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asked to describe the size of his hometown of Equality, Illinois,
Dr. Lawrence Jennings jokes that there is not even a stop light in
the county or in the two neighboring counties. A native of southern
Illinois, Dr. Jennings is no stranger to small town life. His
hometown, with only 750 residents, boasted a high school graduating
class size of 16 students and was a great place to call home.
While growing up, Dr. Jennings found that he became sick often
and really enjoyed the care he received from several physicians.
"Whenever I would go to see a physician when I was sick, I really
admired their compassion and the impact that they had on people's
lives. Even as a seven-year-old, I thought being a physician would
be the ideal job." From that point forward, Dr. Jennings decided
that he wanted to practice medicine.
Dr. Jennings received his undergraduate degree from Southern
Illinois University in Carbondale and attended the University of
Illinois College of Medicine at both the Urbana-Champaign and
Peoria campuses. While he felt that every rotation he completed
during medical school was fascinating, he was drawn to internal
medicine: "When I did my internal medicine rotation, it just blew
me away." He enjoyed his experience in medical school and was lucky
to have a few very important mentors who helped him along the
One of his mentors, Dr. Donald Rager, Chairman of the Department
of Internal Medicine at the University of Illinois-College of
Medicine Urbana had a profound impact on him. "Dr. Rager was the
consummate physician. He was caring and compassionate and had
excellent bedside manner. He inspired all of us to work harder."
After his positive experience studying internal medicine, Dr.
Jennings was accepted at the University of Illinois residency
program. During his residency, director Dr. Rick Luetkemeyer and
instructor Dr. Gerald McShane were very influential in his choice
of general internal medicine. He completed his residency at the
University of Illinois, Peoria School of Medicine where he was
introduced to another important mentor in his medical career, Dr.
Sara Rusch, MACP, former Governor of the ACP Downstate Illinois
Region Chapter. Dr. Jennings was first introduced to Dr. Rusch
while he was on his internal medicine rotation in his third year of
medical school and she was the intern on his rotation. The two
worked together again during his first year of residency and when
she was the attending physician on his rotation, then again later
when she became Regional Dean of University of Illinois College of
Medicine at Peoria, their repeated interactions led them to become
great friends and they continue to keep in touch and see each other
After completing his residency, Dr. Jennings knew that he wanted
to work in private practice in a small town and settled in Mt.
Carmel, Illinois to be closer to his aging parents. Although living
in a small town can be somewhat like "living in a fish bowl", Dr.
Jennings enjoys the benefits of working in a small community. He
had an experience when he first started working in Mt. Carmel that
quickly made him realize what it meant to practice medicine in a
small town. While he was on call one night, Dr. Jennings was called
into the emergency room to treat a patient with a previous heart
condition. "It was at that point that I realized that I was the
only person who could take care of this patient and the closest
hospital with a cardiac specialist was 60 miles away. The
experience taught me that working in a small town means you have to
be quick on your feet since there isn't a specialist around the
block that can help you out in an emergency."
With the help of his wife, Evelyn who manages the practice, Dr.
Jennings has had a successful solo internal medicine practice for
the last 28 years. Unlike many other internists in major
metropolitan areas, Dr. Jennings does many of his own procedures in
his office including skin biopsies, stress tests, and
arthrocentesis. He also provides house calls for homebound and
terminally ill patients, a service that is rarely seen these days.
He sees a wide array of patients and provides a variety of care
which makes each day unlike any other. Dr. Jennings jokes that
every now and again he will have a patient come into the office
with a bleeding finger and needs to be stitched up. "It may throw a
wrench in my schedule for that day, but I am happy to do it. It is
just part of being a physician in a small town."
Although this kind of practice has its many challenges, Dr.
Jennings finds it extremely rewarding. "It has been a tremendous
privilege to attend the medical care of my patients for greater
than 20 years." Dr. Jennings has formed lasting relationships with
his patients and receives several thank you letters from patients
each week. Over the past ten years, he has collected each of the
thank you letters from patients and has an office drawer full of
Dr. Jennings has passed on his love of medicine to his three
grown daughters. His oldest, Dr. Kate Lindley is in her cardiology
fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis. His daughter,
Valerie Jennings, is a fourth year medical student at the
University of Illinois in Chicago and will be going into an
Obstetrics and Gynecology residency program. His youngest daughter,
Emily Underwood, is in her first year of pharmacy school at the
University of Illinois in Chicago. When Dr. Jennings is not
spending time with his family, he enjoys golf and gardening.
March 2012 Issue of IMpact
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