A Medical Love Story: Drs. Steve & Sharye Atchison
In 1984, Drs. Steve and Sharye Atchison met for the first time at a local ministry in Baton Rouge. Steve, a college student at LSU who was living at home and managing a seafood restaurant on the weekends to put himself through school, was volunteering with Young Life, a Christian organization that happened to have a presence in the all girls Catholic high school which Sharye attended. When Sharye graduated high school just a year later, she mailed Steve her graduation invitation — her not-so-subtle “call me” signaled the beginning of their off-and-on-again dating relationship over the next eight years.
Over these eight years, Steve, who was the first of his family to go to college, earned his undergraduate degree from LSU and began medical school at LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport. At the same time, Sharye earned her undergraduate degree from Auburn University, surprisingly studying international business.
“From the time I was very young I wanted to be a pediatrician, but when the time came to go to college I took a little detour,” Sharye said. After working a year at Merrill Lynch in Atlanta, she decided business was not for her. She took some time to step back and reevaluate, and right before setting off on a six month backpacking trip across Australia and New Zealand where she worked on a fishing boat, Steve popped the question. Just like that, she was off to see the world, an engaged woman.
When she returned to the U.S., Sharye joined Steve in Shreveport. He was in his residency and she began to take classes at LSU in Shreveport and Centenary College to accumulate the prerequisites she needed to apply to medical school. They married the following year and Sharye started med school one year after that in 1993.
Drs. Steve and Sharye determined early on their priorities were to take care of and nurture people. Whether it be their own children or their patients, the goal was the same. They wanted to serve. With this common goal in mind, deciding to set roots and practice medicine in Shreveport was an easy decision for the couple. They viewed the city as a place where they could have it all: their careers and their family.
As a senior medical student, Sharye gave birth to the couple’s first child. Over the next six years, they had three more children, both finished their residencies and Steve completed his fellowship in Houston.
The couple ascribes their success in this season of their lives to one thing: teamwork. Sharye recalls a time early on in their marriage when one of the grandparents came to help with the kids and jokingly apologized for sitting in Steve’s spot.
Sharye thought, “We don’t have spots. We don’t sit. We only sit when we both sit.” They tackled everything together in the early years with kids and medicine. They hired a babysitter to help out during the week but knew there was still medicine to practice on the weekend. They coordinated call schedules and did their best to tag team. Shreveport gave them the cushion they needed during this time and they were surrounded by good friends.
The couple always admired the close-knit medical community in Shreveport. It was a community that served them well through their own educations and through the early years of picking and pursuing their specialties. They saw the potential for the future in practicing medicine in Shreveport as well. They could practice as well as teach if they wanted. Shreveport offered them a world of possibilities within their field.
When it came to choosing a specialty, it was simple for Sharye. She loved her pediatrician growing up. It was the reason she had dreamed of being a doctor from a young age, so she chose pediatrics. On the other hand, Steve, who at one point thought he would be a math teacher and coach because of his love of math and sports, chose a specialty in orthopedics. It was the specialty where these two loves intersected.
In 2006, however, the Atchisons experienced the medical community they loved so much in Shreveport from an entirely new perspective. All of a sudden they were on the patient end of the medical spectrum rather than the doctor end when Sharye, then 39, was diagnosed with cancer.
She underwent chemotherapy, surgery and radiation all in Shreveport. Over a five month period, Sharye’s colleagues at Mid City Pediatrics stepped in and covered everything for her. They saw her patients and covered her shifts for months without blinking an eye. In addition to seeing the medical community in action as a patient, she saw other doctors — who were also moms and dads trying to balance medicine and family — pick up the slack her temporary absence created.
Seeing the medical community they already admired from the other side, only further solidified their appreciation for the community in which they were involved.
“We’re in our own little happy medical bubble in this city,” Sharye said. Today, 11 years cancer free, Sharye is still practicing at Mid City Pediatrics. Steve is an orthopedic specialist at Orthopedic Specialists of Louisiana and an educator and consultant for Stryker Orthopedics teaching the latest surgical approaches to surgeons all over the world. Their four kids range in ages from 15 to 21.
“For us, it’s been our strong faith that has translated to a hard work ethic and our dedication to taking care of our family as well as our patients. We want the best possible outcomes for all of them,” Sharye said. “We’re in Shreveport to stay.”