The city of Frankfort has changed a lot during his absence, says Dr. John Shekleton, who returned to practice here after a decade away.
“Going back to 1993, Frankfort was a really small town,” said Shekleton, a gastroenterologist who left in 2003 for a position in Tucson, Ariz. “There have been a lot of changes.”
He was surprised by how many restaurants, stores, subdivisions and opportunities cropped up, and he says the hospital has grown by leaps and bounds, too. He practiced in Frankfort from 1993 to 2003.
What hasn’t changed, however, are the people of Frankfort, he says. They’ve kept their small-town friendliness and kindness. Shekleton’s wife, Patrice, says their homecoming has been better than they could have imagined.
“We have so many friends here,” Patrice Shekleton said, adding that though they didn’t visit Frankfort, friends often visited them in Arizona.
“It’s such a wonderful feeling to fall naturally back into those relationships. We have so many friendships both professionally and personally that seem to have gone on. It’s been the most natural, wonderful homecoming.”
A lot of last names have changed, but Dr. Shekleton has already seen several of his former patients. He also sometimes gets recognized while he’s taking a walk in his neighborhood or in the grocery store. People are surprised to see him again.
“Ten years is a long time,” he said. “But I can still put the names with the faces, and it’s good to remember people.”
He and his wife have especially enjoyed reconnecting with the medical staff at Frankfort Regional Medical Center, where Shekleton has medical staff privileges.
“About 70 percent of physicians in town I already know, and with most of the others, I’ve made the effort to reach out and get to know them,” Shekleton said.
He opened his practice Aug. 1, just a block from the hospital with Commonwealth Specialists of Kentucky.
Shekleton knew he would be a doctor as early as 6 years old. His father practiced internal medicine, and as a young boy, Shekleton watched him in action.
He followed in his father’s footsteps and completed his residency in internal medicine from St. John’s Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis and received his doctorate from Southern Illinois University. He also completed a fellowship in gastroenterology from Tulane University Affiliated Hospitals in New Orleans.
“Gastroenterology allows me to do procedures as well as practice basic medicine,” he says.
Because of his specialty, colon cancer prevention is his number one priority. Early detection saves lives, he stresses.
He is also pleased to be able to introduce certain procedures to improve patient care in Frankfort.
Hospital CEO Chip Peal said the hospital is fortunate to have him.
“Dr. Shekleton is a full-service gastroenterologist who provides additional services, such as ERCP’s, that weren’t available in Frankfort in the past,” Peal said. “Hospital staff and other physicians love his can-do positive attitude.”
ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram), for which Shekleton is noted nationwide, is “a test that combines the use of a flexible, lighted scope with X-ray pictures to examine the tubes that drain the liver, gallbladder and pancreas.”
While reflecting that it’s good to be back, Patrice Shekleton said that medical communities often praise her husband for his skill and expertise while patients often remember him for his compassion.
“He has a good heart,” she said. “What people remember is he’s a compassionate, very down-to-earth person who really cares about people.”
While her life is often filled with concerns for their four adult children, ages 21-33, with college exams, wedding planning and a grandbaby on the way – her husband often returns from the office concerned about his patients.
“He’s very committed and worries about his patients,” she said. “He really cares.”
COMMONWEALTH SPECIALISTS OF KENTUCKY
Location: 96 C. Michael Davenport Blvd.
Phone: (502) 875-7000
Hours: Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.