WORDS Dwain Hebda
IMAGES courtesy Dr. Kendall Wagner
Dr. Kendall Wagner didn’t get where he is by taking shortcuts. Just to become a doctor, the native of Waldron faced double the amount of college training of typical college graduate, but even by medical school standards, his education workload was substantial as he trained in both pediatrics and internal medicine among three hospitals in Little Rock. By the close of that, he had earned the rank of chief resident for internal medicine/pediatrics.
All that was impressive enough, but to Kendall, signaled only the beginning stanza of his dream. The next piece was to return to western Arkansas and serve the area where he grew up.
“Being able to come back to this area eight years ago was such a great thing for me,” he says. “That was the reason why I went to medical school, was to be able to come back to the River Valley and provide quality medical care.”
Kendall joined the staff of Mercy Hospital where he would work for the next five years and in time, transition out to the Chaffee Crossing area as a Mercy doctor where the next exciting step in his medical story was about to unfold.
“I started working on making a transition about two years ago,” he says. “It’s always been a dream of mine to have my own clinic and have a place that was rooted in the community, that was growing with the community, and to be there as that anchor for health for families.”
“Obviously, there are things you work up to do that; you need to build your name in the community, you financially have to get where you need to be and then finding the right spot in the right area. Thankfully all of those things came together with divine intervention to culminate in the right opportunity.”
That opportunity came calling when Kendall had the chance to buy an existing clinic in the very neighborhood where he’d been practicing, Chaffee Crossing, which continues to attract new residents, many of them families.
“The clinic itself was built here a few years ago in 2016, and there’s been a couple different providers here, but never anyone full time or for an extended amount of time,” he says. “So, this will be really the first time the clinic will be in full time operation by an independent provider.”
At 2,500 square feet and featuring three exam rooms, a laboratory and an x-ray, the clinic building provides the ideal home for Chaffee Crossing Clinic, which opened this month. Employing six, the new practice offers a unique combination of medical services.
“As far as the practice goes, we plan on providing care to families who have made Chaffee Crossing their home,” Kendall says. “I am an internal medicine-pediatrics physician, which is not necessarily a common specialty. I would call myself a primary care physician who can provide pediatric care, we can provide that adult care, do chronic disease management, do wellness.”
Kendall’s unique combination of board-certified medical skills allows him to handle a variety of conditions from routine to specialized. “When someone’s looking for their personal physician, that’s me,” he says. “But also, by being a med-peds doctor, I can deal with complicated cases in pediatrics. I get referred a lot of patients from Arkansas Children’s; when they have medical problems, they will refer those patients. Or, my adult patients who have diabetes or hypertension or those kind of things, I’m specialized to be able to deal with those diseases and conditions very effectively.”
“This opportunity of buying and opening an independent practice is basically the culmination of a goal of mine to put the pieces together to become that one-stop where families can get the kind of personalized, high-quality care we’re hoping to provide.”
It’s not particularly complicated to understand why such a venture would resonate with Kendall so deeply. Not only is he a family man himself — father to daughter Averie (age nine) and son Grayson (age six) — but his wife Kathie, whom he married during medical school, is a pediatric occupational therapist by training.
The family is also vested in the community. The Wagners attend Harvest Time Church where their children attend Harvest Time Academy, for which Kendall is president of the school board. He and Kathie have also been active in fundraising activities through Mercy Hospital, including raising money for the recently opened Ronald McDonald House. They’ve also sponsored fundraising in the past for The Gregory Kistler Treatment Center, which provides developmental therapies for children.
In all things — professional, personal and community service — it’s not hard to see how deep the family’s roots run or where they are anchored.
“I grew up as a preacher’s kid. My dad is an Assembly of God minister,” Kendall says. “I don’t know that I would have a professional life without faith. I think that really is where my strength stems from and where my approach stems from. My drive for quality of care comes from viewing people in the image of God and viewing being a physician as a true calling.”
“In middle school, I decided I would go to medical school and become a doctor and basically just set my sights on that and did not look back. I tell people all the time I don’t know that I could be happy doing anything else than what I am doing, because that’s what I feel God has called me to. My faith is so intertwined with being a physician and the care that I provide, I would call it my North Star and really, a driving force behind all that I do.”
Please join us in welcoming Dr. Wagner as a regular healthcare contributor to Do South® Magazine, beginning this February!
Chaffee Crossing Clinic
11300 Roberts Boulevard, Fort Smith, Arkansas