Dr. Jennifer Groner

Family. Relationships. Dr. Jennifer Groner, of Texas County Memorial Hospital, will tell you that those things are very important to her.

Groner’s early memories involve family –– spending time with her dad caring for cattle on her grandparent’s farm in Westphalia.

“I was the youngest of four girls, so even though I was a girl, my dad decided he was going to do everything with me that he would have done with a son,” said Groner, who signed a three-year contract with TCMH in August.

Cattle farming, fishing, outdoor activities in the Ozarks, were all part of Groner’s childhood. She grew up in Jefferson City. Her extended family still lives in the area today.

In high school, Groner was a candy striper, volunteering at her community hospital. So a career in medicine was something that she considered upon graduating from high school. But Groner’s path to doctor was more adventurous than the usual undergraduate degree to medical school to residency.

Groner went to Notre Dame University, planning to pursue a career in medicine. But she was disenchanted with the people she met also pursuing the same degrees. She ended up with a degree in fine arts.

Groner’s education led her to jobs in Chicago and other parts of the nation as she experienced working for small businesses and managing projects and people on her own, gaining a “perspective on the business world” that is a benefit in her job today as a doctor.

She circled back around to the University of Missouri in Columbia to take required classes for medical school a few years later and attended medical school at AT Still University in Kirksville.

Groner thought she wanted to be a family doctor, taking care of people of all ages and delivering babies.

“A doctor in my program said, ‘You have to go to Appalachia to do that,’ discouraging me from that field at first,” Groner said.

Groner considered post medical school residencies in obstetrics/gynecology and general surgery. She matched with a surgery residency and spent an internship year at Ingham Regional Medical Center in Lansing, Mich.

“General surgery was not for me,” Groner said. “I knew I wanted to have a connection with my patient that went beyond performing a surgery.”

Groner’s thoughts went back to family medicine, and she had the opportunity to join the family medicine residency program at Capital Region Medical Center in Jefferson City. Groner was able to be close to home at a time when her family needed her while her mom battled cancer.

“While I was in Jefferson City, I found a program in Kansas City where I could do some extra training and be the family medicine doctor that delivered babies that I always wanted to be,” Groner said.

After completing residency, Groner went to the University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Medicine for fellowship training in surgical obstetrics.

A one-year program actually turned into seven years in Kansas City because Groner was offered a “dream job” as attending physician in the department of community and family medicine and assistant professor at the UMKC family medicine and obstetrics program.

“In Kansas City, I was doing what I wanted to do,” Groner said.

She described the position as “mini obstetrician.”

“I loved working with the residents in the program,” Groner said. “Watching the residents grow was gratifying, and the people I worked with were fun.”

In Kansas City, Groner delivered and oversaw the delivery of hundreds of babies. She had the opportunity to provide care for women and families of many different cultures and backgrounds. Groner also grew her own little family—Matthew was born in 2012 and Sarah was born in 2015.

“I always knew that at some point in time, I wanted to practice traditional family medicine,” Groner said.

In 2016 Groner began looking for a new opportunity, and UMKC resident, Cory Offutt, MD, told her about the position he was taking at Texas County Memorial Hospital.

“I love the rural setting, and folks around here are familiar to me,” Groner said about her visit to TCMH.

Groner wanted a safe place and a small town to raise her young children. She sought a place not too far from her extended family in Jefferson City. She said taking the job with TCMH “felt right” to her.

When Groner was initially recruited to TCMH, it was not to work full-time at the Mountain Grove Clinic because TCMH had difficulty recruiting physicians doing obstetrics to work full-time at a clinic 25 miles from the hospital. Groner visited the clinic and the community and requested to work full-time in Mountain Grove.

“I want to build relationships with the people here,” Groner said.

She said recognized the opportunity to be the physician leader of a clinic in a small town.

Groner envisions growing the clinic practice while working alongside Sara Openshaw, the established family nurse practitioner at the TCMH Mountain Grove Clinic, providing the full gamut of care for all age ranges and delivering babies and providing hospital inpatient care at TCMH.

“The best part of family medicine is being able to provide that ongoing care,” Groner said. “You start with one aspect of the patient’s care, and you continue taking care of that patient for many years.”

So, Groner’s second dream job began in Mountain Grove.

Groner wants to take care of mom while she’s pregnant, deliver the mom’s baby and continue to provide care for mom and the baby after delivery. Groner wants to provide school physicals and immunizations for those children as they grow. She wants the clinic door to be open to walk-in patients as well as patients that need regularly scheduled medical care for chronic conditions. Groner wants mom and dad, the kids, and grandma and grandpa to find a medical home with her.

“I love the variety in rural family medicine,” Groner said, noting that sometimes the care is very routine and sometimes the care is very unusual.

Again, Groner circles back around to the importance of family.

As a woman and as a single mom, Groner understands the demands placed on women in the workplace, calling them a challenge.

“We all go to work to support our families, and there’s the push and pull of family while we are trying to make a living,” Groner said. “So many women I talk to are making decisions for their family daily because their spouse has a job on an oil rig or with the railroad. I know that feeling.”

Groner hopes that the area moms and all the patients that utilize the TCMH Mountain Grove Clinic will find a home with her and the clinic staff.

“I am looking for a ‘family-feel’ in our clinic,” Groner said. “I hope everyone here enjoys their job and the people they work with, so we are able to share that good feeling with our patients.”

Dr. Jennifer Groner is accepting new patients at the TCMH Mountain Grove Clinic. Walk-in patients are welcome, although appointments are preferred. The clinic is open Monday through Friday from 7:40 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 417-926-1770 for additional information or to schedule an appointment.

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