Top Doctors: The Reigning Champs

We've asked local physicians to choose the Top Doctors four times. These reigning champs have earned a place on every single list.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article was fact checked and accurate at press time, but 417 Magazine cannot guarantee its accuracy indefinitely.

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Dr. Kathleen GravesDr. Kathleen Graves, M.D.

Reproductive Endocrinology, CoxHealth, Physicians for Women

In the office she's Dr. Kathleen Graves, she gives hope to infertility patients, she delivers babies. But outside the office she's Mrs. Birdsong, she plays the harp, she rides horses. Twenty-five years ago, Graves married a man named Roy Birdsong. Legally, she shares his last name, but in practice, she still goes by Dr. Graves. It was a title she had a hard time giving up. But besides having a different name outside the office, 55-year-old Graves lives a different life. It's one filled with activities that relax her and take her away from the stresses of her job.

She has two children, Ashley and Jonathan, who are 24 and 22 respectively. You can hear the pride in Graves' voice when she talks about her kids. Over the years she watched as Jonathan thrived at soccer games. And sharing a hobby with Ashley seems to help. The two have a passion for horses; Ashley has been showing since she was six years old. She competed in international equestrian competitions, and she won in Louisville in 2003. Though horses have been a lifelong love for Graves, her relationship with them didn't begin until adulthood. As a child her family moved often because her father was in the military. That, coupled with the high cost of keeping a horse, kept her from owning one. Now though, settled in Springfield and doing well, things are different. "We got a pony for Ashley, and I became what you call a horse show mom," Graves says. She did gofer work as Ashley picked up the equestrian hobby, and she loved it. It was good for her competitive spirit. "We had our ups and downs," she says. "We won and lost. But I felt like I was right there with her the whole way."

Graves isn't just living her horse-related childhood dreams through Ashley, though. Two years ago, she started getting serious with taking dressage lessons. It's an Olympic sport, but Graves doesn't have competitive aspirations. She does it for fun. For her it's an escape from work, which keep her busy all day and sometimes all night as well, when she is called to the hospital to deliver a baby. "Between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. is the witching hour," she says. "A lot of babies like to be born then, and a lot of emergencies happen. It goes along with the territory."

The harp is another hobby she's recently taken up as an escape from the daily grind. She says it's exercise for her brain as well. She grew up playing the accordion and hated it, but she was inspired to take on the calming but complicated harp by a friend who plays it for therapy in oncology clinics and for hospice patients.

Because her dad was in the military, she moved often, but Graves calls Hopkinsville, Kentucky home. And Kentucky is where all her schooling took place. She started as an undergraduate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. She was accepted into medical school with a full scholarship at the University of Kentucky, and that's where she did her residency and fellowship in reproductive endocrinology. OB/GYN was a logical choice for Graves because she wanted a broad specialty that would allow her to be a primary care physician for women, to deliver babies, to operate on women and to care for women of all ages.

After her fellowship, she thought she wanted to work in the full range of OB/GYN, and she went to her hometown in Kentucky to pursue that. But when you're working in a small town, she says, you're very locked into your job and are on call 24 hours a day. It wasn't the best situation. In the mid 1980s, Graves was asked by Dr. Melinda Slack to consider coming to Springfield. Her offer was an opportunity for Graves to do the work she was trained to do-reproductive endocrinology. She was busy from day one. "I never even got into the phone book before I was booked," Graves says. "There was a real need for women in the field in Springfield." And that need hasn't slowed. There are more women working in the field now than there were when she arrived, but she's still a busy, busy doctor. Luckily, though, she's found her diversions-riding horses and playing the harp-and discovered the little pleasures that help her balance her life with work.

 

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