Although they are both doctors, Drs. Tim and Tracy Sanford were mindful not to push their kids into a medical career.
Nonetheless, their two children, Drs. Laura and Mitch Sanford, have followed in their parents’ footsteps anyway, and all four are now board-certified family medicine providers affiliated with Memorial Health System.
“They always told us they would be proud of me and Mitchell no matter what we decided to do, as long as we found something we loved and did it to the best of our ability…,” Laura recalls. “In addition, both my parents always made me and my brother a priority and kept a healthy work-life balance.”
In doing so, Tim and Tracy showed them that being a doctor didn’t have to be all-consuming. This example made an equally strong impression on Mitch.
“My sister and I saw my parents practicing medicine and the effect it was having on people’s lives in the community, with people frequently saying ‘hello’ (at) the supermarket and thanking them for taking care of their spouse, parents, children or themselves,” he says.
Neither Tim nor Tracy began their professional lives in the health care field. Both graduated from Mississippi State University, and Tracy was as a high school science teacher in West Point, Mississippi, while Tim spent six years working as an engineer.
When it came time for Tim to choose his college senior project, a trusted professor suggested he analyze blood flow through the kidney.
“His rationale was something which has stuck with me ever since, that it is important to take what you know and what you have learned, and then apply it to new problems,” he says. “Working on that project opened my eyes to the incredible thing that is the human body.”
Tracy’s path to becoming a doctor can be traced back to her childhood.
“When I was 5 years old, my brother accidentally ran me over in the family station wagon, so I was in the hospital for months,” she recalls. “Then, when I was 10 years old, my 19-year-old sister died of a medical problem that could have been avoided. I think both of those things were pivotal in my interest in practicing medicine.”
The couple attended the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine while at the same time raising two young children. They went on to own and operate their own private practice in Oklahoma for 17 years before moving to work in southeast Oklahoma, where the younger two Sanfords were completing their residencies.
The large, modern medical facility there was the referral center for the entire Choctaw Nation, and Tracy was the associate program director of the residency program while Tim worked in the family medicine department.
“Getting trained by my mother as a resident was really neat,” Mitch says, “and I got to enjoy eating lunch together and having my siblings stay overnight to play games and watch videos on some weekends.”
Mitch had decided to pursue medicine by the time he was in seventh grade — influenced not only by his parents, but by the excellent care his grandmother had received as she battled cancer. Both he and his sister remember working in their parents’ clinic during their formative years, filing papers and organizing medicine samples.
The siblings attended the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa, and after Mitch finished his residency, the Sanfords decided to relocate to be closer to relatives. Their new home had to have a good school system for their three adopted siblings, ages 13, 10, and 8, who still live at home. An opportunity arose on the Coast that allowed them to all work together.
“We love practicing with our kids!” Laura exclaims. “Being able to brainstorm difficult cases with each other and celebrate or commiserate with true understanding when needed is a wonderful thing. We each have areas of medicine that we particularly enjoy and excel at, and we take advantage of each other’s knowledge base.”
Laura is equally excited about what the future holds and what the four doctors can achieve through their collective talents and knowledge. “I think that working together and combining our interests and skills makes us better doctors and a better team for patient care.”