Home is where Tamaqua cardiologist Todd Banning's heart is.

A Tamaqua Area High School graduate who studied medicine in Philadelphia and New Jersey before establishing his own practice in Tamaqua, Banning has joined Cardiology Associates & Diagnostic Center, LLC. The group, which includes Dr. William M. Markson and Dr. Ronald A. Stein, and Physician Assistant Lillian B. Hughes, has offices at 1241 Blakeslee Blvd. E., Lehighton; 1510 Fawn Valley Dr., Brodheadsville; and on the second floor of the Wells Fargo Bank building at 17 W. Broad St., Tamaqua.

The group provides on-site diagnostics, and is affiliated with all of the major hospitals throughout the Lehigh Valley and Pocono areas.

Banning's Tamaqua office is in the same building as his wife Lisa's orthodontics practice.

Banning, 44, was born at Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital, Lehighton, delivered by Dr. Farr. He graduated from high school alongside the young woman who is now his wife.

he graduated with a Bachelor of science degree from Penn State University, then earned his Doctoral degree from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He served an internship and residency in internal medicine at Suburban General Hospital, Norristown, Bucks County; and a fellowship in cardiology at Deborah Heart and Lung Center, Browns Mills, New Jersey.

Banning was certified in Cardiovascular Diseases in 2000, and served on the consulting staff at St. Luke's Miners Hospital, Coaldale.

Banning said he loved Deborah.

"I almost stayed there, but since my Dad (the late Dr. Richard Banning) was practicing here, it was really an easy decision to come back," he said.

He joined his father's practice, Schuylkill Cardiology Consultants, in 2000 to create a combination of internal medicine and cardiology. Banning's father died in 2003, and he carried on the practice on his own.

"I made a conscious choice to stay 'home'. I could have gone other places, but I'm a country boy at heart," he said. "I wanted to raise my kids back here, home."

He talked with Cardiology Associates for months before making the decision to join.

"Our practice philosophies are very, very similar. It's a great fit for us, and it's a perfect fit for my patients. Working together, it will be pretty seamless for my patients," he said.

Banning also said that Cardiology Associates offers freedom for both doctor and patient.

"What I'm seeing, and what I don't care for, is the lack of choice, both for physicians and for patients. That was one of the main reasons I decided to join Cardiology Associates," he said.

Because the practice is affiliated with a wide range of hospitals, Banning has the freedom to send patients to the best hospital for them, and they can choose which hospital they are most comfortable with.

Markson said that having Banning join the practice benefits Cardiology Associates, too.

"Medicine these days has become very big and corporate. Having him join us will enable is to keep that small practice feel. Patients know our staff, and our the staff knows them. They can call when they have a problem, and get an appointment quickly. Cardiology Associates has a high quality, small practice feel," he said.