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Husband-and-wife doc duo part of Coast’s recovery

A young married couple is being welcomed to the Gulf Coast medical scene at a time when help is needed. The husband-and-wife duo was not at all deterred by the area’s post-Katrina devastation. Instead, Dr. Kristine Carter and Dr. Walter Surowiec chose to move to Gulfport, roll up their sleeves and be part of the recovery process.

Both physicians say it has always been their dream to live near the water. “We had the opportunity to come here, and it was actually an easy decision to make in spite of what we see around us,” Carter said. “I’m from New Orleans and wanted to be close to home. Also, we see that the area is building back.”

Surowiec agrees with those feelings, adding, “We can live near the water here and have the benefit of contributing to the community. We are not put off by the destruction.”

Both physicians are affiliated with Memorial Hospital at Gulfport. Surowiec, a cardiothoracic and cardiovascular surgeon, is a surgical specialist and will diagnose and manage surgical conditions of the heart, lungs and esophagus in addition to treatment of cardiovascular disease. He will divide his practice between hospital duties and his outpatient clinic.

A general surgeon, Carter joined the medical staff at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport and also established an office practice.

“Physician availability to the residents of our service area has been a priority for Gulfport Memorial since Katrina, particularly in the trauma specialties,” said Gary Marchand, president/CEO of the hospital. “Recruiting is more of a challenge, but physicians continue to be drawn to the Coast, and we are fortunate to have added 18 physicians to our medical staff over the past 16 months.”

Surowiec says hospital officials were concerned he and his wife wouldn’t like the area, and were afraid they would turn around and leave when they saw the destruction.

“We looked beyond that and saw the potential,” he said. “We know the area will rebuild.”

Carter says the couple inquired about moving to the Coast after speaking with a friend in medical practice here.

“We thought the area would need physicians and wanted to be a part of the community,” she said.

Along with their toddler son, Ethan Matthew, Carter and Surowiec live on Thornton Avenue in Gulfport and have a view of the water. The husband/wife team works together on child care. They enjoy playing with their son and their two dogs and walking them in the neighborhood. A jogging stroller makes the combination of play and exercise easier.

When spare time permits, they also like to travel and have dinner with friends.

“I sometimes feel stretched with all my duties and long hours,” Carter said. “I have this beautiful little child and we enjoy him, but our schedules are sometimes tough.”

Still, Carter loves what she does and says she never considered doing anything else. As a child she took care of her grandmother and has good memories of the kind, gentle pediatrician who was her own doctor. She thought about pediatrics as a specialty but went with general surgery instead.

Carter received her bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge, and then completed her medical degree at LSU in Shreveport. Her general surgery residency was completed at Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans.

She is a member of the American Medical Association, Louisiana State Medical Society and the Southeastern Surgical Congress. She is a candidate for the American College of Surgeons.

“I would like to develop a strong surgery department at Memorial Hospital,” she says of her goals. “I want a very busy practice, but also want to maintain a strong family life.”

She wants to use the skills she’s been fortunate enough to acquire and take care of people in the community.

“Things are going smoothly here,” she said. “We love our jobs and where we’re living.”

Surowiec received his doctorate in osteopathic medicine from the University of North Texas, Health Science Center in Fort Worth. His residency was completed in general surgery at Ochsner Clinic, too, where he and Carter met.

He completed fellowships in cardiovascular and thoracic surgery and vascular surgery at the Carolinas Heart Institute in Charlotte, N.C. Most recently, he was with the LSU Health Science Center in Shreveport.

He too says he wanted to be a physician since an early age and never considered doing anything else.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.


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