When it comes to talking about himself, Dr. Andy Hossler is a man of few words. One immediately notices a humble, quiet strength and something else: repeated references to “we” instead of “me.” It befits his early career as a storied swim coach and eventual family practice physician. Indeed, when it comes to coaching or patient care, there’s no “I” in team.
Just keep swimming
Dr. Hossler’s career path was not traditional when it came to the field of medicine, although the mindset was ingrained at an early age. Born and raised in Madison, Indiana, Dr. Hossler’s father was a family practice physician and source of inspiration behind his son’s eventual leap into the profession. While deep down the younger Hossler knew that’s where he wanted to land — he had goals involving a first love: swimming.
“Growing up, I was always doing some activity. I played baseball, football, basketball, even wrestled a little. I started swimming competitively in high school after a friend encouraged me to try it out,” said Dr. Hossler. “I enjoyed it; it had a tremendous impact on me.”
After earning a degree in environmental biology at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Indiana, Dr. Hossler invested the next decade around water in various roles at a local YMCA. Medical school was still on his mind, but he wasn’t quite ready. That’s where his future wife, Chris, a youth pastor at the time, “rescued” him.
“I applied to be a lifeguard and had to go through a sort of try-out to prove I knew what I was doing,” said Chris. “Andy was my victim.”
They worked together about eight months before their first date.
Dr. Hossler lights up when he reminisces about that season in his life, especially seeing his students’ progress from toddlers to teens in competitive swim. He had quite an impact. His initial team of 30 children grew to 130. He led them to several state championships and a few individual national competitions.
To the Islands
Early in their marriage, with an eye toward starting their family, the Hosslers agreed it was time for medical school. With longer wait times for traditional programs in the United States, they took a somewhat different route to the Caribbean island of Grenada, where Dr. Hossler attended St. George’s University.
“I completed a Foundations of Medicine semester where you got to take some core classes to get back in the mode of being a student, which was helpful since I had been out of school for 10 years,” explained Dr. Hossler.
Grenada proved to be a special time in their lives. It’s where their first daughter, Eden, was born, and the Midwesterners dove into island culture. Clinical rotations took the family to yet another island, albeit stateside: Staten Island, New York, the birthplace of their second daughter, Mercy.
For residency, the family wanted to be back in the Midwest, someplace east of the Mississippi. Carbondale proved to be a good fit.
Dr. Hossler was initially with SIU Family Practice — a “great experience,” he said — and joined Southern Illinois Healthcare three summers ago. Today, his practice is housed in the historic Oldenhage Hughes building in downtown Carbondale. His nurse, Tammy Harshbarger, characterizes him as a true servant leader.
“He is a doctor who treats me as an equal,” Harshbarger said. “I feel like I work with him instead of for him. He’ll sanitize rooms with me, he even cleans up accidents. He’s really hands-on. He’ll even restock medications and step in to help any way he can if I’m busy with something else.”
When it comes to patient care, he’s still somewhat of a coach as he guides his patients, which range from newborns to 100 years old, through the many stages of their lives.
“The biggest impression I’ve gotten overall is the trust they put in you … I’ll say something to a patient and they’ll come back three or six months later to share how they’ve really tried to make some of the changes we talked about,” said Dr. Hossler.
He takes the doctor/patient relationship to heart. In feedback from many of his patients, he’s characterized as a “good listener” and a compassionate, thorough practitioner.
A bit of whimsy
What’s a fun, little-known fact about Dr. Hossler? There are a few. For starters, he’s an apparent Dr. Pepper addict. He’s allegedly working on that.
“He drinks Dr. Pepper like it’s his job,” Chris laughed.
In fact, his staff buys him a case of the stuff every Christmas.
And then, there’s the card tricks. Magic. It’s when the otherwise stoic physician turns showman and wows family and friends with intricate feats and sleights of hand.
A love of movies of all genres, the COVID-19 pandemic put a temporary halt on trips to the local cinema. However, the family pivoted on Father’s Day and treated dad to a drive-in flick in Belleville. Movie theater popcorn might run a close second to the doctor’s Dr. Pepper fix, Chris confessed.
A “girl dad” all the way, he doesn’t shy away from letting them paint his fingernails or even put makeup on his face.
“It washes off,” he said.
The family recently moved into a new home out in the country, complete with a pond and workshop, where mom and dad (both left-handers, in fact) tinker with various projects. Eden, now 10, and Mercy, now 6, are enjoying the new home and their go-kart. While the doctor doesn’t swim as much as he used to, he plays church league softball whenever he can.