Erick Isaacson wasn't planning to return to the Tri-Cities.
The Richland native was wrapping up his residency training in Colorado, trying to decide where to put down roots and start practicing family medicine. He and his wife, Sharon, were looking at the Pacific Northwest, but not their hometown.
Then Isaacson got a call from Dr. Norman Erie, a longtime Tri-City family physician who'd cared for Isaacson growing up, and who still cared for his parents.
Erie said he was in the market for a partner.
So the young Dr. Isaacson came back — and generations of Tri-Citians, plus a new generation of physicians who were trained by him, are healthier and better for it.
"He's a servant leader," said Amy Sweetwood, Kadlec's director of graduate medical education. "If there is concern, or a fire to put out, everyone feels they can go talk to Dr. Isaacson as the voice of reason, as the person who'll guide you to the right decision."
Isaacson, 66, is retiring this month.
He spent more than three decades as a family doctor in the Tri-Cities — doing everything from delivering babies to caring for the elderly.
And in recent years, he helped start Kadlec's family medicine residency program, which trains new doctors fresh out of medical school. He's the program's director.
For him, retiring is bittersweet. It's been a fulfilling and gratifying career, he said, but it's time to step away and take time for his family and himself.
Isaacson has a long and deep connection to Kadlec — he was born there.
His father, the late Ray Isaacson, worked at the Hanford site before joining the state legislature and then serving as a Benton County commissioner.
The younger Isaacson was drawn to science, but he also considered a career as a pastor. Ultimately, his interest in medicine won out.
After graduating from Columbia High School in 1970, he went onto Whitman College and then medical school at the University of Washington.
He and Sharon, his high school sweetheart, then headed to Pueblo, Colo., for residency.
And then Dr. Erie called.
Isaacson practiced with Erie for several years and before starting Three Rivers Family Medicine in Richland. In the last decade or so, he became involved in the effort to start a family medicine residency program at Kadlec.
It got off the ground in 2015, welcoming its first class of residents.
"He is a phenomenal mentor, and at the same time allowed us a good amount of autonomy with our patients," said Dr. Zubair Rehman, one of those first residents.
Dr. Tayyab Tahir, another inaugural resident, agreed.
"He's been a great mentor to us. I'm sure (the others) would say this, too — if we had to choose a role model for practicing medicine, he'd definitely be it," Tahir said.
Isaacson transitioned out of seeing patients last month, and he'll wrap up his duties as residency program director by the end of June.
Sweetwood choked up talking about his contributions.
"His genuine desire to do the quality thing, do the right thing for the right reason has made the (residency) program successful," she said. "As I told his patients, who were lamenting him leaving: We wanted him to be the program director so he'd be the model for all the residents coming through here."
He set the example for the doctors following in his footsteps, she said.
Isaacson is looking forward to retirement. He plans to spend time with Sharon, their three children and six grandchildren.
He's thankful for a long and fulfilling career.
"To get to do this has been an unbelievable, pinch-yourself-is-it-real kind of thing," he said. "It's a privilege. It's quite a gift."