Dr. Bayo Crownson found his path to health care on a trip with his great uncle.
“He was a local medicine man and would travel through West Africa, treating people with whatever traditional stuff he had,” Dr. Crownson said.
“I was fascinated by what he did and how he helped people get better.”
Dr. Crownson recalled return visits to those patients as he and his uncle came back through.
“They were better and so happy to see him,” he said. “If he can make people this happy, I decided this is what I wanted to do.”
Now practicing as a family medicine physician with St. Luke’s Clinic in Nampa, Dr. Crownson followed a circuitous path to Idaho from his childhood home in West Africa.
He grew up with four siblings. His father was a farmer, his mother, a traveling salesperson.
And while both left school after the sixth-grade level, they “emphasized education,” Dr. Crownson said. “They wanted all of us to have a college degree. It was not an option.”
When his father died unexpectedly in his early 60s, an uncle in New Jersey applied to bring him to the United States.
He attended Rutgers where he studied pre-medicine and trained to be a registered nurse. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and went to work at the Robert Wood Johnson University hospital.
Early experiences as a certified nursing assistant and then as a registered nurse helped him understand patient needs a little bit differently.
“It helped me become a better student and a better physician,” he said. “As a nurse, you see how the doctor’s orders affect patients. It helps you understand that it takes a team to care for patients.”
He attended medical school at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, then came west for his residency at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. His uncle retired and moved away, leaving him without family in the United States.
Dr. Crownson joined the Air Force and served as a flight surgeon with 391st Fighter Squadron in Mountain Home, where he was assigned to an F-15E strike Eagle. While there, he met his wife Sarah, an Air Force nurse. They are the parents of two daughters – Jade, 13, and Gillian, 9.
Deployed to Qatar after the 9/11 attacks, he was put to the test by a base commander who ordered him to set up a field hospital in 24 hours.
“After residency, I felt the strong need to give back to the country,” he said. And the field hospital experience?
“It was fun,” Dr. Crownson said with a grin.
He ultimately returned to Idaho and subsequently opened St. Luke’s Greenhurst clinic with Dr. Brian Cothern, an Army veteran and family practice physician. Together, the two undertook a medical mission to Nigeria, hosting one-day clinics in Benin City and villages in the bush. Conditions were desperate.
“A baby we were caring for died,” Dr. Cothern recalled. “Death is common. Things happen there that would never happen here.”
On the trip, Dr. Cothern grew frustrated with providing “band aid medicine” in an area with profound medical needs. Dr. Crownson was more pragmatic.
“Bayo told me that when he was young he almost died from pneumonia,” said Dr. Cothern, who realized that “if you can have an impact on one person, then it was worth it.”
The two recognize the challenges of caring for high-acuity patients in Canyon County. Instead of patients with runny noses and fevers, they are more likely to deal with heart disease, diabetes and COPD at the Nampa clinic.
Dr. Crownson said he deliberately picked Nampa because “there is a lot of need for underserved populations.
“I felt bringing the quality of St. Luke’s was important for our patients in Nampa,” he said.
He recognizes that there is a lot of work to be done to improve the health of the community.
“Ninety percent of health care is delivered outside of the clinic walls,” he observed. “We shouldn’t wait for the patients to get sick.”
Dr. Crownson has a heart for his community, his colleague said.
“He’s like a brother to me,” Dr. Cothern said. “He’s a good man.
“Bayo wants to make a difference. And it’s not just making a difference medically. He wants to make a difference in the community he lives in.”
Amy Stahl works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.