Puzzles have always fascinated me. From word puzzles and mystery novels to Escape Rooms and medical conundrums, I love a challenge. I grew up a Gator fan, courtesy of my dad, and never considered anywhere else for college, or medical school for that matter. My goal was to become a researcher, solving the puzzle of cancer or Alzheimer’s Disease. With enough knowledge, thought naïve-me, I could piece together the problem and find a solution. But early in medical school I learned how very little we actually understand about disease. Plenty of facts to memorize (at least in the pre-Google days), but not so much thinking and puzzling out. Except in physiology.
I also learned, to my dismay, that my fellow medical students were crazy smart and completely focused on becoming physicians. Disillusioned, I considered dropping out in favor of graduate school. And then some remarkable people took an interest and changed my life.
A surgeon steered me to an anesthesiologist who invited me to help develop the first full-scale human patient simulator, combining my interest in engineering and physiology. Interacting with that team of brilliant physicians and engineers led me to pursue anesthesiology, and then obstetric anesthesia, because a good job in the main operating room means the patient doesn’t remember you, while in ob, a good job means the patient names their child after you.
Another mentor identified my knack for breaking down complex concepts and teaching them, often using the simulator. From there my career in academic medicine took off. I didn’t give up on research, but I haven’t cured cancer or dementia, though some days the latter seems ever-more pressing…wait, what was I talking about?
In 2004 I started writing my first book, an introductory anesthesia textbook with my mentor. We included anecdotes and fun historical facts and I discovered a love of writing in a less academic language. When the book was published, he suggested we continue our collaboration and we began a mystery novel. Too soon, he fell ill and we might never learn who murdered our poor simulator engineer.
As I took on the expected administrative roles of mid-career faculty, a new story started brewing in my head, and I began to study how to get it onto paper. Finally promoted to full-professor, with nothing left to prove on the academic side, a wise colleague advised, “Anyone can do the administrative stuff, only you can write the stories in your head.”
So I wrapped up my research, resigned my administrative positions, and dropped to 60% clinical time to embark on my encore career as a storyteller.
Through it all my wonderful husband and I have raised three terrific kids (and three poorly behaved dogs), enjoyed some amazing vacations, cheered on our beloved Gators (and have three orange and blue rooms in our house), and savor time spent with an abundance of family and friends. Hopefully that abundance will not be diminished as they appear in my novels.