What is your hometown?
What is your official title?
Medical Director and Pathologist, Pathology Laboratory, The Iowa Clinic, PC, West Des Moines, Iowa
How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?
I began my "career" working in the kitchen of a nursing home in my hometown, where I was allowed to assist the nurses occasionally. I was an excellent student, and my guidance counselor encouraged me to go to nursing school. I chose that path, and was accepted into the BSN nursing program of Grand View College in Des Moines, IA the following year.
What interested you to pursue a career in medicine and medical education?
Interestingly, I had never considered medical school. My parents had not attended college and I was the oldest in my family, with no one to shadow. I had a full-time 11:00 pm-7:30 am job at a Des Moines hospital, and one of the University of Iowa nursing students who lived with her parents one summer and worked with me as a nursing assistant there would see me studying for summer classes at night. She knew I was "acing" a Physiology class, and asked if I was interested in medical school. I said, "Oh, no, I could NEVER get into medical school." Her older brother was at the U of I in med school then, and not believing me, she had him send me a few brochures on the College of Medicine. To my "amazement", I had more than enough credits and only had to repeat a few of the "nursing" science courses I had taken in order to qualify, plus take the MCAT. I wish I knew that nursing student's name now, as I'd thank her for the encouragement and support.
Please highlight your major career achievements, awards, discoveries, etc.
My greatest achievement to date has been to open a new Anatomic Pathology laboratory in West Des Moines, IA at The Iowa Clinic, PC; a physician-owned and governed multi-specialty clinic established over 15 years ago. Our lab became successful quickly, based on the hard work and dedication of my staff and myself. The laboratory continues to grow and throw new challenges my way on a routine basis, for which I am grateful. I am continually learning and it has truly been a rewarding experience. Related to this accomplishment, I achieved "shareholder" status early on in my new role, and am now a physician owner of The Iowa Clinic, PC.
Additional accomplishments include being named the Acting Chief of the Pathology Department at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa. I was named Medical Director of the Mercy School of Cytotechnology at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, IA, a position I held for 13 years. I worked with the students at the multi-headed microscope and was participating in many of the student lectures. That was a great and unforgettable experience and fortunately, the school was in the loving hands of an excellent Cytotechnologist as the program director, who taught me much during those times. Teaching is a love of mine, and I leaned much from interactions with students, the Cytotechnologists at Mercy, and my peers. In concert with the school, I was encouraged to sit for the "Added Qualification in Cytopathology" examination that is administered by the American Board of Pathology, and in 1996 received my certificate.
There are other accomplishments I could list here, but these certainly are the "biggies" for me!
Is there a teacher, mentor or UI Carver College of Medicine faculty member who has helped shape your education?
There are so many, it would take pages to list them all. The ones who truly changed the course of my career path include Drs. Urdanetta on "team 4": the surgical oncology "team", Dr. Kent in the Pathology Dept. at UI, and Dr. DiBona at the Iowa City VA Hospital. All were inspirational to me while at the University of Iowa.
How or why did you choose the University of Iowa for your education and medical training?
Since I was born and raised in Iowa, it seemed like a logical choice. Also, being of limited means, I needed financial assistance to make it though college, along with scholarships and grants. I naturally gravitated to the "in-state" program with lower tuition. I also attended an informational meeting held for potential medical school candidates in the spring of 1981, and Dr. Gail McGinnis was an honored speaker at the meeting. I was inspired by her stories and impressed by all that the University of Iowa had to offer. Iowa had an excellent ranking and other schools that I interviewed at paled in comparison to the University of Iowa's facilities, campus, and faculty. Interestingly, many of the folks I interviewed with asked "Why are you here? Iowa is such a great school."
What kind of professional opportunities or advantages has your University of Iowa medical training provided?
I did a rotation in Des Moines on an Internal Medicine floor at a local hospital which gave me very practical experience. It was refreshing to work with doctors outside of the large teaching institution. They all were quite helpful and relaxed, and it gave me a great feel of how a smaller hospital environment "works". I also think the Family Practice rotation we were required to do with a practitioner outside of the U of I was quite fun, and mine was in a small town much like my own. It was great! Many of the "day trips" that we took as students in Iowa City such as an out-of-town OB/GYN clinic in Waterloo for a day, or a helicopter flight with the transplant team (yes, I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time to go!) were fabulous experiences.
What still resonates with you today about your training at Iowa?
The fairness and quality of the professional staff, from physicians down to the lowest level on the medical "totem pole", I felt surrounded by excellence and an understanding that the patient comes first. I never witnessed a physician or anyone else for that matter "put down" another colleague, patient or family member. I witnessed some heated moments in the operating room, which were all related to wanting the best outcome for the patient on the table. I also think that the proximity of the hospital to the Health Sciences Library was a "plus" as my small study groups frequented it often (and I even fell asleep in there waking up well past closing…but that is another story!).
Please describe your professional interests.
I am a member of The Iowa Clinic's Healthcare Foundation Committee which raises money for charitable causes in our area. Our Foundation has donated more than $250,000 to many worthy causes over the past 6 years.
I am currently enrolled in our clinic's Leadership initiative which is not only educational but fun as well. We are leaning new skills to be able to help carry us into the future of health care. I also am currently involved in presenting the pathology slides for a cancer conference hosted by our clinic's Urologists and a group of local Radiation Oncologists which I enjoy. I also enjoy breast pathology conferences and attend those when I have time in my schedule. I have been fortunate enough to have presented teleconferences for the Iowa Society of Cytology within the past 2 years, and would like to continue to do so.
What are some of your outside interests?
I enjoy attending my son's extracurricular events as well as landscaping. My son and I are currently donating our own free time to landscaping efforts at a parochial school here in West Des Moines. I like to travel, and most recently we spent spring break in Italy with my brother and his daughter. I have much on my plate with a full-time practice, managing employees, and a 15 year old son who is very involved in athletics, music and band, and homework…never-ending homework!
Are you involved in service to your alma mater through volunteer activities, serving as community based faculty, etc. or have you had any opportunities to work with or train UI medical students?
I have volunteered to work with UI medical students but have not had the opportunity as of yet. Hopefully, someone will want to see how a typical community-based pathology practice "works". I have had the opportunity to work with UI medical students in the past when one might "stray" to my former place of employment in Des Moines and want to do a rotation with the Pathology dept. I also worked with a few while I did a year of Internal Medicine residency here in Des Moines.
Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?
Strive for excellence, quality and timely service, never compromising your ethical and moral values to do so. I believe that hard work and dedication to the patients I serve, and the clinicians who are my clients as well, are keys to success. Our patients are #1, and that is why we exist: to serve them.
If you could change one thing about the health care system in the United States, what would it be?
Physician involvement; physicians need to be more involved with what is happening in their profession and be a driving force behind change, whether at the local, state or national level. All too often the "politicians" in our profession; the ones who love the "titles" and "meetings" etc. are involved and the average "Dr. Joe" isn't. Because we let them be. I think ALL doctors and health professionals have to be concerned about our profession and get involved in some way. If you don't have the time, then donate to the cause that you believe is worthy to effect changes you'd like to see in the medical profession.
What is the biggest change you've experienced in medicine since you were a student?
The amount of paperwork, the liability issues we all face, and the amount of time we spend documenting what we do just to get paid. Also, reimbursement for tests we did 10 or 20 years ago has dropped drastically, despite inflation and the rising cost of health care. Thus, we work more for less. And that drives many doctors into specialty practice. In terms of students, I see a different type of mentality as well. I have spoken to a number of students and residents who assume they will be employed by a hospital and not be engaged in private practice. I also see more students who would like to work less, and not spend the amount of time we all did in building a practice. I see good and bad sides to all of these issues.
What one piece of advice would you give to today's medical students?
Never regret the hard work, the amount of time you put in, as it will pay off in the end. However, take time to be with your loved ones; they are precious. No career can compensate for the time you spend with your family.
What do you see as "the future" of the medicine?
I'm skeptical, but I see the possibility of socialized medicine. I so hope this is not where we land. I do not see that as a solution to the rising cost of health care. I think our future depends on what we do about it, and how much we want to be involved in preserving the best health care system in the world. Again, physician involvement is imperative as a driving force to shape a better delivery system, preserving quality and controlling costs.
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