After 37 years of medical practice in northeast Oklahoma, Dr. Charles Joseph Chouteau plans to hang up his stethoscope and practice a new word - retirement.
Chouteau will complete turning his medical practice, part of the Community Physician's Group (CPG) over to Dr. Jacob Hostetler by the end of the year.
Chouteau said he began to contemplate retirement after Hostetler came to Grove to complete some of his rotations for his residency through the University of Oklahoma.
"It didn't take me long to see his personality fit my practice like a glove," Chouteau said. "It's just a good time to do it."
Since Aug. 1, the pair have worked closely together, as Hostetler began practicing medicine at the Grove clinic.
"I've told him as an independent, solo practice doctor, he's working for every person who walks through the door," Chouteau said. "He gets it, he understands.
"That's when I knew I could hand my practice over to someone who would treat my patients with excellent care and with the same manner."
Chouteau said he began notifying his patients earlier this month, some of whom have been with him since he opened a joint practice in Grove with Dr. Doug Cox in 1987.
Chouteau plans to host a gathering for his friends and patients from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 2, at Mulligans at Patricia Island Country Club.
The event, he said, is designed to give him a chance to say thank you to the many people who have come into his life since he first stepped into the NEO Medical Clinic in Miami in 1981.
"I want to thank them for the fun and trust we've had," Chouteau said. "It's been a good ride."
Originally from Osage County, Chouteau grew up on a farm "across the river" from Ponca City.
Since he was 12, Chouteau said he knew he wanted to go into "small town rural medicine."
After graduating from the University of Oklahoma Medical School, and completing his residency, Chouteau began practicing in 1981 at the NEO Medical Clinic along with Drs. Martin Grotheer and the late Fred Ray and Terry Rapp.
Later Chouteau and Cox decided to open a practice together at 601 East 13th Street, Grove, as the city's the first independent medical practice. It took two years for the men to build the facility, which opened in 1987.
He jokes the clinic was in such a rural part of Grove, he and others could "shoot clay pigeons" out back of the building during their lunch break.
Chouteau and Cox were partners for 13 years. The building is now part of the INTEGRIS Grove medical group.
In August 2013, Chouteau and others opened the building where his current practice with CPG exists on NEO Loop near the Grove Public Library.
"From birth to death, [the patients have] been just amazing," Chouteau said. "I've had a chance to practice along the whole continuum. In essence, we've shared life together."
Chouteau said several members of his immediate family work in the medical field. His mother and three sisters were nurses, while two of his brothers were a pharmacist and an orthopedic surgeon.
His wife, Dana, worked for INTEGRIS Grove Hospital for years, before her own retirement.
The couple, who have been married 44 years this month, have two children: Jennifer, who is a lawyer in the Muskogee, Ft. Gibson area, and Benjamine, who works with Kinetic Concepts Inc.(KCI) Advanced Medical Technology, based in Texas.
They also have a total of nine grandchildren, ranging in age from 5- to 18-years-old.
Reflecting on his career
Chouteau said first and foremost, he will miss his patients.
"As a 28-year-old physician, I did it all, from delivering babies to working in the ER," Chouteau said, joking for 18 years people could always find him on Monday nights in the hospital's emergency room.
At first, he said, his practice was filled with patients of all ages. For the last 16 years, his work has mostly centered upon "mature adults," primarily those 60 and above.
"I've enjoyed the challenge of complex disease management," Chouteau said, adding he's also enjoyed getting to know his older patients in new ways. "The lifestyles of patients we have in Grove is amazing.
"It's amazing how interesting people are, when you take time to find out what they do and where they come from."
Chouteau said he always tried to fill his practice - from his patients to his staff - with humor.
"We try to have a lot of fun," Chouteau said. "We try to mix medicine and humor and have done it for years."
Chouteau said he's challenged his patients to help teach Hostetler the ropes as he transitions into the practice.
"The people will teach him how to become a real physician," Chouteau said. "That's part of the fun of a family practice."
As Chouteau packs up his office and practice, he said he knows his patients will be in good hands.
Hostetler will continue to work alongside Chouteau's medical team, which includes Genevieve Goza, his office manager; Missy Sumter, his receptionist; and his nursing team - Stephanie Moon, Sherry Dejarnett and Codi Coffey. Together, his team has more than than a combined 60 years of experience.
"I know I'm leaving my practice in excellent care," Chouteau said. "Dr. Hostetler will be my personal physician."
Chouteau said he will join his wife in retirement, saying travel throughout the National Parks system in the northern United States is on their immediate bucket list.
He gives himself at least six months before he'll be looking for a new adventure beyond travel and golf.
"I'm sure I'll find some way to be involved in the life of Grove," Chouteau said.
For now, Chouteau plans to continue his work as a medical director for Good Shepherd Hospice, a position he's held for more than 25 years.
"It's something I really believe in," Chouteau said. "They offer an amazing service. It's amazing what comfort they give."
While his former medical partner continues to pursue political avenues, Chouteau jokes he'll leave politics to Cox.