Will the Circle be Unbroken

Happily married father of six, Dr. John Young mixes humility with dedication and hard work

By Lee Hurley | Photo by Brit Huckabay

Dr. John Young, an orthopedic surgeon at Precision Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, is not at all the man I expected to meet when I agreed to write about him for Portico. Self-effacing and quick to spread the credit for his success around to his wife, his parents, his sisters and brothers, his colleagues, and his staff, he seems more like a priest than a surgeon.

As I waited for him in his cluttered, over-the-mountain office, I looked around to get a feel for his personality and realized he must spend very little time there. There is no ego wall of pictures. No fancy furniture or artwork—just a big window to the outdoors, a change of clothes strewn haphazardly over a chair, a computer and a few techy gadgets, and a huge white calendar charting the activities of his six children: Jackson, Hudson, Rivers, Ireland Grace, Brooks, and Bridger. When he arrived, apologizing profusely for being late, and began to talk, I realized his office is actually very revealing of his priorities. John doesn’t care about things very much. He’s all about people—his parents and siblings, his wife and children, and his patients. Everything else is utilitarian.

John is soft-spoken—unusually so. At 52, he has longish blonde hair and a casual, outdoor-loving look to him with relaxed body language that encourages conversation. His patients describe him as warm and approachable. He’s comfortable in his own skin the way people who have very little to prove often are.
He was unstinting with information when talking about his parents, his father, particularly, and also his mother and siblings. In ten different ways during our interview, according to my transcription, John reiterates: “I come from a very loving, encouraging, hardworking, and determined family. I was always supported and encouraged. I looked up to my dad. He was one of the greatest men I have ever known. He was strong, handsome, athletic, and also kind and a wonderful humanitarian. He was a high achiever. He constantly received accolades from the medical community, our local community, and the Boy Scouts.” John’s father, Dr. Mitchell Young, was a general surgeon in Texarkana, TX, where John grew up.

It’s the determined person who gets back up after failure that I admire. I don’t feel like I was the smartest person or the most talented guy in medical school, but I can outwork anybody, and I’m passionate about patient care.

He enjoys talking about his nine—yes, nine—siblings, especially his brother, Mike, who died last year. “To me, my older siblings were superheroes. They were younger versions of my dad,” John remembers, “We all played sports, did well in school, and worked at the same Boy Scout camp where my dad worked.”
“Scouting played a big role in my family. My dad was an Eagle Scout, and all seven of my brothers and I went on to be Eagle Scouts, too. I think my dad earned every badge and award there is in scouting. He led by example. Others have led the way for me. I’m more following in their footsteps than leading the way,” John elaborated.

“My siblings went into medicine, too. My dad recommended orthopedics to us. He predicted it would be an advancing area with new technology, and he saw it as a bright future. He was right. With our sports backgrounds, it was a natural fit,” he reasons. Seven of the boys are doctors. Another is a veterinarian. John’s sister is a nurse. The other sister is a dean at Texarkana College.

“I want my kids to have high levels of motivation so they can be successful in life. A highly motivated and determined person is hard to beat. I want them to have a strong work ethic. It’s the determined person who gets back up after failure that I admire. I don’t feel like I was the smartest person or the most talented guy in medical school, but I can outwork anybody, and I’m passionate about patient care. The people I see as successful didn’t just become successful. They put in the time and the work. I want to instill those same qualities in my children,” he says.

“I think team sports are good for kids because of the lessons they learn and the dedication to the team it takes to succeed. You are going to win, and you are going to lose, but if you’ve given it your all, you can leave the field in peace no matter what. If they are good athletes, great, but the important thing to me about sports is the life lessons,” John adds.

He claims, “What I like most about practicing medicine is interacting with patients.” He enjoys treating neighborhood kids most of all. “To me, the operating room is fun,” he explains in an upbeat voice, “I like to watch kids grow up and develop their skills. I also like the variety of patients, old and young.”
I could write a book on John’s family members, thanks to all he had to say about them, but he was clearly uncomfortable when the focus was on him exclusively. He was anxious that I understand how much his wife, Heather, does to support him and his practice.

John Young is kind. I don’t mean he does a lot of pro bono work, or he’s a great scout leader, or he has a reputation as an empathetic and talented physician, a hands-on father, or a good husband–although all of that is true from everything I researched and observed. He seems to be innately kind. “Kind” is the first adjective people who know him personally and professionally used to describe him to me.

If you read the Boy Scout Oath, Law, Motto, Slogan, and Code, which I did for this article, you will see that they have been words to live by for John Young, and they serve as guiding principles for him to this day. Over and over in our interview, his own thoughts echoed, sometimes word-for-word, the Boy Scouts Handbook. He wants to “do his best at all times,” to “help people at all times,” and endeavors to “do a good turn daily.”

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