CEO with a Stethoscope
The year was 1990, my senior year in high school. Many of my friends were choosing biology or pre-med as their majors. My heart was pulling me towards Wall Street. Business seemed somehow in my DNA. I started my undergraduate work as an Economics major. However, once in college I began to miss the science. I wanted to understand the “Why”. I soon added chemistry and became a double major in Economics AND Chemistry. This was the oddest of couples since Michael Jackson teamed up with Paul McCartney to do “The Girl is Mine.” In my mind though, the two meshed perfectly with both my business interest as well as my need to understand enzymes and catalysts.
As I continued, I began to realize that medicine was my true calling. My mother was a nurse and I grew up around her being stopped by patients she had treated, thanking her for her compassion. I applied and was selected to be a student at WVU medical school. I soon met my future wife, Michelle, who was a biology major and had dreamt of being a pediatrician since birth, I think.
As I studied with Michelle and many other former biology majors, it became clear that I studied and learned much differently than others. I had an intense need to understand the “why?” of everything. The problem is, in medical school there wasn’t much time for the “why?”, sometimes due to the time constraints and massive amounts of new data daily, there only could be a “because… that’s why”. “Just memorize it, there’s no time to understand it.” This was a new frontier for me, but I pressed on.
When I hit my clinical years, my interpersonal skills carried me through patient interactions and my fierce competitiveness gave me the drive to accumulate a vast amount of knowledge quickly. Then the ultimate decision presented itself: which specialty in medicine do I choose? I found that I liked each rotation better than the last. I found myself enjoying most specialties but couldn’t decide between internal medicine and pediatrics. Then, I met a doctor who was very influential in my life. A calm, gifted teacher who was board certified in both internal medicine and pediatrics. WOW! Why choose one when you can do them both? Just as I had not chosen to do EITHER economics OR chemistry, I will now continue this path of not having to give up either of my passions and CHOOSE THEM BOTH.
Three years ago, after practicing primary care for nine years, I decided to do both primary care and hospital medicine. One satisfied my desire to care for patients through their lifetime and the other fulfilled my need to treat incredibly ill hospital patients. However, what about the economics degree? Yes, I have started two businesses over the years since I completed training, but why not take it to a larger scale?
On December 12, 2014, my full circle was complete. I was named CEO of Reynolds Memorial Hospital by the Board of Trustees. I knew the Administrative Staff was excellent, so why not do both medicine AND lead a hospital that I dearly love?
My lesson is one of luck, hard work and never giving up on your passions. Most times they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Sometimes the duet looks bad on paper, but when you hear the two together, it comes off sounding like a beautiful masterpiece.
David Hess, M.D. is an internal medicine/pediatric physician AND the CEO of Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale, WV.
Follow him on twitter @makeithardtodie or on his blog called: CEO with a stethoscope