients to specialists, but she is not intimidated by them. We were so glad when they (Taltons) moved back here.”
After her pediatric residency, Talton stayed in touch with Bowling and his staff while she completed her residency in Jacksonville. When a couple of people moved from Stuart to Jacksonville, Talton found them doctors in their new neighborhood.
The Taltons were at their wit’s end when the twins were born while she was a resident. They were always concerned about whether husband Jat would be able to find work as a contractor in the Stuart area. “We didn’t know if we could come back here,” she says. “I didn’t know if it was going to be possible to move back here and have both of us work. I said, ‘We need help. Let’s go home.’ I am so honored to be able to work in my home community for Martin Health System.”
Between them, Talton’s parents have 11 siblings so there are plenty of cousins around Martin County. The family usually has supper each Sunday with her parents, the Howards, at their home in Stuart.
Asked what she does on the weekend, Talton is quick to respond with a laugh. “Twins.”
DOCTORS OF INTEREST - #2
Name: Name: Dr. Leighan Howard-Talton
Family: Husband, Jat; 21-month-old twins Matthew and Natalie
Education: University of Florida premed; Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Bradenton; residency St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Jacksonville
Occupation: Family practitioner
Hobbies: “Twins. All forms of domestic engineering — crafting, cooking, sewing.”
What I like most about practicing medicine: “My favorite part of my job is the patient relationship. You can take the best care of the patient when I ask them in the beginning about themselves.”
What most people don’t know about me: “I have really nice handwriting. And that is really rare for a doctor. I used to make money creating awards and wedding invitations.”