Home is where the heart is
Adage proves true for physicians Wheeler and Romanek
By LPR Staff
With a wealth of medical school training behind her and a collection of prestigious honors to her credit, Kimberly Wheeler had the world of medicine stretched before her. She could have chosen any field, any specialty, anywhere in the country. To the shock of her medi
cal school companions and the delight of her family and her patients, Wheeler let a childhood belief about doctors dictate her decision.
“After growing up in a small town where everyone leans on their family doctor, I think I had this conception or idea that being a “doctor” means being the family doc,” said the 1994 graduate of Lockhart High School. “Other people that grow up in larger cities and have their lives touched by the cardiologist or the anesthesiologist, that”s what they think of as a “doctor.” I never really thought of it like that.”
Upon her graduation from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and completion of her residency at Christus Santa Rosa, Wheeler decided instead of pursuing a specialty, she would enter family medicine, following in the footsteps of her father.
“My wife was a nurse and I am a doctor,” said Wheeler”s father, Barton J. Romanek. “But we never tried to push her into a career in medicine. In fact, I think we steered her away from it, but there was something in her that told her it was what she needed to do.”
“I didn”t grow up knowing I wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “In fact, I didn”t decide on going to medical school until I was in college, and I didn”t decide on family medicine until the very end.”
Wheeler said she researched several avenues, including a number of specialties, before her heart made her decision for her.
“When I left Lockhart for college, I started to appreciate it the most,” she said. “My husband felt the same way. We really missed our families, the people who raised us, and the sense that people here really care about one another.”
Wheeler returned to Lockhart with her husband Russell, a 1993 graduate of Lockhart High School, and their two children to join her father”s medical practice.
“I”ve always avoided taking on a partner because there are so many variables,” Romanek said. “But I knew from the start how Kim would treat our patients, her morals and her work ethic. Her being here has injected new life into the practice.”
Still, both agree they had concerns prior to Wheeler”s joining the practice.
“I worried that my patients would tell me “That”s not what your father would do,” or something like that,” she said. “But I haven”t had that experience at all.”
In fact, Wheeler has been flattered by the response she has received.
“My patients now are the people that raised me and raised my husband,” she said. “They were our community, our family and our friends. Now, they trust me as their doctor, and it”s really an honor.”
Romanek said they have intentionally not publicized the fact that Wheeler is his daughter, despite the fact that most of the patients already know.
“She has incredible credentials, and it”s important that people think of her as a doctor, not as my daughter,” he said. “But when you”ve been in one town in practice for so long, the patients do become your friends, so most of them realized from the start who Kim was.”
However, Romanek insists that Wheeler joining his practice is not a precursor to his retirement.
“I have no intention of going anywhere,” he laughed. “I”m looking forward to growing Lockhart Family Medicine even more, and I think Kim”s coming on board added another 20 years or so to my career!”
As excited as Romanek is with his new partner, he recognizes the rarity that she presents. Most often, Lockhart finds itself grooming students who become highly-skilled professionals who take their talents elsewhere.
“She didn”t really choose a career as much as she chose a lifestyle,” he said with a father”s pride. “She won”t make as much money here as she would make in a specialty…”
“But I didn”t choose it for money,” she interrupted, as only a daughter can. “We wanted our children to grow up in a community where they feel like they are part of something, and that”s something that we both had growing up here.”
In addition, Wheeler wants to be a “doctor,” as she remembers the definition from her childhood.
“The family doc is kind of like the quarterback,” she said. “And I want to be the quarterback. I want to be the one helping my patients maintain their whole health – if they need a specialist, I want to be able to tell them that. And after they see the specialist, I want to be the one to explain what was said and what needs to be done next.”
It”s the same quality of care her father has been providing the residents of Lockhart and Caldwell County for 28 years.