MD, dispensing philosophy and career management
advice at the morning meeting, along with a world
of interesting surgical cases that came to us during
my tenure there. The year passed quickly, and then I
was off to Henry Ford Hospital. Unfortunately, there
simply was not enough pediatric neurosurgery there,
and I moved to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan.
Within the first month at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, I did more operations than I had done in the entire
eight months at the Henry Ford Hospital. I had, again,
found my home.
The journey back
I practiced at Children’s Hospital of Michigan for 20
years and absolutely loved it. It was a wonderful place.
I had a supportive partner who would get up in the
middle of the night to see a patient no matter the
circumstances. I could not have asked for a better
collaboration. We also viewed each patient as our
patient, and whoever was on call advanced the
patient’s care. It was a dream practice.
The most important decision I made early in my
career was to adopt a comfortable, but not extravagant, standard of living. If I got raises, I would live a
little bit better and bank most of it. I bought a very
nice house but not a showplace, and I drove nice cars
but not head-turning cars. So when the day came that
I began to think I might one day not be a neurosurgeon, I had the financial resources to make those
choices. When we talk about burned-out physicians,
and we all know them, their problem is sometimes
related to the fact that they cannot afford to do what
they want to do.
Neurosurgery can demand more and more of your
energies. At first, you are the new guy with patients
gifted from the other surgeons, as well as a lot of time
to contemplate your navel and study for your boards.
But slowly your reputation builds, and you care for
your own patients. The committee assignments come
along with teaching responsibilities, and if you are
an academic, the need to develop a research program
and/or studies. You begin to drop some of the other
interests you had due to a lack of time. Ultimately,
more and more of your life is only neurosurgery and,
if you are lucky, your family. The more insidious
change is your attitude at work.
We had an almost insufferable surgeon on our
staff. One day while I was waiting for a result with
the intensivist, he remembered that when this particular surgeon first came to the hospital he was as
nice as he could be—accommodating and positive in
his interactions with the staff. As he became busier,
he got less tolerant and acted as if every question or
phone call was an intrusion.
For me, the breaking point occurred one day when I
had a monthly bridge game scheduled, and something
came up at the last minute. The idea that I could not
even plan something once a month and actually do it
made me look at the arc of my career and see how one
by one I had dropped all of my outside interests. My
life was now limited to work and my husband, and for
a number of years that had been enough. Slowly but
surely, in crept the idea that I had once been a more
interesting person and maybe I could be again.
Because we had been careful to save, I was financially able to choose what I did next. I promised
my husband when he moved to Detroit that when I
retired we would move wherever he wanted, so we
began planning to move to Pensacola, FL, in a year,
with time to make a smooth transition for the next
surgeon who would take on this leadership role.
In Florida I just sat for a year and thought about
what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Slowly,
I began to engage with my new town. Moving to a
new town without a job makes it much more difficult to meet new people, but gradually I did, joining
a couple of book clubs that introduced me to interesting people. I became involved in mentoring
middle school girls and participated in the board for
Belmont-Devilliers, the historic black entertainment
district in Pensacola. Because I had always gone to the
Tuesday pediatric conference at home, I continued
to go to the similar conference at the Sacred Heart
Dr. Canady delivering the
Olga M. Jonasson, MD, Lecture
at Clinical Congress 2016