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horses. Students are transported to Catholic and Protestant churches and synagogues according to resident and family preference. The staff members have their own personal faith community involvement and bring that ethic to the campus.

John has transitioned over the last year by spending three half days a week at the school and is continuing to learn the administrative duties of being the full-time CEO. His vision for the Stewart Home School is “to provide a lifetime educational experience for the intellectually disabled, including medical, health, fitness, social and spiritual quality of life.”

A Family Tradition

John’s father was a Frankfort physician, instrumental in the construction of today’s Kings Daughters Hospital. He set an example of the dual dedication to the practice of medicine and to the Stewart Home School. In addition to his radiology practice, John’s father saw students part-time in the school’s clinic - a practice John has continued throughout his surgical career.

John grew up on the school grounds, interacting daily with residents in athletic activities and crafts. As a teen, he mowed grass and worked in the farm’s dairy from 4 AM- 4 PM, six days a week. As a youngster, he learned the importance of treating these special people with dignity and respect. He considers himself a ‘graduate’ of the school.

John spent five years in surgical training at the University of Texas-Houston. He returned to Kentucky in 1984 and began his career with Lexington Surgical Associates. This offered the opportunity to be engaged in a high-volume, full-spectrum surgical practice and still be less than an hour from the school ‘because of my love for the place. “The passion for this is part of my roots though there has never been any pressure to be here.”

Throughout his 32-year surgery career, he talked daily with the infirmary and ran a clinic himself every Monday night. The infirmary has been staffed for several years now by an ARNP. They out-source this PCP service. He still will see patients with possible surgical issues or at family request. He may also visit during a student’s hospitalization to help coordinate discharge planning.

John is married to Lexington gynecologist Magdalene Karon. When they met during their medical training in Texas, he told her he would be going back to Kentucky to practice close to Stewart Home School. She says they have a great relationship (‘a love affair’) and work well together, personally and professionally. John’s last surgical case was a procedure performed alongside Magdalene on one of her gynecological patients with endometriosis. While Magdalene performed an innovative robotic pelvic procedure, John excised an abdominal wall tumor.

She manages gynecological problems that arise for female students at Stewart Home School. She says the students receive excellent overall health and medical care. They have a very low obesity rate and have never had a pregnancy. Though both of their children have professional careers and live out of state, she and John think one of them will carry on the tradition and be the sixth generation to run the Stewart Home School. Their son grew up working part-time on the farm when it was operating at full capacity.

On being a doctor

John always wanted to be a doctor. He admired his father’s commitment to Stewart Home School, his work as a Frankfort radiologist and his active engagement in organized medicine, including the presidency of KMA (1978). “What I love about medicine is the combination of science and humanism. The physician-patient relationship was my forte in practice. Science is the foundation of medicine but we use it to take care of people. The physician-patient relationship is what I love most about medicine. I like the idea of taking care of people, knowing their families, where they were from and what they did. I felt that was an important part of the physician-patient relationship. I tell young people that medicine is a great career choice. You are respected, make a good living and have great flexibility in where you work.”

He reminds young physicians that it is important to be committed to taking care of people - not just be skilled at the intellectual and technical aspects of medicine. “Medicine is tremendously rewarding if you focus on taking care of people who are sick and in need. You are well prepared to practice medicine if you combine intellectual ability with the idealistic desire to take care of people and are realistic about the emotional demands and rewards of practice.” He is hoping to spend the next 20 years at the Stewart Home School, “because I love it. I am invigorated by a new phase in my career that is doubly exciting because I am returning to my roots and taking care of these special people. It is an honor, a privilege, a challenge and an opportunity to carry on this legacy. “

Roxane Newby worked with John more than thirty years at Fayette Surgical Associates, the last fifteen as office manager. She says, “He is one of the most caring physicians I’ve ever known. He always puts the patient first. He would put himself in the call schedule when there were gaps and often continue to follow patients after the change of shift, when he was supposed to be off-call. He just seems driven from inside to take good care of patients. He was also the one I went to when important office staff decisions needed to be made.”

Sandra Bell came to the Stewart Home School 47 years ago as a speech pathologist and is now is the Director. She describes working with John Stewart as “a complete inspiration. He outworks all of us and is willing to do anything he asks of the staff. He has such a grasp of the many things that affect our students and their families. He grew up on this campus, went away to study and practice surgery and has now come back home.”

Magdalene Karon points to the fact that husband John was never sued during 32 years in surgical practice - a testimony to the quality of his surgical expertise and patient rapport.  She says her husband loves the interface between surgical practice and compassionate care. “He has always been praised for his compassionate care. He just doesn’t have a short fuse or ego. He is always a gentleman - a class act.”

Reflecting on the quality of his relationships with Stewart Home School students, she says, “Students run to him on campus, calling him “Dr. Johnny.”

Stewart Home School students and staff are all happy that Dr. Johnny is coming home.

John D. Stewart II, past president of Lexington Medical Society (1997), retired 3 months ago after 32 years with Fayette Surgical Associates. He was managing partner the last 14 years. As a member of a large, high volume surgical practice, he was much admired by staff, colleagues and patients for his surgical expertise and especially for the quality of his interpersonal relations. In talking with this vascular surgeon, one gets the sense that the physician-patient relationship was his real specialty. For the last several months, he has been transitioning into the chief administrator role of the Stewart Home School, a 124 year-old family business in Franklin County, just outside Frankfort KY. He is the fifth generation of Stewarts to lead this facility that is “dedicated to education and care for special people with special needs.”

Stewart Home School

The School was founded in 1893 by John’s great-great-grandfather, who was president of the Kentucky Medical Association in the 1890s and ran Kentucky’s state institute for the mentally handicapped in Frankfort. He concluded his career by buying the sprawling 800 acre working farm and residential facility from the Kentucky Military Institute and creating a tuition- based private school. Stewart Home School provides full-time, residential, lifelong education for adults with intellectual disabilities. The school’s mission is to be the best residential facility in the world for adults with special intellectual needs.

There are currently 340 students from 38 states and 6 foreign countries. Tuition is paid by the students’ families or trusts.


The tuition cost is in line with other full-time residential facilities such as assisted living for the elderly. This student population comprises a very complex patient group. Over a hundred students have seizure disorders and about 140 have clinical psychiatric problems. Psychiatry and neurology consultants see students on campus once a month. The average resident is on five prescription medications. About 30 require van transportation around campus.

While there is no minimum age, and they do have a few residents under age eighteen, most children today have access to public programs that provide special education and medical care. Therefore, the vast majority of Stewart Home School students are over age 18. One student lived at the school for eighty-three years, arriving there at age eight and living there until his death at age ninety-one. One of the current students has lived there since 1947 (seventy years and counting) and is currently under hospice care.

In addition to receiving three meals a day, students enjoy daily recreational activities, festivities for all holidays and the opportunity to formally participate in Special Olympics. There has been an equestrian program since the school’s inception and today about half the students are involved therapeutically with


Dr Patterson chairs the Lexington Medical

Senator Alvarado earned his bachelor's degree in biology from Loma Linda University (California) in 1990, and then went on to receive his Doctorate in Medicine in 1994. He completed his medical residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Kentucky in 1998. Society's Physician Wellness Commission and is certified in Physician Coaching. He is on the family practice faculty UK College of Medicine and teaches nationally for Saybrook School of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences (San Francisco) and the Center for Mind Body Medicine (Washington, DC). After 30 years in private family practice in Irvine KY, he now operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, where he offers integrative mind-body medicine consultations specializing in mindfulness-based approaches to stress-related chronic conditions and burnout prevention for helping professionals. He can be reached through his website at