Do you remember house calls? John Ireland does because his father—a small-town general practitioner in Richmond, Mo.—used to make those visits, and his son would occasionally tag along. “I remember going into people’s homes, seeing how he interacted with patients in that kind of setting, and I thought it was really neat that he went in and went over their medication list, examined them, talked to them—and when he was done, he talked with them a little longer. It was almost like they were a part of the family in that setting. … I think I just wanted to do what he did ever since I can remember.”
And that he’s done, following his D.O. degree from what is now Kansas City University. Rather than general practice, though, young Ireland gravitated to pulmonology and critical-care medicine. “What really attracted me to it was the challenge of it, taking care of the sickest people, the physiology of that. I’m still kind of fascinated with it today.”
Kansas City turned out to be, in some ways, a scaled version of Richmond, making it the right fit for his practice. “I talk the language here, talk to people who come in from smaller towns and even go to smaller towns in outreach clinics, where I can sit and talk to my kind of people,” Ireland says. “If you put me in a New York or Los Angeles, I’d be a fish out of water.”
As a specialty, critical care gave Ireland a front-row seat in the waves of hospitalizations throughout the pandemic. “It was just exhausting at times, taking care of really sick people, seeing the amount of death that I saw over the past couple of years,” he says. “More than anything, what that experience did for me was give me a greater appreciation of the time that I spend with my family and loved ones. It probably made me more empathetic too, and that carried over to being a better physician, from that standpoint.”
Read Ingram's full profile on Dr. Ireland.