When her patients ask what brought her to White Salmon, Dr. Cindy Horton can answer with a straight face: the fishing.
Horton, most recently of Wenatchee, is Mid-Columbia Family Physicians' newest partner. She joined the White Salmon practice in mid-April.
As she tells the fishing tale: "My husband wanted to follow his dream of starting up a fishing guide service. The fishing season on the Wenatchee River is short, so we had to go where there were fish year-round."
Prior to moving here, Horton and her husband, Ken Schleicher, had been ensonced happily in Wenatchee for the past seven years.
But late last year a national conglomerate bought the industrial supply house Schleicher managed, upsetting the family's idyll existence.
The new owner informed Schleicher he either had to buy into the company to retain his position, or else.
He and Horton chose or else.
"We decided it was time to get out," Horton said. "I was lucky to find a practice that would let Ken (an avid outdoorsman) do something he's always wanted to do and let me continue to practice medicine."
The Schleicher family -- which includes children Danielle, 5, and Kevin, 3 -- has been in White Salmon since mid-April.
Horton left a flourishing practice and a seven-doctor group in Wenatchee that specialized in community medicine.
"It was hard for me to say goodbye after seven years. We'd made a lot of friends and I enjoyed the relationships I had with my patients," she noted, "but change is part of life."
As a family medicine staff physician for Columbia Valley Community Health Services, Horton cared for many indigent people, including families of farm workers who earned their livelihoods in the Wenatchee valley's world-famous apple orchards.
"I like that part of the work because I went into medicine to help people," said Horton, who is fluent in Spanish.
She added: "What I like about this practice is the doctors aren't in it just for the money."
Horton graduated from the University of Missouri at Kansas City medical school in 1991. She did her internship and residency in family medicine at the University of California-San Diego Medical center.
Before entering medical school, Horton completed the physician assistant program at Baylor University's College of Medicine in Dallas, Texas, graduating with a bachelor of science degree.
She practiced for two years as a physician's assistant -- one year each in Shawnee Mission, Kan., and Detroit, Mich. While a medical student in Kansas City, she worked as a medical transcriptionist to help pay her expenses.
"I like everything about family medicine," said Horton, who has delivered more than 400 babies in 10 years of practice. "And the nice thing about being part of a group is that doctors can specialize and bring greater diversity and expertise to the practice."
Horton, who puts in three days a week at the White Salmon clinic, is finding the pace and variety of the job and the community to her liking.
"My schedule is getting filled up. On my second day here I saw 24 people," she noted. "Business is good and we're starting to feel more at home. We love the community and the area. We hope to be here a long time."