Are you the first physician in your family?
I am the first medical doctor in the family, although
my father was a dentist. I am the sixth of seven
kids, with four older sisters, an older brother, and a
younger brother. When I was four years old, I told
one of my sisters that I wanted to be a nurse when
I grew up, and she said, “Well, why do you want to
be a nurse? Why don’t you want to be a doctor?” My
response was, “Girls can’t be doctors!” I grew up in
a small town. There were no women physicians in
my town, and there were no women physicians on
TV at that time. She said, “Yes they can!” I went
and asked my mother if my sister was telling the
truth. My mom said that she was correct, and at
that point, I decided that I wanted to become a
doctor. I don’t know what it was that made the
career seem appealing to me at such a young age,
but I had decided very early on that I wanted to
become a doctor.
Why did you make the decision to do much of
your training in Michigan?
I was admitted to a combined pre-medical/MD pro-
gram at the University of Michigan right out of high
school. After I decided to go into surgery, I inter-
viewed around the country but ultimately chose to
stay at Michigan for several reasons: One, it’s a great
training program, and two, we had a lot of women
faculty and residents in the program. This was 1990,
when many programs had, at best, a “token” woman
trainee. Our chair, Lazar Greenfield, MD, was com-
mitted to training the best residents, regardless of
gender. I don’t think he was explicitly recruiting
women or minorities, but [simply] the “best ath-
lete.” It was a place where I could see myself being
successful as a trainee.
When did you decide on a career in general sur-
Early in medical school, I thought I wanted to do something procedurally oriented, and based on advice from
other people, I considered otolaryngology because you
can do surgery and be a clinician. It was a nice combination of medicine and surgery. However, when I did
my third-year general surgery clerkship, I just loved it. I
loved that the residents seemed to be totally in charge of
the hospital. If you were on call overnight as a student,
it was clear that the general surgery residents carried
a lot of responsibility. If there was anything going on,
they were the ones being called to help. I loved that, and
I enjoyed having an immediate impact on the patients
and then seeing the outcome of what you had done in
the operating room (OR).
Your husband also is a surgeon (otolaryngology).
Did you meet in medical school?
I met my husband, Eben L. Rosenthal, MD, FACS, when
he was a third-year medical student and I was a second-year resident in general surgery. We did not meet
in the hospital; we actually met while ice skating. He
had just finished his third-year surgery clerkship and
recognized me from the hospital. When the Zamboni
was out cleaning the ice, he came and sat down and we
started talking. The rest is history.
PROFILES IN SURGICAL RESEARCH
It was not until I took my faculty position at UAB that I transitioned
to health services research. Before I took that job, there were
buzzwords like “outcomes research,” which was reporting
outcomes in a more detailed fashion. The field of health services
research was introduced to me by a woman, Catarina Kiefe, MD,
PhD, who became one of my most significant mentors at UAB.