Growing up Polish in Detroit
When I was growing up, I thought I'd be a nun or a dancer or an anthropologist... but I didn't think I'd be a reporter, and I never thought I'd become a doctor. My sisters and I were raised in family of Polish immigrants who settled in Detroit, MI., after World War II, so we grew up speaking Polish and English. None of my household ever had the opportunity to go to college but they always valued education.
My Life at the Detroit News
I thought that being a reporter would force me out of my shell... and I was right! It's amazing now to think back at myself as a 21-year-old naïve, shy intern at a time when there were only a few other women reporters in the newsroom. But I stuck with it and learned a lot about life. I started out on the police beat -- which was gruesome and heart-breaking balanced with occasional heart-warming courage. Eventually I worked up to covering housing, suburban sprawl and even feature stories for the front page. Along the way, I learned to talk to everyone from children to criminals, street people to Presidents. But something was missing....
How India Changed Everything
The anthropologist in me always wanted to travel, but not like a tourist. I wanted to truly immerse myself in another culture to experience how other people perceive and maneuver through the world. I got my chance when I won a Rotary scholarship and chose to spend a year in Calcutta, India. Little did I know how much it would change my life and steer me into a completely different career. I had never witnessed as much poverty nor kindness and generosity before.
Partly to cope with the cacophony of millions of people streaming through the streets where many people actually bathed, cooked and slept, I volunteered. Mother Teresa had her home base in Calcutta and ran several homes to serve abandoned children and neglected adults. I chose to serve the ill and dying patients at Kalighat, where nuns cared for homeless, abandoned and ill adults until they recovered or died. I also worked in a street clinic run by a Dr. Jack Praeger who cared for the homeless. Nurse volunteers taught me and other volunteers from all over the world how to care for wounds. I got hooked on healing when I witnessed how even a little focused attention could make a huge difference in recovery, even under suboptimal conditions.
A Good Time for an Early Midlife Crisis
When I returned to my job at the Detroit News, I knew that even though I was 30 years old, I wanted to do more than just write about the world. I wanted to learn about (and do) hands-on health care. I started part-time pre-med courses while working nights as a reporter, and in less than 2 years was ready to apply to medical schools. To my surprise, I was accepted by Harvard Medical School. In addition to the amazing learning opportunities in some of the best hospitals in Boston, I also learned to speak Spanish and practice medicine during rotations in the Dominican Republic and La Paz, Bolivia. My prior French-speaking training allowed me to earn a fellowship for 3 months at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambarane, Gabon (Africa). These priceless experiences continue to fuel my love of caring for people from all walks of life.
Because I loved taking care of all sorts of problems in all sorts of patients of all ages, I chose Family Medicine. I trained in a Community Health Center that served primarily Spanish-speaking and Hmong patients in St. Paul, Minnesota. The program offered an exchange with other medical residents from Thailand, so I spent 2 months in Chiang Mai and learned a ton about infectious diseases. It was in Minnesota, that I also met my husband, Bruce Israel, an Infectious Disease specialist, who lured me from the cold snowy north to North Carolina.
Learning Private Practice in Chapel Hill
I landed my first job by cold-calling clinics in the Chapel Hill area and started practicing full scope family medicine, "cradle-to-grave" care. Back then, I delivered babies and continued to care for patients in the hospital as well as in clinic. Over the years, lifestyle costs and exorbitant medical liability expenses forced me and many family practice physicians to stop delivering babies and doing hospital in-patient care. Now I focus on keeping my patients healthy and out of the hospital as much as possible.
Making Asheville Our Home
We moved to Asheville in 2005, when we had our son. My husband grew up here and we wanted to be close to family. I was immediately charmed by the eclectic vibe and after travelling around the world, Asheville felt like home and a perfect place to raise a family. There is so much natural beauty coupled with amazing artistic and cultural activities -- we love it here and plan on staying!