Rob Suykerbuyks life is full of spontaneity and adventure, of impromptu decisions and persistent dedication. From the Army to graduate school to medicine and back to the military again, the path he has taken to CPC-North Augusta at the North Augusta Health Center is a testament to his both enthusiastic personality and committed character.
Born in the small town of Fremont, Michigan, Rob spent most of his childhood in Kentucky, returning to Michigan in time for high school. After graduation, he enlisted in the Army, a decision that was influenced in part by his grandfathers experience as a soldier in France during World War II. Growing up, Rob and his brothers John and Rich were enthralled by their grandfathers adventurous tales of military life and living abroad. When the time came, they all chose to serve but each in his own way: Rob chose the Army, John the Air Force, and Rich the Navy.
Rob had his own reasons for enlisting as well. He was determined to earn a college education, the first in his family to do so, and the Army would pay his way in exchange for his service. Barely a month after finishing high school, Rob was on his way to basic training camp, hoping that through the Army, he would be able to pursue his interest in computer technology.
Graduating at the top of his Army basic training and technical schools, Rob spent his first two years in the military as a tactical communications repairman, working at bases in both the United States and Germany. I walked away from that military experience with the reward of determination, he says. I learned that if you set your mind to something, you can accomplish it.
When his service requirement was up, Rob left with tuition money in hand and entered business school. Disappointed to find his accounting classes uninspiring, he transferred to a small Michigan community college with plans to become a math and science teacher. Unexpectedly, the required anatomy and physiology courses sparked his interest in the field of science and medicine, leading him to Ferris State University, where he won an academic scholarship to study genetics and biotechnology.
Rob set out to learn as much as he could about the field of medicine during his time at Ferris State. Asking physicians about their career choice elicited stories of frustration over the business aspect of medicine interfering with the practice of their healing art. On the other hand was Robs memory of his hometown physician – the quintessential community doctor whom everyone knew, liked, and trusted. When he weighed the evidence for and against a career in medicine professional advice, personal impressions, and his own experiences with the healthcare system during the births of his children, Michael and Jennifer – Rob knew what he needed to do.
In typical fashion, he jokes, I didnt listen to anybody. I woke up one Sunday and thought, I like this so much that maybe I should make it my vocation. Robs focus and dedication nurtured this thought to fruition. In less than 9 months, he took the medical school entrance exam, applied, was interviewed and accepted, and began classes at Michigan State University School of Medicine. During this hectic time he also applied for and won the Armys Health Professional Scholarship, which paid for his medical education in full.
Medical school provided the ideal application for Robs discipline to work. Michigan States curriculum called for a year of near-independent study, for which a textbook and weekly Q&A were the only resources provided. While many students found this methodology challenging, Robs military service had prepared him to succeed. You really have to be disciplined to survive that curriculum, Rob states. He also recognized the future application of this type of educational structure. It set a precedent for what I do in my practice now: education and reeducation and keeping up with new material.
Clinical rotations provider Rob with another test: choosing a specialty. He had entered medical school with plans of becoming a family physician but, with each specialty rotation he experienced, the choice became more difficult, as each specialty was interesting and challenging. After seriously considering several options (surgery, internal medicine and critical care, obstetrics), I went full circle and returned to family practice, he said. Family practice is the only choice that would allow me to incorporate all the other specialties into my patient care.
After graduation, Dr. Suykerbuyk moved to Augusta to begin his family practice residency at Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, where he would complete his commitment to the Army in return for his medical education. It was at Eisenhower that Rob met Danielle Sanford. They were both medical residents, he in family practice and she in child psychiatry, but despite their demanding schedules, they made time for each other. After a 1- month courtship in 1998, they flew to Hawaii and were married on a beach in Maui.
Immediately after completing his residency in June 2000, Dr. Suykerbuyk was deployed overseas to Hungary to a starkly different working environment. Contrasted with the monitored, academic atmosphere of Eisenhower, he was now a senior medical officer in the region, requiring him to function much more independently. The transition helped plant my feet on the ground medically, he said. I started feeling more comfortable effectively triaging and simply practicing medicine on my own.
After seven months abroad, Rob retuned to the United States where he joined the teaching staff at Eisenhower. Over the next three years, he was active in teaching future family physicians, was deployed to Europe in support of the Global War on Terrorism, and led several clinical research studies. He began to branch out in his medical experience by also working part-time in Louisville and Madisons emergency rooms as well as providing weekend cross-coverage at CPC.
By this time, he was nearing the end of his duty to the Army and was looking to settle down. After meeting some of the physicians and staff at CPC, he knew he had found the right place. CPCs clinical model is how I had always pictured myself practicing medicine, he explains. The administrative staff covers the business aspects that physicians find so frustrating, allowing me to practice medicine the way I had intended. CPC has momentum and energy. It is growing, focused, and directed.
Of all the aspects of practicing medicine, including the application of technology to family healthcare, Robs favorite is interacting with patients. I enjoy working with people, meeting with people, talking to people. He also incorporates his fondness for teaching to his practice, educating his patients about healthy choices and disease prevention and management.
Rob and Danielle are equally adventurous and fond of vacationing around the world, especially Costa Rica, one of their favorite destinations. Right now, however, their attention is focused on an adventure of a different type. They are expecting their first child in January, and its likely their love for travel will be a distant second to the new arrival.
Dr. Robert Suykerbuyk brings unparalleled experience and a lively and dynamic element to the Center for Primary Care and is a welcomed addition to CPCs medical staff and the North Augusta community he is serving. To make an appointment with Dr. Suykerbuyk, call CPC-North Augusta at the North Augusta Health Center, 279-6800.