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Profound childhood experiences can leave a lifelong impact and even shape a career. That’s true for Dr. Julia (Collison) Richardson, a Lake City native who has returned to Calhoun County to begin her medical career at Stewart Memorial Community Hospital (SMCH).

“Both of my parents are veterinarians, so a lot of our dinner-table conversations when I was growing up revolved around science, medicine and diagnostic discussions,” said Richardson, 31. “This got me interested in medicine in general.”

Dr. Richardson standing in front of an autumn tree with her three children and husband.
Dr. Richardson with her family.

While she was no stranger to seeing medical procedures performed on animals at her parents’ clinic, she remembers how scary it was when she had to deal with some unexplained leg and ankle pain at age 9. “I was hospitalized at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines. What made the biggest impression on me was a female doctor who was very kind.”

That experience fueled Richardson’s interest in medicine. After graduating from Southern Cal High School in Lake City in 2010, Richardson enrolled at Iowa State University (ISU), where her father, Vince, and mother, Jane, earned their veterinary medicine degrees. While she wasn’t quite sure what career path she wanted to follow, she earned an agricultural business degree in 2015.

By that point, she decided her interest in rural communities and a desire to serve others might fit well with a career in medicine. “I’ve always loved to learn,” Richardson said. “I wanted a career that would be intellectually stimulating, allow me to build relationships with others and have a positive impact on people’s lives. Medicine is a perfect blend of those things.”

She enrolled at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine and thought she would focus on pediatrics. “I enjoy working with kids,” said Richardson, who is raising her son, Joshua, and twin daughters, Charlotte and Grace, with her husband, Michael.

As she progressed in her studies, however, Richardson discovered that she really enjoyed obstetrics, as well as pediatrics. “Practicing family medicine allows me to do both.”

“There’s a special sense of community here”

After finishing her studies at the University of Iowa in 2020, Richardson entered the Lincoln Family Medicine Residency Program in Nebraska. This three-year program helps prepare doctors to work in rural healthcare practices.

“This was a unique opportunity to work closely with full-spectrum, family medicine in the rural Midwest,” Richardson said. “I enjoy all ages of people and all aspects of medicine that you work with in a rural area.”

This expertise is needed now more than ever in rural communities across Iowa and America. By some estimates, Iowa has the lowest number of OB-GYNs per capita in the entire United States. Small, rural communities are the hardest hit by those deficiencies.

SMCH is bucking the trend, however. After completing her residency, Richardson accepted an offer to join the medical team at SMCH, which is completing a $32 million renovation/expansion project in Lake City. “Calhoun County is a great place,” Richardson said. “There’s a special sense of community here.”

Stewart Memorial Community Hospital's emergency entrance.
Stewart Memorial Community Hospital

The local landscape itself also inspires Richardson and helped draw her back home. “Rural Iowa is so beautiful. I love seeing the wide-open spaces.”

While Richardson enjoys the amenities of the larger communities where she’s lived, she’s glad to be back in her hometown. (It’s a plus that her husband grew up nearby in Glidden, Iowa.) “I like the slower, simpler way of life, and no traffic congestion,” she said.

Richardson began seeing patients at SMCH on September 19, 2023, and looks forward to growing her career. “Everyone has been so welcoming. It’s meaningful to me to practice medicine close to home and serve others. I want to help keep our local communities strong.”

Theresa Hildreth, SMCH Board Member, is excited to have another Family Practice with OB provider join the team, “Having Dr. Richardson joining Drs. Duncan and Hornback enhances the already great care SMCH provides to mothers, families, and new babies. It is a fantastic day when a Critical Access Rural Hospital can add a family practice provider with obstetrics, but it is a very rare day when that provider is also a hometown daughter. We welcome Dr. Richardson to the fine team at SMCH and appreciate her passion to come home.”


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