Growing up in suburban Detroit, Beau Batton learned a lot about the lifestyle of a doctor by watching his father, a specialist who took care of the tiniest and sickest babies. He didn’t know at the time that he would become a doctor — and choose the same medical specialty as his father — or that they would have the chance to spend at least part of their careers together.

Growing up in suburban Detroit, Beau Batton learned a lot about the lifestyle of a doctor by watching his father, a specialist who took care of the tiniest and sickest babies.

“I saw the challenges he faced as well as the rewards,” Batton said.

He didn’t know at the time that he would become a doctor — and choose the same medical specialty as his father — or that they would have the chance to spend at least part of their careers together.

But it will happen, in Springfield, at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and St. John’s Children’s Hospital.

“As a young physician who wants to become better, you want good mentors, and he definitely is one,” said Beau Batton, 32, a new SIU neonatologist who arrived in Springfield in July with his father, Dr. Daniel Batton.

“This is a very rare opportunity,” said Daniel Batton, 57, the new chief of SIU’s neonatology division. “It’s the whole package.”

By the “whole package,” the elder Batton said he means the opportunity to join the staff of a growing children’s hospital — part of St. John’s Hospital — as well as the unusual personal benefit of being able to work side-by-side with one of his children and live only minutes away from his two grandchildren.

“We have been very happy with the situation,” Daniel Batton added.

Daniel and Beau Batton say they are one of only three father-child teams of neonatologists working at U.S. hospitals.

Daniel Batton was born and raised in Pekin. He was the first member of the family to become a doctor, attending the University of Illinois College of Medicine at campuses in Chicago and Rockford and then getting more training in California and Pennsylvania. After practicing for several years in Pennsylvania and Virginia, he spent 21 years as director of newborn medicine at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich.

Beau Batton, born in Rockford, attended Loyola University-Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago and worked with his father while completing his pediatrics residency at Beaumont Hospital.

The younger Batton was finishing a fellowship in Cleveland about the same time his father was looking for a new challenge. Daniel Batton answered an advertisement in a medical journal for a job heading SIU’s neonatology division.

During Daniel Batton’s first visit to SIU and St. John’s in December 2007, he was impressed by the enthusiasm of Dr. Mark Puczynski, the children’s hospital’s medical director and chairman of pediatrics at SIU.

Batton said Puczynski was willing to listen when Batton asked about the possibility of SIU hiring Batton’s son.

Beau Batton already had been interviewing elsewhere when his father suggested he consider a position in Springfield.

“I had never been to Springfield,” Beau recalled. “I had no reason to go to Springfield.”

His wife, Chicago-area native Dr. Angela Batton, encouraged Beau to visit Springfield so he wouldn’t regret later that he never seriously considered the option.

The couple discovered that they liked the Springfield area — the schools, the community, the family-friendly atmosphere. Beau Batton also was impressed by Puczynski.

“He’s trying to make St. John’s Children’s Hospital a better place, improve care and expand the coverage territory,” Batton said.

Daniel Batton learned of Beau’s decision during a call from Daniel’s grandson and Beau’s son, Charlie, age 3.

“Charlie calls and says, ‘BaPa, We’re coming to Springfield,’” Daniel Batton recalled. “It was just the best phone call I ever received.”

Beau Batton said SIU helped his wife find a job as an emergency room doctor at Memorial Medical Center, and they were pleased to find a pediatric cardiologist in Springfield to monitor Charlie, who has congenital heart disease.

They also have a 1-month-old daughter, Delaney.

The Batton doctors occasionally work together next to the bedside of patients in St. John’s 40-bed neonatal intensive-care unit, and they brainstorm difficult cases.

Daniel Batton, one of nine neonatologists at SIU, technically supervises his son, but SIU — which has an anti-nepotism policy, but makes rare exceptions — has arranged for Beau’s performance evaluations to be handled by Puczynski.

The Battons haven’t had time to pursue their hobby of golfing together, but they said they have enjoyed seeing each other in the office and loved the opportunity for their families to spend time together after hours and on weekends.

Daniel Batton has two other children — Sara, 23, who works in entertainment marketing in Los Angeles, and Emily, 18, a freshman at the University of California at Los Angeles who wants to become the family’s third neonatologist.

Daniel Batton figures he will be 71 by the time Emily completes her medical training in 14 years and could join him and her brother in Springfield.

“I’m thinking I’m still going to be here,” he said.

Dean Olsen can be reached at (217) 788-1543 or dean.olsen@sj-r.com.