Joe Hooper didnt take what you would call the most direct route to his career in medicine, but his time was well spent nonetheless. The unexpected curves and detours along the way not only fueled Joes resolve but also offered life lessons that have shaped his character and philosophies and nurtured his gift for finding humor in just about anything.

For much of his childhood, Joe lived with his parents, James and Billie, and his siblings, Jim, Max and Beth, in rural Kentucky, where the children relished horseback riding through the spacious countryside and playing a more realistic version of cowboys and Indians than most children enjoy. After that, his upbringing reads like a U.S. geography lesson, thanks to his father, an engineer whose job was to oversee the startup of new Southwire Corporation plants around the country.

At age 10, Joe and his family left Kentucky for Roseville, California, near Sacramento, where they lived for 2 years, followed by Florence in northwest Alabama, where Joe spent his little league years, and then on to Decatur, Georgia, where he attended high school from tenth grade until graduation.

At that point, he came face-to face with a what next? crisis, which immobilized him for about a year while he pondered what to do with the rest of his life The Air Force seemed a good place to start, so in 1987, he enlisted for 4 years, during which he worked as a security policeman at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.

One of the important lessons he took from his Air Force experience was the value of standard procedures and teamwork. We had to do things a certain way every time, even when it seemed unnecessary, Joe recalls. The rationale for this practice eluded him until an emergency called for quick action. Those seemingly unimportant procedures enabled an automatic and appropriate response to the crisis, avoiding the potential danger of delayed reactions and snap decisions If you do things the same way all the time, then when it really counts, you react quickly and do it the right way, he says. That lesson applies not only to the military but to everything in life.

By his third year of service, Joe had learned enough German to carry on a conversation and enjoy a social life. Ultimately, albeit not directly, thats how he came to know his future wife, Liane. Their meeting was orchestrated by a friend of Joes who spoke only English and a friend of Lianes who spoke only German. Our friends wanted to date so Liane and I agreed to tag along as chaperones and translators, he recalls. In the course of their friends courtship, Joe and Lianes interest in each other blossomed, and they continued to date even after their friends parted ways. In 1990, Joe and Liane married in a 400-year-old church in the village of Molschbach.

Following his service in the Air Force, Joe and Liane settled in a north Georgia community, where Joe began looking for a job, despite being eligible to receive unemployment benefits. I live on the principle that if you are physically able to work, you should work, he said. True to his creed, he took a job at a chicken plant in Baldwin, which ironically paid $80 per week less than he would have received on unemployment. He left that job after two weeks and applied for a position better suited to his experience. Being hired as a security guard presented yet another opportunity to appreciate the incongruities of everyday life. My new job paid $1 less per hour than my previous job and it was at the same poultry plant, he says. I thought I was in the Twilight Zone.

With higher education now having much greater appeal to Joe than on the heels of high school, he enrolled at North Georgia College in Dahlonega as a 23-yearold freshman with the unspoken goal of pursuing a medical career. I had always thought about becoming a doctor but it wasnt until that point that I was sure thats what I wanted to do, he recalls. Even so, he didnt declare his intentions when he entered college because he figured no one would take him seriously.

With ample motivation and a well honed work ethic, Joe managed the demands of his classes along with that of a 30-hour-a-week job. College for me was just school and work, he said. Not your typical experience. Liane supplemented the couples income working in a German bakery in Helen.

After receiving a degree in biology from NGC, Joe entered the Medical College of Georgia, where his interest in family medicine as a specialty continued to grow. Family medicine offers more variety and an opportunity to develop a relationship with the patient, Dr. Hooper says. Being a doctor is about more than being a good technician, and family medicine is a good place to bring all that together. Dr. Hooper completed his internship and residency at Rapid City Regional Hospital in South Dakota, where he and Liane enjoyed living because it was so different in culture, climate, and scenery from their previous experience. With their hearts still in Augusta, though, they stayed with their plan to return and settle there.

Their first opportunity to get back to Georgia was an offer from a busy medical group in Elberton, where Dr. Hooper subsequently practiced for two years. It was a good job and it took a good opportunity to get me to leave, he says. That opportunity came in the form of an opening at the Center for Primary Care in Augusta. In addition to the couples wish to return to Augusta, CPC was appealing because of the quality of the doctors, its good reputation, and the fact that it is growing, Dr. Hooper says. He also considers CPCs diversity a strength.

The Hoopers have purchased a home in the Historic Hill section of Augusta, which they love for its character and rich history. Once settled, they will spend their leisure time with their sons, Jet, age 5, and Leo, age 3, and frequently hosting friends and family visiting the area. Dr. Hooper began working at CPC in December of last year and is anticipating a long professional relationship with its physicians. I am looking forward to the support of this strong team of physicians and to the mentorship of those more experienced to help me become a better doctor, he explains. In return, I hope to someday do the same for others.

Dr. Hooper can be reached by email at

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