"When I was very young, I loved science, and I loved helping people. My mom was a nurse," explains Dr. Cara Vasconcelles of her lifelong desire to be a doctor.
After graduating from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, Vasconcelles focused on a combination of internal medicine and pediatrics, which involved an extra year of training to take care of sicker patients.
"We used to see sicker kids in a hospital setting," she says, though now the focus has shifted to seeing them more in an outpatient setting.
Vasconcelles has a family practice, seeing patients who range from babies to age 99. "I see several families, sometimes adults and children with the same diseases, like celiac disease. It provides for a continuity of care."
When asked why she feels she was chosen as Springfield's best doctor, Vasconcelles replies, "I hope it's because I go the extra step. I think of my patients as family, as friends," explaining that when people are seen as people, doctors "tend to listen better and care better."
Vasconcelles, who lives in Springfield just minutes from her practice on Koke Mill Road, is active in her church and currently serves on a committee which focuses on COVID-19 guidelines to ensure safety for its members, as well as other committees in her church. Previously, Vasconcelles was involved in her kids' booster clubs and volunteered alongside her children at St. John's Breadline, as well as at MERCY Communities, helping to set up single mothers in apartments.
Outside of work and community involvement, Vasconcelles is an avid exerciser, and among other things, enjoys walking her two dogs. She loves to read and is in a book club. A recent empty nester, Vasconcelles is relearning what life is like without daily mothering responsibilities. "I think I'm going to take up the guitar and art lessons," she ponders.
At work, Vasconcelles will continue to focus on her patients, making sure to listen closely and treat everyone with respect. "Sometimes that's what people need to feel physically and emotionally well," she said.