Top Doctor Q&As

Several of the top vote-getters are profiled to help explain the challenges and rewards of medicine.




Photo by John Hession

Susan M. Pepin, M.D.

Ophthalmology

Why medicine? Why ophthalmology?

Medicine demands critical thinking, continued learning, creativity and the ability to tackle new challenges - all the while with a goal of helping others. There is never a dull moment. In ophthalmology, I can care for my patients long term and be their primary eye care provider while also having the opportunity to perform surgeries and procedures that can have a profound impact on the quality of their lives.

What makes a great doctor?

Complicated question but I'll give you my top three traits that I hope that I have and am working toward fostering in my students: commitment, caring and passion.

What do you do to relieve stress and leave work behind?

I never leave work completely behind - that will happen maybe with retirement, if that ever happens. Body combat at the gym does wonders for relieving stress. My children are also wonderful stress relievers/stress inducers, depending on the moment.

Exciting development in your field?

Although not recent, pars plana vitrectomies and phacoemulsification cataract extraction are surgical approaches that have transformed our outcomes in ophthalmology.

Do you have a motto or philosophy?

From Emily Dickinson, "All but Death, can be Adjusted"

Most rewarding aspect of your work?

Helping a patient to better understand what is going on with his or her health/symptoms even if it can't be fixed.

How do you put patients at ease?

I look them in the eye and try to really listen. Laughter also helps.

Rx for staying healthy?

Exercise and eating well. I feel unwell when I don't get exercise in some form. Laughter is pretty helpful as well, particularly laughter at oneself.

What can patients bring to the patient/doctor equation?

Patients can bring a willingness to try to understand that medicine has limitations in what it can do. Sometimes we may fall short of their expectations, not due to any particular failings, but due to the fact that although we can try to improve quality of life - none of us will live forever.

Are there any misconceptions about your specialty?

Perhaps that it's just about the eyes. Great ophthalmologists have to understand much of internal medicine, neurology and pediatrics as well as being good surgeons

What do people need to understand about medicine?

Medicine cannot cure everything and if someone is well, searching for disease may not be the best use of resources.


Photo by John Hession

William Goodman, M.D.

Pulmonary Diseases

What makes a great doctor?

I believe it is important for a doctor to be a careful listener. A doctor needs to ask the right questions and listen carefully to a patient's story including the messages "between the lines." In addition, I have been taught that a great doctor does not treat a disease but treats a patient with a disease.

What do you do to relieve stress and leave work behind?

Sometimes it's impossible to leave certain patients behind at work. I relax by spending time with my wife and children. I also enjoy tinkering with Internet technologies such as websites and apps.

What do people need to understand about medicine?

Recently medical science has made extraordinary progress and enhanced our ability to diagnose and treat illnesses but limits remain in what realistically can be achieved. Unlike many other endeavors, "more medicine" isn't necessarily "better medicine," especially when one considers the unavoidable risk of unintended consequences and side effects.

Do you have a motto?

Be the doctor you would want to care for your own family.

Most rewarding aspect of your work?

Being allowed to help people confront and manage very important personal issues. I get quite a bit of satisfaction when I can help a patient recover from an acute illness or enable him or her to make the most of a chronic disease.

Rx for staying healthy?

I don't think there is a shortcut to staying healthy. Eating a well-balanced diet, exercising on a regular basis and getting enough sleep comprise the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. As a pulmonary physician I must emphasize how important it is to not smoke. Although it is difficult to quit, it is probably the single most important lifestyle change to improve one's health.

What can patients bring to the patient/doctor equation?

As the question implies, the patient plays an important role in the patient/doctor relationship. I find that the patients who achieve the best outcomes are those that ask questions about their tests and treatments. Following through with a treatment plan is also very important. In addition, I let my patients know that our relationship continues between office visits and how important it is that they provide updates on an ongoing basis.


Photo by John Hession

Barry Gendron, M.D.

Rehabilitation/Physical Medicine

Why medicine?

I worked in a pharmacy in high school in Berlin, graduated from pharmacy school and worked as a pharmacist for a few years. I decided to attend medical school to learn more about how I could help patients.

Why this specialty?

The specialty of physical medicine and rehabilitation (also known as physiatry) allows me to treat patients as a whole and to partner with them to improve their health. I can incorporate traditional medicine, holistic treatments and manual medicine tenets from osteopathic medicine. Physiatrists diagnose and treat a variety of sports, spine and neuromusculoskeletal problems, utilizing exercise, medications, injections, acupuncture, manual medicine and a variety of other nonsurgical techniques to help patients recover their function.

What do you do to relieve stress and leave work behind?

Exercise and spend time with family.

Exciting development in your field?

Dynamic musculoskeletal ultrasound to diagnose tendon, ligament, joint, muscle and nerve problems. Much less expensive than MRI, ultrasound allows assessment of anatomy both at rest and with motion. Watching structures move and reproducing the patient's symptoms with movement under ultrasound can be very powerful in establishing the correct diagnosis.

Most rewarding aspect of your work?

Diagnosing patients and partnering with them to design a treatment plan that maximizes their ability to function in their sport, at work or avocationally. It is very rewarding to help patients get better.

Are there any misconceptions about your specialty?

There are approximately 7,000 physiatrists in the US, making it the smallest medical specialty - many people have never heard of a physiatrist. Some people get "physiatrist" confused with "psychiatrist."


Photo by John Hession

Karen Maynard, M.D.

Obstetrics

Why medicine? Why this specialty?

I always knew I wanted to become a physician ever since I was in sixth grade. I love interacting with people, caring for them and feeling like I make a difference for someone daily. Doing OB/GYNß allows me to make long-term relationships with women during the most exciting time of their lives. Everyday is different, in terms of activity, whether it is seeing patients in the office, delivering babies or doing surgery.

What makes a great doctor?

A great doctor is someone who fosters a healthy patient/doctor relationship; someone who listens to the patient's concerns, takes time to explain what is happening to the patient in a way they can best understand and follows up with the patient in a timely manner.

What do you do to relieve stress and leave work behind?

I like to exercise, whether it is spinning, yoga or running. I also try to vacation with my family in new and exciting places.

Exciting development in your field?

Robotics has really made our gynecologic surgery exciting. It is minimally invasive, it decreases blood loss and we are now able to do more complicated cases laparoscopically that otherwise would have had to be done in an open fashion.

Most rewarding aspect of your work?

The most rewarding aspect of my work revolves around the relationships I make with women and their families. It is exciting every time I help bring a new life into the world and share in the family's joy and celebration.

Most difficult aspect?

We have the highs and the lows, with the lows being the toughest when I have to tell the patient they have cancer, or a miscarriage or fetal anomaly.

How do you put patients at ease?

I always enter the room with a smile and ask them what their concerns are and connect with them on a personal level.

Rx for staying healthy?

Everything in moderation, use your common sense, keep active daily, follow a balanced diet, continue to have a healthy sex life and take time for yourself.


Photo by John Hession

William Edwards, M.D.

Neonatology

Why medicine? Why this specialty?

I know this answer may seem trite, but medicine and neonatology particularly are fields where you have the enormous potential to make a difference. You can make a difference one patient and family at a time or through research, teaching and advocacy on countless lives.

What makes a great doctor?

Someone who continually strives to learn and improve; who recognizes his/her fallibility and limits but is not paralyzed by them. Most of all, an unwavering commitment to achieving the best possible outcomes for your patients and their families.

Exciting development in your field?

Probably the most exciting development in neonatology from my perspective is the realization of the strength of collaboration across other centers. Only a small part of our day-to-day practices is supported by the highest level of scientific evidence. Studying the variation in outcomes among centers has led to great insights into where additional research needs to be focused as well as learning practical lessons about what practices may be better than others.

What do people need to understand about medicine?

That medicine cannot fix all problems. However, even when problems cannot be fixed, medicine has a tremendous role in educating and helping maximize quality of life within the limitations of the science.

Do you have a motto or philosophy?

Not so much a personal one. I am committed to "Patient-and Family-Centered Care." I am quite proud of the philosophy that was developed by parents and neonatal care providers for our unit: "We believe the parent-child relationship is essential. We believe in creating a nurturing environment where the child is part of a family and the family is part of the care team."

Most rewarding aspect of your work?

This past week I had 18-year-old twins stop by our Intensive Care Nursery on their way back from college application visits. They were born at 24 weeks and weighed roughly 500 and 600 grams at birth. They are articulate and charming young women. Earlier in the week, a 25-year-old previous patient asked to see me when she was visiting her niece who was a patient in our unit. The impact we have on lives is for life - it is humbling.

Most difficult aspect?

Sometimes patients die or live with terrible problems. That is tragic. However, from the experience, many families grow and have amazing resilience.

Rx for staying healthy?

Keep a healthy perspective and honest self knowledge.

What's the trickiest procedure to preform?

I think the scariest procedure is securing the airway during a 'code' situation in an infant with an anatomic abnormality of the upper airway that makes usual process of intubation difficult or impossible.

What do you do to relieve stress and leave work behind?

I love tennis, music and outdoor activities in general. I have built three kayaks and am working on completion of a wooden sailboat. I greatly enjoy our daughters company (when they are available) and following their professional and personal growth. Golden retrievers are undoubtedly among the best stress relievers on earth. When our dog Lexi crawls in your lap (goldens are just big lap dogs) or lies on her back for a tummy rub, it is impossible to think about work and all of your stresses. Pets in general are awesome, but goldens top the list (for our family anyway).


N. Ross Jenkins, M.D.

Photo by John Hession

Neurosurgery

What makes a great doctor?

The ability to listen to patients and allow them to express themselves in their own words, rather than just having them answer a string of questions, which may miss the nub of the problem.

How do you put patients at ease?

By explaining their problems in clear, easily understood terms, showing them their scans and avoiding medical jargon. Most people think the worst when they do not understand the problem and become much more comfortable once they understand it, particularly when the issue is often much less formidable than they imagined.

Most difficult aspect of you work?

Explaining to a patient or family with a life-threatening problem or illness that I cannot help. Surgeons, by definition, are most comfortable providing active, surgical therapy and find it very hard when a disease or event has moved beyond their ability to help.

Are there any misconceptions about your specialty?

Many people think that neurosurgeons only deal with incurable brain diseases. In fact we treat benign brain and spine problems such as disc or degenerative spine disease, benign tumors or vascular problems, frequently allowing patients to resume a normal lifestyle.

What do you do to relieve stress and leave work behind?

Wildlife and landscape photography, swimming and skiing. All require concentration that means other issues have to be excluded, even if it is just for a short time, and yet that concentration also provides a form of relaxation.

Exciting development in neurosurgery?

The development of stereotactic radiosurgery. The ability to direct intense radiation very accurately at targets in the brain or spine, with minimal risk of injury to structures even just a few millimeters away. This can be used for many tumors, benign or cancerous, some vascular abnormalities and even some types of pain. The radiation is often given as a single treatment, and as an outpatient.

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