Amacker retires after 35 years in medicine _lowres

Advocate staff photo by STACY GILL -- Dr. Michael Kemp Amacker sits beside his vintage medical microscope inside a nurse's station at Zachary Family Practice. Amacker's last full day was Dec. 30. He will continue to see his patients at Lane Nursing Home in Zachary and Grace Health and Rehab Center in Slaughter. A retirement party is planned for Jan. 15 at Lane Regional Medical Center.

After a 35-year medical career, Dr. Michael Kemp Amacker, 64, has retired from practicing medicine at Zachary Family Practice, which he founded in 1979.

Amacker said he will miss his patients, many of whom he’s seen for years.

“I grew up with a lot of my patients. The first patient I ever operated on and the first patient I ever had, they have remained with me my entire 35-year career,” Amacker said. “That’s the way it is: You have people throughout your entire career.”

Born in Poplarville, Mississippi and raised in Bogalusa, Amacker graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University in 1972, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology with a minor in chemistry. Amacker attended medical school at LSU-Shreveport from 1972-1976 and completed his residency in family practice in 1979.

Amacker became board certified by the American Academy of Family Practice and has been a member of the Louisiana State Medical Society from 1979 to present.

He ran Zachary Family Practice from 1979 until 1993, when it was purchased by Lane Regional Medical Center.

Amacker became part of Lane’s medical staff at that time and took over as medical director of Lane Nursing Home, where he has remained the past 28 years. He began tending to patients at Grace Health and Rehab center, now in Slaughter, about 25 years ago.

Though his last full day at Zachary Family Practice was Dec. 30, Amacker will continue to see his patients at Lane Nursing Home and Grace, he said.

In retirement, Amacker said he is learning to relax more and sleep better. “Your family pays the ultimate consequence,” said Amacker, who is married with four grown children.

His nurse of 28 years, Lolly Saari, also retired.

“We were a great team,” Amacker said, crediting Saari and the physicians he has worked with over the years.

“I’ve gotten to know people and their personalities, their histories, and they’ve shared their personal experiences with me. That’s what I’ll miss most,” Amacker said. “The people who have put their confidence in me.”

“I have a great sense of fulfillment regarding my career,” Amacker said.

When asked if his last full day on Dec. 30 was an emotional one, Amacker said he’s been preparing to “phase out from seeing patients” for the past six months.

“My patients have meant more to me than they probably realize,” Amacker said. “They have made my career more rewarding, definitely.”

Amacker said practicing medicine is different today.

“Many people want to see a specialist in this area and that area, but years ago, family physicians did a lot. We get to know a person, what makes them tick, and really understand them,” Amacker said.

Medicine and health care have changed plenty since Amacker first began practicing in Zachary, an area that didn’t have access to CT scans and MRIs, so he is most impressed by medical advancements in X-rays and ultrasound technology, blood pressure medicines, antibiotics and the treatment of high cholesterol.

Amacker said he plans to spend more time reading and outdoors. “I’m a perfectionist who loves working in my garden. I love taking trips, too,” Amacker said. “These are things I look forward to doing.”

A retirement party for Amacker will be held from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 15 in the cafeteria at Lane RMC, 6300 Main St. Patients, staff and friends are invited to attend.