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Doctor splits time between caring for patients and cultivating the land

Patients who catch a glimpse of his feet will likely see Yoram Leitner, MD, wearing cowboy boots. The footwear is a surprising contrast to his scrubs and white lab coat, blending the two vocations he loves.

By day, Dr. Leitner is an otolaryngologist, or ENT, for Ascension Medical Group Via Christi on Founders’ Circle. By night — or at least by weekend — he is a farmer. His home is located on 15 acres south of Wichita, a haven he shares with his wife of 40 years, Cathy Woodring, MD, a family medicine physician at Ascension Medical Group Via Christi on Murdock.

“I’m not a cowboy,” Dr. Leitner says, “but I sure appreciate their values and philosophies of hard work, of taking care of other people, of animals and the natural environment.”

Those ideals are evident in the way he cares for his patients, his family, his two black labs and the couple’s beautiful property, which includes an orchard, ponds, wheat fields, tallgrass and a certified national wildlife preserve. The high-energy physician spends countless hours maintaining the peaceful, rolling terrain and lightheartedly refers to himself as “an amateur mechanic and tree surgeon.”

Transplanted Midwestern roots

While he’s at home on the range, the longtime clinic physician was not born a Kansan — or a cowboy. His Jewish parents fled from Nazi Germany to Israel just prior to the Holocaust. His father served in the British Army during War World II. In 1957 — when Dr. Leitner was 4 — the family moved to Long Island, New York, to be near relatives who had emigrated to the United States.

“I’m grateful to be in America where we can live in peace and practice our religion and values,” he says.

Discovering a passion

Growing up near his uncle, an internal medicine physician, helped Dr. Leitner discover one of his passions. “Ever since I was little I wanted to be a doctor like my favorite uncle.”

He met Cathy while attending Oberlin College in Ohio. After completing medical school in New York and then their residencies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 1982, both accepted positions with Wichita Clinic, what is now known as Ascension Medical Group.

Wichita seemed like a good place to raise a family and they liked the clinic’s group setting and the camaraderie.

“I treasure that we’ve preserved that ability to interact with other doctors through the years,” Dr. Leitner says.

Dr. Leitner is approachable and wellliked, and is a respected physician, having served in several leadership roles. He’s received many honors, including Teacher of the ;Year from the Family Practice Residency Program at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, and the Wichita Clinic Founders’ Award.

“What I most appreciate about Dr. Leitner,” says Kim Shank, senior administrator of clinical operations, “is that his first question is always, ‘What is the best care for patients?’”

Megan Curry, 17, agrees. Dr. Leitner performed her sinus surgery and she and her parents were impressed with his knowledge and bedside manner. He was thorough and identified a problem Megan had had for almost three years, a condition specialists elsewhere werenot able to diagnose, says Patty Curry,Megan’s mom.

“He was very personable and explained everything really well,” says Megan of the time Dr. Leitner spent with her.

A family man outside of work, Dr. Leitner has many passions — his synagogue, the symphony, his two ’67 Corvettes and ’55 Chevy Nomad (all of which have names), his pets and nature.

But his greatest joy is his family. The couple persuaded both sets of parents to relocate from New York and Ohio to Kansas. Cathy’s brother and his family live right next door. Their three grown daughters and grandchildren now live out of state, one in Denmark, but using Skype keeps them connected between the couple’s visits to see them.

Dr. Leitner is also close with his 94-year-old father, who leads an active life here.

“I learned a lot from my parents,” the doctor says. “You may not have money or security, but if you have values and family time, and remember what you read in the Good Book, you’ll probably get through OK.”

As for his future plans: “I love what I do,” he says. “As long as I have patients that want to come see me, I’d like to keep on going.”