From Hopkinsville to the White House to Norton Healthcare

While serving at Scott Air Force Base in St. Clair County, Illinois, Stephen F. Cavanah, M.D., received word that the Air Force was looking for White House physicians.

A career arc that led Stephen F. Cavanah, M.D., to military service and practicing in the White House has brought the endocrinologist to Norton Community Medical Associates – Endocrinology’s Poplar Level and Brownsboro locations.

Growing up in Christian County in western Kentucky, he aspired from an early age to become a doctor and decided on endocrinology when his best friend was diagnosed with diabetes at age 9.

“I used to go to Gary’s house, and he’d let me draw up his insulin and give it to him,” Dr. Cavanah, who also treats patients through Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute, a part of Norton Community Medical Associates, said. “A lot of people there in Hopkinsville used to say, ‘Well, someday Steve’s going to come back and be Gary’s doctor.”

He earned his medical degree from the University of Louisville School of Medicine. After completing his residency at UofL, Dr. Cavanah entered active duty for the Air Force and ran an intensive care medical unit before completing a fellowship in endocrinology. While serving at Scott Air Force Base in St. Clair County, Illinois, he received word that the Air Force was looking for White House physicians.

“They said, ‘Are you interested?’ and I said, ‘Put me on the list!’”

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A whirlwind of events set Dr. Cavanah and his family on the move when he was selected as one of the White House physicians during then-President Bill Clinton’s first term. Dr. Cavanah had an office on the ground floor of the White House, where he helped care for all those in the compound, including the president and his family. Dr. Cavanah called it his “one-term fantasy serving there,” before deciding to move on.

Dr. Cavanah’s military career spanned 21 years, during which he visited more than 20 countries, took countless rides on Air Force One and shook hands with many heads of state. After his military service, he settled in Louisville and landed at Norton Healthcare.

“I will have been at Norton Healthcare for 11 years this year,” Dr. Cavanah said. “Having previously been in the military, it seemed like a natural fit to join this organization because they have a huge footprint in our area. It’s a great place to work, and I wouldn’t trade any of my experiences here for the world.”

Outside of work, Dr. Cavanah loves spending time with his family and volunteering with his church.

“I currently represent the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the point person for the state of Kentucky when it comes to coordinating volunteer relief efforts,” Dr. Cavanah said. “When they had the flooding in eastern Kentucky back in August, within 36 hours, I was on the ground mucking and gutting homes and coordinating supplies.”

With such an expansive career history, six grandchildren to spoil, and a world to explore, you would think retirement is around the corner — but not according to Dr. Cavanah.

“I have people ask me all the time, ‘You’re 68 years old. Are you going to hang it up?’” Dr. Cavanah said. “My answer to my co-workers and to my kids is always the same thing — you’ll know I’m retired when you shovel dirt on me.”

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