Canonsburg General Hospital doctor comes full circle

Published Jan 15, 2013 at 12:01 am (Updated Jan 10, 2013 at 2:46 pm)

As a boy, Stephen Heirendt dreamed of being a helicopter pilot in the military. And while his less than perfect eyesight kept him from realizing his dream, he now does the next best thing – occasionally flying in helicopters as a physician in the emergency department at Canonsburg General Hospital.

Heirendt determined early in life that he loved the fast pace of a career in medicine, first as a member of the Cecil Volunteer Fire Department while still a student in the Canon-McMillan School District, and later working on the township’s ambulance crew.

He studied to be a nurse at Community College of Allegheny County after graduating from Canon McMillan in 1992, then earned his credentials to be a paramedic in 1997. He attended the University of Pittsburgh to earn degrees in emergency medicine and the necessary requirements to attend medical school.

And while working as a nurse on the weekends in the emergency department at Canonsburg, Heirendt attended full-time classes at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, graduating in four years.

Following a three-year residency at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, Heirendt was looking for a position as an emergency room physician and he stopped to speak with Dr. Jonathan Landis, head of emergency medicine at Canonsburg. A job was available and soon, Heirendt had come full circle, first serving with the fire department to then working as an emergency room doctor.

And there to greet him was one of his biggest supporters, his mother Barbara Heirendt, who has volunteered as a liaison between the emergency room and emergency room waiting area for the past 10 years.

“I’m so proud of him,” she said of her youngest of five children. Heirendt, also the son of Kenneth Heirendt, is the only one in the family to pursue a medical career with the exception of an older sister who works in Atlanta for the Centers for Disease Control.

The mother and son usually work the Monday evening shift and, as she’s done for years, Barbara Heirendt brings her son a warm dinner, unlike his normal meal of Pop-Tarts and Mountain Dew.

His wife, Erin, works full time as a psychologist, and together they have a 16-month old daughter, Kaitlyn, and another child due in April, so Barbara Heirendt doesn’t mind pitching in once and a while with a meal.

“I love it,” Barbara Heirendt said of her ability to work closely with her son.

Asked if he would like his children to follow in his footsteps, Heirendt of Chartiers Township said, “Yes, I’d like my kids to go into medicine, but I’ll always be there one way or another.”

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