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Caring for Kernersville’s children

Caring for Kernersville’s children

On July 11, 1988, Dr. G. Kirk Walker began working as the first pediatric doctor at Forsyth Pediatrics Kernersville, now known as Novant Health Forsyth Pediatrics – Kernersville. This year, Walker is celebrating 35 years of practice in Kernersville.
Walker was born in Mountain City, Tennessee but moved to Kernersville with his family when he was 12. He graduated from Kernersville Wesleyan Academy in 1975 and then attended UNC Chapel Hill, where he majored in biology and psychology. Walker then attended Bowman Gray, now known as Wake Forest University Medical School, where he graduated in 1985. He graduated ninth in his class.
“Being a pediatrician wasn’t my intent,” he said. “I was always very interested in, I thought at the time, surgery. As a matter of fact, up to almost the end of fourth year, I had decided that I wanted to be an ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeon. Then I started to realize that it was not so much what I was doing, but the people that I was seeing. I was enjoying working with the kids way more than I did adults.”
When Walker realized that he wanted to pursue pediatrics instead of ENT surgery, he immediately told the head of the department at that time and his wife, Sandy.
“It was a good decision. I come from a family of teachers. My mom was a teacher, grandmother was a teacher, my great grandfather was a teacher. My grandfather used to say that if you wanted to be successful, always do something with alcohol, tobacco or children. So, children seem to be the more socially acceptable, I guess,” Walker joked.
Walker was offered a job in Kernersville by Jim Earnhardt, Bill Sayers and Mike Rogers. This was the first satellite office of Forsyth Pediatrics. At the time, there were only two pediatricians in Kernersville, Dr. Steve Levin and Dr. Jerry Bennett.
“We started in 1988 and it just opened all sorts of doors and grew. When we started here, it was me and two nurses and a front office person,” he said. “And about 150 patients that identified themselves as Kernersville residents. Now, we have five offices and 20 providers.
In 1996, Novant Health took over the practice.
Walker insists that three and a half decades doesn’t seem that long at all.
“It doesn’t seem that long. I think it was like yesterday, but it certainly has changed. What we do at the office level really hasn’t changed, but certainly medicine has changed with different organizations and everything. But the way we practice and the structure of our practices is the same as when I first started,” he said. “I think the key to our success is that where a lot of practices are just sort of a practice within the town, we’ve tried to maintain ourselves as the practice for the town. Each of our offices is associated with a specific community.”
Walker explained that Novant Health Forsyth Pediatrics has offices in Walkertown, Oak Ridge, Union Cross and a new one is about to open in Summerfield.
“I think to continue to identify ourselves as sort of the community practice is really important and one of the key factors for our growth and that’s part of it too,” he said.
Walker said many people have played a significant role in his life and helped him get to where he is today.
“There are so many people here that were influential in the direction that I went and helped me get through school. I was thinking about it, my minister, he sat on the board of Baptist. He was always dropping my name when I was trying to get into medical school,” he said. “There’s one physician who lives here, Dr. Hopkins, who’s a pathologist who’s retired now. He likes to say he was the reason I got into medical school. I was working in the labs at Baptist at the time and he was the one that got me in. So, I let him continue to say that. At the time, it was certainly an expensive proposition.”
Although his celebration of serving 35 years has come and gone, he explained that there wasn’t much of a party. He shared that he celebrated his 35 years by working.
“I have a wall at the office where they posted a lot of pictures from along the way. So, all the parents get to help me celebrate,” Walker said. “It’s been a week long sort of thing. What’s really been great for me is that I’ve been here long enough that I’m taking care of a lot of my former patients’ kids. Most of my patients are the children of kids that I took care of. By default, I’ve become sort of, everybody’s grandpa or something, and it makes it easier since I’ve known many of these families. It’s a generational thing…that trust that’s been built up over a long period of time.”
He shared that being in this practice as long as he has, has created a wonderful and unique opportunity to take care of multiple generations and to see many children grow and mature through young adulthood and even further.
“I think that’s what makes pediatrics unique. I get to see them all the way along the line. We take care of the kids through college,” Walker said. “I get to see them when they were yelling and screaming and biting me and I get to send them off to college and see where they ended up. I feel like along the way, you’re more than just the provider. You’re sort of part of their family too, a very large family.”
Walker said there is no way he could possibly calculate how many patients he has seen through the years, but he estimates that it is over 175,000 children, not including babies in nurseries or children in hospitals.
Walker shared that in the next five years of his career, he is most looking forward to continuing to work and doing what he does best.
“If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life, right? I can’t imagine me doing anything else and I’m enjoying it as much as I ever did. So, I don’t really need to slow down or stop,” he said.
Kernersville is a great place to live and raise kids, Walker said. This area has expanded and grown so much.
“The support the town has for us has always been tremendous. The staff that we have here, as a matter of fact, two of the nurses that I started with still work for us,” he explained. He continued to share that many nurses and other providers have been with the practice for a long time.
“I think continuity has been important and certainly made it a really great place for me to be,” Walker said. “We continue to grow and be invested in the practice and the people that are here have been here for a good bit, and we’re constantly bringing on new providers as we continue to grow. So, we’re just expanding our family.”
Novant Health Forsyth Pediatrics – Kernersville is located at 240 Broad Street in Kernersville.

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