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Going Nuts

treeIn the middle of my yard stands a majestic American chestnut tree. Virtually extinct for decades (1), this mature treasure is now a rare find, considered one of the most perfect of trees, with every part having great utility and beauty. I have learned a lot from that tree. The tree has been there for the nearly three decades I have called this place “home” and most likely a century prior.

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What is Your Passion?

I love the commercials that end with “what’s in your wallet?”.  How about “what is your passion?”. In retirement, mine is simple. Music. Not performance, but brass instruments. Specifically, trumpets, cornets, and flugelhorns. Last year, I had a trumpet made that I designed.

I could describe it to you in excruciating detail and tell you all that went into its creation. Hours of work spanning 4 to 5 years. Hundreds of hours determining its specifications. Countless hours spent emailing and phoning strangers who guided me educated me and provided their insight, all without compensation. I was able to form bonds with complete strangers over a shared love of brass instruments. In many ways, the community of brass instrument repairers and developers is more close-knit than the community of musical performers. Performers need design and repair people, the reverse is not true.

Recently, I reconnected with a woodwind man I hadn’t seen in decades. He has been a guest conductor in the UK, Europe, the Netherlands, and behind the old Iron Curtain. Oh, I forgot, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center also. I guess you could say he’s been successful.

After we caught up and relived the past we spoke of the present. After a life on the road, he taught Jazz Musicology at two different universities. We’re both retired. He still performs in Pennsylvania and North Carolina just because he wants to.

Two different individuals, two different career paths, each with a shared passion in retirement that we shared in our youth. Music. When I told him about my trumpet design, he almost fell over. He demanded details, photos, etc. I gladly complied.

Why share this with you? Simple. Find or rediscover your passion. Don’t wait for the future. Do it now. Had I continued my passion for music while I still practiced psychiatry, I would have more fully benefited from the combined experience. Fortunately, I didn’t miss out entirely. I nurture my soul now. As is often said, “better late than never”.

A few days ago, my wife and I attended a concert by the Baroque Orchestra. Between selections, I whispered to her about the orchestra’s use of Eb and piccolo trumpets during various selections and why they were used. It wasn’t difficult. I had a teaching assistantship in the music department at my undergraduate school. I was a math major who taught “Intro to Music” to freshmen. Music has always been a part of me.

Walking home from the concert I said that I wished I had studied musicology in depth. She asked if I meant instead of practicing psychiatry. Heavens no. I should have done both.

“What is your passion?”

How DO You Grow?

GardenI have always been fascinated with growing things, mostly vegetables, occasionally flowers and houseplants. I have had varied success with the flowers and the houseplants, but, for the most part, I have had some spectacular yields from my home garden.

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It’s Been a Year And What Have I Learned?

It’s been a year, and what have I learned? This being 2021, and since Covid-19 has pretty much put a kibosh on the last 365+ days, one would think “all things Covid” is what has been rumbling around in my brain, causing all of these mental gymnastics. Well, no, actually, my “what have I learned?” is more on the lines of:  It’s been a year since I retired, and what have I learned?

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Head, shoulders, knees and toes

cOVID virus and skeletonHead, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Knees and Toes...

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Do You Color?

coloringI have to admit, when I was young, I did not like to color. We all had to do it in elementary school. Coloring was a skill that taught us how to follow instructions, express creativity and stay in the lines. As a child, I followed instructions well, was more creative with words rather than drawing, and honestly, I had trouble staying in the lines, (though, my difficulty staying in the lines helped discover a vision problem).

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Setting an Intention

Have you ever found yourself faced with a task so daunting and seemingly insurmountable that you procrastinate to the point where the task keeps mounting? Maybe it's a garage that needs cleaned out, a checkbook that needs reconciled, a mountain of incomplete medical records waiting for your finishing touch, a stack of CME articles that need to be read, a case review that needs written for submission for publication, a shelf exam requiring dedicated study? Me too.

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Stuff

monk figurinesHave you ever wondered how you accumulate so much stuff and why you keep certain things? Recently, I have had the distinct privilege and responsibility to sort through the belongings of people who are close to me that have died. In the past five years, I have peered into the intimate life details of my mother, father and most impacting, my husband of 26 years.

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What Matters to You

As physicians, we tend to offer solutions and process thinking to our patients to solve their problems and stumbling blocks. Yet, as a group, physicians are facing burnout at unprecedented rates and are having trouble solving our collective problem. Single physician centered solutions, like practicing mindfulness, can be helpful but doesn’t not impact the overall systems of practice.

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Find Your Soul

high on sweat textPostdoctoral training is rigorous and time-consuming. The emotional and physical implications of residency and fellowship call for trainees to take what little time they do have to participate in enjoyable activities that keep them going. As co-residents at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, we found the popular indoor cycling class, SoulCycle, to be our go-to wellness activity. Since our intern year, we have been arranging meet-ups at the music-blaring, sweat-dripping, lights-flashing dark room that is SoulCycle. Now, carrying on into our separate fellowships, we still find time to enjoy a 45-minute jam and cycle “sesh.”

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Shed a Tear

tear dropThroughout my 20-something year career in outpatient medicine, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful connection with many patients behind the closed doors of my offices.  There, patients can freely smile, cry, and share concerns without a fear of judgement.  This emotional sharing allows for a powerful connection between patient and physician.  Sometimes I know more about their inner thoughts and fears than their family does.  I’ve laughed with my patients as well as shed many a tear in solidarity with them.  Both encounters are equally powerful to me as well as to me patients.  Don’t be afraid to express your humanity in the moment.

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Don’t Sacrifice Your Creativity for Medicine; It Makes You a Better Doctor

brain artwork“Art is the queen of all sciences communicating knowledge to all the generations of the world.” If this statement hadn’t already been so eloquently articulated by Leonardo Da Vinci, it would have been my own. These words perfectly illustrate my view of the relationship between art and science, and how this relationship has fueled my unique path towards a career in medicine.

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Maintaining a Balance for Wellness

WellnessAs residents, working 12 hours a day, we often wonder, “How do we do it all?”. It feels easy to be overwhelmed at the idea of achieving wellness. While we strive to have the perfect professional and personal life balance, it sometimes feels impossible to read, exercise, do household chores, and fulfill the role of a loving partner/parent/child/friend when we return back home. 

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Lift Like a Girl

Woman liftingI knew residency wouldn’t be easy for someone as beholden to REM cycles as I am, though I naively believed I could make it through four years of training unaffected by their relative absence.  It turns out that was wishful thinking.  Although I took an oath to do no harm to my patients, learning how to practice medicine came at the cost of my own health and well-being.

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Regroup

computer with to do notes Have you ever found yourself so overwhelmed you literally didn’t know where to start sorting through your “to-do” list? Been there, done that.

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Just Be Still

Learning How to Unwind

Guy Hamilton and grandmotherWhen we were young, my brother and I spent much of our summers at my grandma and grandpa’s farm in Boswell, Indiana. Running around with our cousins in the country and being doted on by grandparents was typically much more appealing than being cooped up in the suburbs and getting assigned the perfunctory summer chores from our mom.

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Culinary Medicine

The Power of Nutrition

healthy food

Resident wellness is an important part of today's medical training. We at the Washington Hospital Family Medicine Residency have had the good fortune of having support from our administration in maintaining wellness of the residents in our program. With the help of the POMA Mental Health Task Force and the POMA foundation, we were granted funding to support our idea to create an event combining resident wellness with nutrition integrated with medicine, notably, culinary medicine, inspired by the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University. 

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Why Everyone Should Try Kickboxing

Why Everyone Should Try Kickboxing

female kickboxer Jab! Cross! Left body hook! Right front kick! Left side kick! Right roundhouse kick! Beads of sweat drip down my face as I finish Round Six. I am exhausted. The sense of accomplishment is palpable. Not only have I made it through one hour of high intensity exercise after a long day of work in the office, but I have learned a few valuable life lessons along the way.

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Have You Asked Yourself, "How Are You DOing?"

Understanding how nutrition affects, how you are DOing.

hamburger and a red and green appleHow are you DOing? Or, should I say, “How are you EATING?” During our medical training we spend hours learning about cardiac disease, pulmonary disease, blood disorders, diabetes and surgical emergencies, but relatively little about nutrition. Nutrition, unless properly balanced, has a negative impact on all organ systems!

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Don't Put Your Life on Hold

Mountain ClimbingOn my first day in the hospital as a new intern, I had the healthy amount of fear that most new DOs have. I anticipated that long hours and dedication to taking every opportunity to learn would leave very little time to spend with family, friends or for self-care. I thought I would be putting my personal life on pause during the next three years in order to focus on becoming the best clinician I could become. Starting a new hobby or interest didn’t even cross my mind. As a single person entering the rigorous life of residency, I also thought dating would be off the table for the foreseeable future.

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