Transformational Times

Words of Hope, Character & Resilience from our Virtual Community

Friday, May 12, 2023

In This Issue:

Director's Corner


Pictorial Reflection on Parenting and Doctoring

"If you want to change the world, go home and love your family." -Mother Theresa

Being a mom makes me a better doctor and being a doctor oftentimes makes me a better mom. I like to think that I have the honor of changing the world in both spaces. - Kate Dielentheis, MD

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Poetry Corner

  • Her Hands, Maggie Pittman

Call For Submissions!

Transformational Times will have another parent issue this year around Fathers Day. We are looking for a variety of submissions ranging from untraditional families, advice, what you wish you knew, or anything else folks might like to share around parenting. If you are interested, please reach out to the email below.

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With warm weather and summer days ahead, we'd like for you to share your favorite picture of nature that you have taken!

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Answers from last week: What is a meaningful childhood mantra you learned from your mother that still rings true today?

  • 'Can't Never Did Anything' is a mantra carried to me from my mother, and now to my children. I can still hear her saying it (perhaps also trying to retain her composure) as I pounded out difficult songs on the piano, or tried to solve math problems! Hearing this motto always triggered a deep sigh, but then followed with renewed effort and focus that I could accomplish anything. -Wendy Peltier, MD (Dr. Peltier and her mother, pictured to the right)

  • My aunt used to tell me Get up and get dressed for the day even if you don't have anything planned. Then you will be ready and not have to get ready. As an adult this still rings true for me because this sets the tone for my days. When I get up and get dressed I feel in charge of my day and ready for whatever may come. On days that I choose not to take this action, it feels like the day just happens. This mantra really helped me during the pandemic and the stay at home order. Even if I was only walking from one room to the next, I was dressed for whatever might happen in the living room. -Tomica Griffin

  • I learned from my mother that shut up was the worst thing I could say to my little brother. She would give me a look which meant Be Kind! -Adina Kalet, MD, MPH

  • Go where you’re wanted, and not where you’re not. (Grandmother) -Becky Bernstein, MD

  • Take time with meals. Food is a tool for fellowship. -Bruce Campbell, MD FACS
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Director's Corner

Families matter and families usually start with babies!

By Adina Kalet, MD, MPH

In honor of Mother’s Day, Dr. Kalet describes how the old tradition of all-but-ignoring women physicians’ pregnancies, childbirths, and parenting was neither right, good, nor effective in creating a health care culture of care and compassion. While things are getting better, it has taken too long, and there is still a ways to go ...

In the 1980s, no residency training program had a maternity or parenting leave policy. It was not until enactment of The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 that employers were required to provide job-protected—albeit unpaid—leave for qualified medical and family reasons. A pregnant resident was seen as a disaster and, at the minimum, a scheduling nightmare for the program leadership. Here are some stories from the bad old days. You might notice that some things haven’t changed as much as they should have.

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Hope springs maternal: Finding strength as a physician single parent

By Lara India, MD

“Divorce is never a good thing, but sometimes it's a better thing.” This was perhaps the best condolence that I had received since breaking the news to my family, friends, residency classmates. Of course, all the platitudes in the world amounted to nothing as I sat at my computer and drafted a letter of resignation to my program director.

Despite my efforts to balance anesthesia training and caring for my then one-year-old son, my soon-to-be ex-husband's lawyer argued that my job made me an absent parent and he threatened my custody. Never mind that my lawyer assured me that this line of reasoning was unsound: overwhelmed by desperation – to put my child to bed in our home as many nights as possible, to regain some modicum of control over my life, to live in a world where a physician mother is celebrated for the opportunities she provides her child rather than demonized – I sat, late at night, in the dark, drafting an email in Microsoft Word. With the recent move and spate of unshared bills, internet service was a luxury I couldn’t afford. 

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Creating a “zone of fabulousness” through collective care

By Stephanie Kellogg, PhD

Being a parent in any family structure has its rewards and challenges. Those who lead untraditional families have unique struggles to navigate and unique attributes to offer teams. In this piece, I want to provide a voice to the struggles and paint a picture for opportunities.

For most, having an untraditional family was not part of the plan. Yet that is where their path took them. A two-parent household with healthy, biological children and maybe a pet or two is no longer a reality. Getting to this point often included indescribable heartbreak and grief. Moving to acceptance and peace can bring a greater sense of purpose to one’s life. But what does it take to get there, especially when you identify as a parent and a professional?

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Reflections on Mother’s Day: You become. 

By Adrienne Klement, MD

“You can’t have it all,…….. all at once,”

-Ruth Bader Ginsburg  


It was a hot July in Durham, North Carolina. I had just finished fellowship and was starting my new role as an Attending in a large Academic hospital when I had my first daughter. I planned for 6 weeks of maternity leave, thinking this would be “enough,” while my husband was on his Trauma rotation as a chief resident in Orthopedic Surgery. I went into labor on a Saturday night, and we decided that he would finish his call shift and work through the night, while I “slept” after my epidural was in place. Emma patiently waited for him to finish his 28-hour call shift. She even gave him a few hours of rest—on the bench by the window—before her arrival. (Ask any resident—we could sleep anywhere). The first few days of parenting were joyous and blissful. Then my husband went back to work, often leaving before 5 am and getting home well after 8 pm. Naively, I decided because I would be home with Emma, that he would plan his busiest rotations for July and August. Why would I need any help? 

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The journey to a meaningful life

By Karen Marcdante, MD

At the end of a long career, Dr. Marcdante looks back on her journey toward meaning...

It may be cliché, but like many, I chose medicine because I wanted to help people and make a difference. In other words, I wanted a career where I mattered, adding value to the lives of patients and, in turn, being valued for doing so.

I believe that by focusing on mattering, I have created a meaningful life. But what is meaning? To get started, I did what any curious person would do today. I asked ChatGPT if a life inherently has meaning or if meaning was inferred after one’s life was lived. ChatGPT’s last paragraph in the answer: 

“Ultimately, whether life has an inherent meaning or not is a question that may never      be fully answered. However, what is certain is that individuals have the ability to create          meaning in their own lives, based on their values, beliefs, and experiences, and that the      meaning of life is a deeply personal and subjective matter.”  


In other words, meaning is a journey.

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They believe her when she says, “I know it’s uncomfortable to have swollen ankles”

By Karen Herzog


A former journalist who became a mother on Mother’s Day weekend in 1995 reaches out to the OB-GYN who delivered her first baby and later was featured in a newspaper story. They pick up where that story left off with the OB-GYN still loving her job, and now a grandmother of 15… 

Mother’s Day weekend at my house is defined by birth days. Both our daughters were born Mother’s Day weekend – exactly two years and two days apart.

One literally backed into the world, unexpectedly breech, in the wee hours of the Friday morning of Mother’s Day weekend, while the other arrived like a tiny freight train two years later -- two weeks before her due date, and the day before Mother’s Day, as we were in the middle of packing to move to a new home.

You never forget the physicians and nurses who skillfully and compassionately guide you or a loved one through a difficult medical journey. The same is true for those who help bring your children into the world. They play central roles in the defining moments of becoming a parent.

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The Kern Institute extends its congratulations to:

Iaong Vang, MCW-Milwaukee Student and Kern TI2 award winner for her receipt of the 2023 President’s Community Engagement Award

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Her Hands

By Maggie Pittman

Her hands held me gently from the day I took my first breath.

Her hands helped to guide me as I took my first step.

Her hands held me close when the tears would start to fall.

Her hands were quick to show me that she would take care of it all.

Her hands were there to brush my hair, or straighten a wayward bow.

Her hands were often there to comfort the hurts that didn't always show.

Her hands helped hold the stars in place, and encouraged me to reach.

Her hands would clap and cheer and praise when I captured them at length.

Her hands would also push me, though not down or in harm's way.

Her hands would punctuate the words, just do what I say.

Her hands sometimes had to discipline, to help bend this young tree.

Her hands would shape and mold me into all she knew I could be.

Her hands are now twisting with age and years of work,

Her hand now needs my gentle touch to rub away the hurt.

Her hands are more beautiful than anything can be.

Her hands are the reason I am me.

Published by Family Friend Poems July 2006 with permission of the author.

Submit a Poem for Next Week

Leveraging Your Strengths, Talents, and Lived Experiences to Promote Excellence across the Medical Education Continuum

Monday, May 22, 2023

10:00am - 10:50pm


Kristina Kaljo, PhD, Associate Professor, Faculty Pillar Director, Kern Institute; Co-Director, SPARCC Program

In recent years, we have observed a shift away from the traditional understanding of "excellence", i.e. perfect grades, high test scores, or number of publications. Join this panel discussion as we explore the evolution of excellence in medical education and collaboratively identify strategies to better recognize excellence among our colleagues, learners and ourselves.

Register Here

Inaugural William Choi Lectureship

Humility, Creativity, Allyship, and Justice

Rita Charon, MD, PhD

Friday, June 2, 2023

8:00am - 9:00am

Bolger Auditorium- H1400 & Zoom

The Department of Medicine and Kern Institute present the William Choi Lecture Series. This series aims to establish an annual visiting lectureship focusing on the intersection between medicine and the humanities. The inaugural speaker for this series is Dr. Rita Charon.

Rita Charon is a general internist and literary scholar who originated the field of narrative medicine. She is Professor and Founding Chair of the Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics and Professor of Medicine at Columbia University. Her research focuses on the consequences of narrative medicine practice, narrative medicine pedagogy, and health care team effectiveness. She has lectured and served as Visiting Professor at many medical schools and universities in the US and abroad, teaching narrative medicine theory and practice.

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The Transformational Times publishes weekly, delivering stories of hope, character and resilience to our virtual community.

Jeff Fritz, PhDEditor-in-Chief

Editorial Board: Bruce Campbell, MDKathlyn Fletcher, MD, Adina Kalet, MD, Wendy Peltier, MD, Karen Herzog, Justine Espisito, Nabil Attlassy, Julia Bosco, Linda Nwumeh, Wolf Pulsiano, Eileen PetersonAnna Visser, Sophie Voss, & Emelyn Zaworski

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