Even as a young child, Eric Svestka noticed the “thing” his dad did for work was impactful to others. He recalls family outings where a member of the community would come up to thank his dad. Eric says, “I always knew Dad was a helper. People appreciated what he did and would stop us to share their gratitude for helping them through a challenging time.” Eric was a beneficiary of his dad’s help on more than one occasion growing up. He says, “I remember the time I flipped on my bike and broke my arm. I was in pain, and then Dad showed up. He crafted splints from old carpet pieces to stabilize my bones before heading to the hospital, but it was more his calm demeanor than his actions that comforted me.”
Although he considered other careers, Eric always returned to the idea of being a physician. He says, “I drew a picture of me dressed up in a doctor’s coat in Kindergarten – spiky blond hair and all! Being a
physician has always been the plan at some level!”
Kent says, “Eric really honed in his plan to become a physician later in high school and into college. He had the mental aptitude to complete the schooling followed by the desire to achieve it. I felt very proud for choosing the medical career, understanding his commitment and compassion toward others.”
Eric did not immediately identify his path within the medical field. He says, “At medical school we were encouraged to specialize. However, I grew up with and was surrounded by the idea that a person’s doctor was their go-to for everything. When exploring specialties, I found I missed treating the ‘whole’ person and found myself gravitating toward family medicine.” Kent adds, “I encouraged him to find a specialty that appealed to him, and to settle in a place that would make his family happy.”
Following residency, Eric practiced in Florida for six years before life brought him back to Decorah. He says, “I was working in a private practice in Florida and developed interest in improving the systems in which medical care is delivered. Mayo Clinic Health System as a whole aligned with my values and evolving interests. About this same time, an opportunity opened in Decorah and the rest fell into place.”
In 2020, Eric and his family returned to their hometown. He says, “It’s wonderful to raise my family here – in the community Megan and I grew up in.” Joining the same medical practice as his father was an added benefit. Eric adds, “Patients see my dad in the Emergency Department, then care transfers to me for follow up or hospital care. Some patients joke they ‘get both Svestkas’ for care! I like having Dad here, and the other physicians he has practiced with for years. I feel that having a multi-generational practice brings depth and understanding to the practice as a whole. We learn from each other.”
Kevin Locke, M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System Family Medicine Physician at Winneshiek Medical Center, 1989 – 2022 with his daughter Anna Mark, M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System Family Medicine Physician at Winneshiek Medical Center, 2021 – current.
Anna (Locke) Mark knew early on that when her dad was working late, he was doing so to help people. Kevin Locke, M.D., has been a family medicine physician in Decorah since 1989. Her mother, Mini, is also a health care provider, and Anna grew up experiencing a family life centered on caring for others, around-the-clock.
“When Anna was in grade school,” Kevin says, “I remember coming home late again and the kids asking why. I explained that some health issues are difficult situations and it can be hard to decide the right thing to do. Anna said, ‘But Dad, your job is easy. If someone has a headache, give them a headache pill, if they have a stomachache, give them a stomachache pill.’ To her, at that time in her life, solutions were simple and my job was solely to help people feel better.”
Anna’s plan to enter into the medical field evolved over time. She says, “Initially, I did not want to go into medicine because of the demanding nature I had seen from the profession as a kid. Over time though, my views changed. I realized being a doctor meant I would be able to continuously learn, use critical thinking skills/decision making, and also help people through a respected profession.”
Kevin recalls the night Anna made the announcement to her parents. “February of her freshman year at college, it started as a routine phone call. Then quietly came the confession… in spite of ignoring and redirecting her feelings, she couldn’t deny it anymore and was going to be a doctor.” He adds, “After the initial shock, we were proud and joyful. My wife and I feel it is a great way to serve our fellow man, and now Anna shares in that.”
Anna graduated from University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, IA with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology, and received her Doctor of Medicine degree from University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, IA. She completed her family medicine residency at Genesis Quad Cities Family Medicine in Davenport, IA. As she completed her medical education, Anna and her husband, Alex, set their sights back on Decorah. She says, “We wanted to stay in Iowa and be close to family. I liked the idea of working with my dad because he has always been supportive and I fully believe having a multi-generation practice makes me a better physician. I think family medicine has changed over the years and we have a lot to learn from the generations before us.”
After 33 years in medicine, Kevin is retiring this December. The piece of advice he leaves for Anna is a 1927 quote he read many years ago from Dr. Francis Peabody: For the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient. Kevin says, “Dr. Peabody’s quote has been a powerful and centering concept in my career, and what was true nearly 100 years ago still rings true today. Anna did several rotations with me in her education journey and I repeated and demonstrated this concept frequently. It’s the best advice I can give her, and after practicing with her this past year, it is apparent she is already there. Anna is deeply dedicated to her patients.”