Dr. Samuel Gardner ~ Steele Memorial Medical Center
Dr. Samuel Gardner has worked as a primary care provider in Salmon, Idaho for 23 years. Through those years he has been the epitome of a rural family physician. He has taken care of patients in the clinic, in the ER, as inpatients in the hospital, and has made many house calls when needed. This has often been done through huge personal sacrifice for him and his large family. Dr. Gardner has also served multiple times as Chief of Staff and as the Medical Director for the primary care clinic, supervising many PA’s and NP’s. He is a beloved leader and the foundation of health care in the community. In short, Dr. Gardner IS Steele Memorial Medical Center (SMMC) to Lemhi County.
Dr. Gardner started work at SMMC in July 1997 after finishing his D.O. residency in Des Moines, Iowa. He chose a rural location where he could spend his entire career serving the community he was part of. It’s not a stretch to say that everyone in Salmon knows Dr. Gardner. He has delivered many babies and cared for them…and their parents…and grandparents for years. His family has also grown during those years as he and his lovely wife have had seven children, including a set of twins and a set of triplets! Dr. Gardner has also been a leader in the local church and served Salmon in many other ways beyond medicine.
It’s tough to be on call, let alone as much as has been necessary for Dr. Gardner through the years. There were months at time in which he was the only provider on call. He has done this with a positive attitude and showing a love for his patients regardless of the cost to himself or his family. Dr. Gardner has also had personal health challenges, facing two bouts of cancer in the past five years. Through those he has continued to see patients as much as possible. “He feels an ownership of the clinic and hospital and is dedicated beyond anything I’ve ever witnessed before in a physician” said Jeanie Gentry, CEO of Steele Memorial Medical Center.
“As a small hospital CEO, I need to have a physician partner who can help me make the proper decisions from both a clinical and business perspective,” Gentry said. “Dr. Gardner has been that partner for me, and for those who preceded me as well. He advises the board on many issues and leads the medical staff to engage in productive ways. When the hospital faced COVID-19, Dr. Gardner was right there alongside the other staff working to find the best ways to respond and help our patients get the care they needed.”
You will never see Dr. Gardner on the evening news, talking about COVID-19 or any other health concerns like some of the physicians from Boise and other areas do. That’s not the role of a rural physician. He just quietly takes care of his patients, his clinic, his hospital, his whole community and doesn’t get any recognition or kudos for that. But he is a hero. He is what all rural physicians want to be when they grow up. He’s the kind of country doc that is loved by all of us and without whom there would be a huge, unfillable hole in the town.