From West Point to West Burlington – Empty Nest by Curt Swarm


Noble, friendly, protector, dog rescuer, ready smile, popular, motivated, giving, outgoing, receptive to feedback, empathetic, thankful, eloquent, determined, caring, respectful, veteran, proud, charming, role model, universally loved by patients, heroic, Mayor of MacNeal, kind, precise, selfless, warm hearted, sensitive, husband, patriotic, professional, patient, funny, compassionate, advocate for his patients, humble, positive, continuous learner, all-around good guy.
These are some of the descriptors used by the students, faculty, and staff (including janitors) to describe Dr. John Thurman when he was a doing his residency at MacNeal Family Medicine Residency in Berwyn, IL. It’s no wonder some of his patients today at Great River Medical Center in West Burlington look for an excuse to go see Dr. Thurman. He exudes health, compassion and sound medical judgment.
Dr. Thurman hails from Midland, Texas. One of two children, he was smart, athletic, and an over achiever. His first love in sports was basketball, but it shifted to football, where he was quarterback and captain of his high school football team when he was a senior. (They take football seriously in Texas.) But he wasn’t just a jock. John Thurman also played the violin, that segued into the viola. He made all-region orchestra, was homecoming king, class president, President of the National Honor Society, and President of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
And he was college bound. Many top universities, including Nebraska, were looking at him for a football scholarship. But because of a knee injury his junior year, making him unable to play that year, many universities passed him by.
Not Army. Dr. Thurman likes to keep his options open. He sat down with Ed Warriner, who was the offensive line and quarterbacks’ coach for Army. (Warriner would go on to be an assistant coach at Kansas when they beat Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. He is currently the offensive line coach at Michigan.) West Point wanted John Thurman and John Thurman wanted West Point. He would be a backup quarterback and linebacker. His claim to fame as a backup quarterback was one carry for 25 yards.
One thing that really attracted John Thurman to West Point was their program in chemistry and life science. John was toying with the idea of becoming a doctor.
Then it was off to Kuwait and Iraq as an Army Officer. Oh, yes, he met the love of his life, Audrey, while in military training in Kansas.
Back in the States, while playing ultimate frisbee with his Army buddies, he sustained a debilitating knee and leg injury. After four surgeries in two years, John called the Army quits. He was now free to pursue his ambitions of becoming a doctor. He was accepted at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine at A.T. Still University. The rest is history.
Great River Medical Center in West Burlington recruited Dr. John Thurman. Audrey and he are now residents of Burlington.
They have a passion for travel. Before the Coronavirus came along, Audrey and John had been to 40 countries. It wasn’t unusual for them to jump in a plane on a Thursday night and spend the weekend in Hong Kong.
They also love rescue dogs, old rescue dogs. They just adopted their 7th dog in the last 14 years, providing the senior dogs with a good, loving home during their final days.
Medical philosophy: Dr. John Thurman’s medical philosophy is simple. It has always been predicated on, “How would I feel if I was in the patient’s shoes? How do I want to be treated?” He tries to look at the whole person—mind, body and spirit—and make sure that the patient knows they are important and that they matter. And he tries to be an example. He exercises daily and hasn’t eaten meat in 2020. Good health is powerful medicine. At 43, he’s in the best shape of his life, and that includes when he was a college football player with 7% body fat.
It’s no wonder patients look for a reason to go see Dr. John Thurman.

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at, or visit his website at

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