Focus Artesia Fall 2021 | Big News for Little Kids

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JoAnn B. Couch, M.D. is a board-certified pediatrician with more than 22 years of experience. She joined Artesia General Hospital in 2020 after a long career as an Air Force pediatrician, most recently at Holloman Air Force Base.

We sat down with Dr. Couch between appointments to learn why she loves pediatrics, how she approaches caring for local kids and families, and her personal advice for kids with big dreams.

Dr. Couch, can you tell us a little bit about your family and upbringing?

I grew up in a small town in Missouri where I lived on a farm with my parents, four sisters, and one brother. Neither of my parents graduated from high school, but they both placed a high value on curiosity and learning. Our whole family was constantly looking up information and reading. My parents really instilled the importance of education in me and my siblings.

When did you choose a career in medicine, and what drew you to specialize in pediatrics?

At the end of my senior year in high school, I was still searching for a career path that matched my passion for kids. I read an article on a neonatologist that inspired me to pursue my medical degree. I truly enjoy working with kids of every age—from infants to teenagers. Plus, there aren’t many jobs where you can get thank-you hugs from 3-year-olds!

What is your philosophy of care for patients?

It is not my job to tell parents and patients what to do, but rather to give them the best information to make the right decision for themselves. One family told me that I helped them feel safe as their daughter’s pediatrician. It means the world to me when I can help patients feel secure and informed while navigating healthcare.

What is one of the most important lessons you’ve learned throughout your years of practice?

If one of my young patients gets angry or cranky, it usually means they are scared. It is a good reminder to me to listen, consider their emotions, and respond calmly and honestly. Everyone deserves that compassionate care.

You served in the Air Force as Medical Director of the Pediatric Clinic. Thank you for your service! What was unique about working in the military?

In the military, servicemen and servicewomen often sacrifice traditional support systems like grandparents because of relocation and deployment. My role as a pediatrician provides a nearby resource they can trust—as well as peace of mind about their kids’ wellbeing, which indirectly helps them focus on serving their country. It was a privilege to work with Air Force families.

What stands out to you about the culture at Artesia General Hospital?

Artesia General Hospital puts patients first and is very community oriented. That relational approach fits my philosophy of care. I try to accommodate and respect a patient’s beliefs, and I think it is a privilege to watch children grow up over many years as their pediatrician.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I love to spend time with my family. I have been married to my husband, Dwight (whom I met at a rodeo!), for 26 years, and our four kids keep us busy. I enjoy quilting with friends, and I also have a passion for rescuing horses. We have a team of horses with unique personalities: Sansa, Kurtz, Lucy, and Chip. I guess you could say I’m drawn to hobbies that are about putting things back together!

You’ve lived in a variety of states: Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and New Mexico. What is your favorite thing about New Mexico?

I love the weather and the beautiful skies in New Mexico. Unlike the Midwest, you can see for miles!

We often ask kids what superpower they would like to have. What would you choose?

I would love to have super-communication skills. It would be incredible to always understand what people need and to choose exactly the right words to help them.

What is your advice to your young patients who aspire to be a doctor when they grow up?

It takes a long time to be a doctor. It is worth it, but you will have to press through hard things—like organic chemistry courses! If you remember why you want to accomplish your dreams, you’ll always overcome challenges and succeed.

Dr. Couch sees patients at Memorial Family Practice at Artesia General Hospital.
New families can request a free get-to-know-you consultation!
Request an appointment online at artesiageneral.com/drcouch or by calling (575) 746-3119.

Article originally published in Focus on Artesia 2021 Fall edition.
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