Since the moment he received a visit from a representative from Lincoln County Memorial Hospital about 30 years ago, Dr. David Easterday knew community medicine would be his life’s mission.
Easterday has been with Mercy Hospital Lincoln since 1998, and has been serving the community as a primary care provider at Mercy Family Medicine on East Cherry Street in Troy.
“When I was in medical school a long time ago, a lady named Linda Hunt came to Hospital Day from Lincoln County Memorial Hospital at that time, and for whatever reason that just came to mind when I started my residency. That would’ve been around 1992,” Easterday said. “I came and checked the place out, and really liked the fact that it was a community hospital managed and run by the community and a board. It was very face-to-face.
“I talked with board members and the administrator, and felt like for whatever reason it would be a great fit. It’s obviously close to where my parents were (in O’Fallon) and my wife’s parents are in Mexico, so it’s kind of in between. It was the right choice.”
Easterday said Lincoln County is an interesting place with great people, and it’s the continuing movement of people coming from the city to the county that is changing the environment of the area, adding, “spice to the mix.”
“I think that it’s fun to be here because you just don’t see this type of environment develop in other kinds of areas. That’s what causes the attraction to Lincoln County,” he said. The influx of people has been good for the county, but I yield respect to the people that made this place what it is. It’s kind of cool to be involved and see how the differences mesh together.”
Easterday received his Doctor of Medicine at the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed his residency in family medicine at Capital Region Medical Center in Jefferson City.
He said he chose Mercy Lincoln, then LCMH, because it was a smaller hospital serving a community that needed assistance and qualified providers.
“The bottom line is when I started contemplating early in medical school what exactly did I want to do, why I wanted to be a doctor, I felt very drawn toward being able to serve a community where there were not as many services available rather than being the guy where there is plenty of care. That certainly creates its set of challenges,” Easterday said. “Trying to get patients the care that they need has been a challenge and it’s what led me to a more underserved area. I kind of decided I wanted to be in a place where I was needed, not where there were plenty of providers.
“The reason I come to work every day is to see patients as individuals, treat them like I would a member of my family and give them the best care possible. I think that’s kind of what drives me at this point.”
When Mercy Hospital acquired LCMH, it was a perfect match, because its values matched Easterday’s values and his faith. He said Mercy Hospital Lincoln has been a credit to the community because of the further range of services it’s been able to offer since he first arrived.
“It’s been exciting to be a part of Mercy because their mission statement is easy for me to embrace as far as carrying on the ministry of Jesus,” he said. “That’s kind of my driver, for me to be a servant leader as Jesus was and to consider every person as an individual because medicine nowadays really wants to see everything as a nail and you’re the hammer, and there can be frustration with that as each person is different.
“Advocacy for patient care is maybe one of the biggest jobs of primary care doctors, to help others see that this is not just another number, that this is an individual.”
Easterday serves on the Mercy Lincoln Board and is in his second term with the Lincoln County R-III Board of Education. He said the latter has been eye opening, due to COVID-19.
“That’s been a very interesting experience as well. With this COVID pandemic, I hope it’s been helpful to them that they’ve had access to more medical opinions,” Easterday said. “I’ve tried to be very scientific about the information I’ve provided. I’m very proud of the school district that they went back to school in person this year. Obviously, there are pitfalls to both, but there’s no question it was the right decision.
“I see a lot of kids with ADHD and the ones that were at home struggling and the ones that are back in the classroom. A mask is a small price to pay. Ultimately, it was the right decision.”
Easterday is active in his church as the lead audio/visual person. He resides in Troy with his wife, Theresa, and four children.
“My oldest is in medical school. My second is getting ready to go to seminary after he finishes his undergrad,” Easterday said. “I have a junior and a freshman in high school. They’re great kids.
“My second just got engaged. My youngest was adopted from China. It’s been a fantastic journey.”
Easterday said he enjoys riding bicycles, but the coronavirus made things difficult to ride in groups. He has participated with a group from Troy in a diabetes ride for a few years stemming from a relationship with a patient and that patient’s family.
“Mercy has also supported cyclists,” Easterday said. “The first time I met up with Team Mercy was two years ago during the MS ride. That was a pretty fun time. “Mercy had a group of people from all over the region. There are a lot of opportunities with bike riding to raise support for different medical conditions.”
Otherwise, Easterday is not one to talk about personal accomplishments, because other people are more qualified than he is. He does, however, feel he has touched people’s lives through his work as a doctor and in the community.
“There are days where you go home and you think, ‘Did I help someone today, did I make them feel better?’ You ultimately get affirmation from patients, but you must trust that doing the right thing is paying some kind of dividend,” Easterday said. “Hopefully, me being here and being a stable fixture for over 20 years has made a difference. I know I’ve disappointed some people along the way. It’s hard not to do that.”
Easterday said the way the community has come together over the last year has made him proud to be a resident of Lincoln County.
“With regard to the last year we’ve been through, I’m really appreciative of the way that Lincoln County has shown their appreciation for not only first responders, but also for the medical community,” he said. “It’s been really neat that people have taken the time to say, ‘I really appreciate what you do’ and those sorts of things. The support from the community has been fantastic.
“Even when we had the respiratory clinic open temporarily, it was very rewarding that people were really able to do things in a different way and help however they could to get through this time.”