Pediatrician Thomas Snowden cared for an estimated 3,000 or more families throughout his 37-year-medical career—one that has come full circle, as he is now caring for the children of former patients.
A soft-spoken man and native of Mattoon, Dr. Snowden said that when he returned to the community to establish his pediatric practice, “many of the parents of my patients would say they were former classmates of mine or that they went to school with one of my brothers. Now they say ‘you were my doctor when I was little.’ It’s nice to see them grown up with their families.”
Dr. Snowden is retiring May 1 and a reception in his honor is planned for 4 to 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 21, in the Sarah Bush Lincoln Pediatric Clinic (Prairie Pavilion 1, 1005 Health Center Dr., Suite 100, on the campus of Sarah Bush Lincoln). Patients and former patients are invited to visit with Dr. Snowden and enjoy light refreshments.
Over the course of Dr. Snowden’s career, the most important advancement in pediatric medicine has been immunizations. He explained, “Polio was a disease you feared. When I was a kid and polio was present, kids wouldn’t go outside and play. I remember that when the old Mattoon Memorial Hospital closed, it had iron lungs in the basement for the people with polio. That wasn’t that long ago. Today, we don’t worry about that disease because immunizations help keep us healthy.”
“When I first started practicing, it was accepted that kids would get chicken pox and measles. I’d even have a child about once a month with spinal meningitis, so when parents called because their child had a fever, we’d start asking a series of questions to discern whether it could be meningitis. That’s really no longer a real threat because of immunizations.Now there’s a generation of kids today that will not know what chicken pox are,” he said, reminiscing as a grin crossed his face, “Everyone remembers when they had chicken pox. I still remember when I had them and I had five brothers (with them) – my poor mother.”
Now with vaccines for pneumonia, influenza and the human papillomavirus, most kids can lead pretty healthy lives, he added.
Dr. Snowden’s patients hold him in high regard. Many remark how much they appreciated the middle-of-the-night calls he made to check on the status of their sick children. He admits that the calls were as much for him as for the child. “I’d lay in bed and worry about the really sick kids. Gosh, what would happen if I missed something?” he explained. “I didn’t want to make a mistake or take anything for granted. I didn’t want to harm anyone, so I’d call the parents to see how their children were doing. It gave both of us a sense of relief.”
As a solo practitioner for many years, Dr. Snowden established relationships with other pediatricians who he could rely on for consultations and advice. This safety net was a key element of his success.
Dr. Snowden earned his medical degree from University of Illinois, Chicago, and completed his residency in pediatrics in 1979 at Ohio State. He enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed in Oklahoma for three years. He returned to his childhood home of Mattoon and established his practice in 1989 and was among the first physicians to be an employed by Sarah Bush Lincoln in 1993.
As Dr. Snowden winds down his practice this month, he and his wife, Marianne, are preparing for their next chapter of their lives: a move to Beaufort, South Carolina. While he passes his patients onto his co-workers, Drs. Amy Leifheit and Shana Sewell, Advanced Practice Nurses Noelle Cope and Eliza Smith and Certified Physician Assistant Cari Fearday, in the SBL Pediatric Clinic, Dr. Snowden hopes to work periodically once he gets settled in his new home —and its warmer climate.