I have been section chief of anesthesiology at Grinnell Regional Medical Center in Grinnell, IA, for the past four years. Prior to that I was an obstetrician/gynecologist in private practice in Des Moines as well as an associate professor of ob/gyn at Des Moines University.
Favorite part of my job
Meeting new patients prior to surgery and working with them as a team to go through the proposed surgery. Many patients are very nervous before surgery, and it is important for them to know that my whole purpose is to guide them safely through the operation, no matter what. I let them know that I am their advocate and nothing else matters for me during their surgery. This can have a dramatic calming effect on the patients.
Best memory of DMU
There are a number but two come immediately to mind. The first is the first time I dressed in my white coat with a stethoscope and doctor’s black bag full of my new tools of the trade to go do school/ sports physicals. I felt like a “real” doctor. It was very powerful.
The second was the day of graduation when those of us receiving National Guard commissions were called up to be sworn in. The colonel called out, “Will Dr. Emge please come forward?” It was the first I was to hear this (officially), and I was very proud.
Why I stay involved with DMU
During my time in Des Moines as an ob/gyn, I was honored to help deliver 3,000 babies. Yet one of the highlights I remember the most is lecturing at DMU during the ob/gyn course. I love lecturing to students and met many of them during my years in Des Moines. In the last year, now that I am established as an anesthesiologist, I have begun taking students here in Grinnell. It is a highlight of this career as well, and I look forward to guiding students through the anesthesia rotation and helping them to apply basic sciences from college and medical school to real-life patients.
Advice to those just starting out in the profession
I hear a lot of frustration from physicians about how bad things are with increasing paperwork, medical malpractice, reimbursement problems and many more aspects of practicing medicine today. All of these are very true! Yet it is still an honor to be so intimately involved in the care of patients, and sometimes we can forget this. I advise students to never forget this and to continually be thankful that we have been allowed to do this.
On a more practical note, I advise students (and all others in the world) to live well within their means. Being a physician will no longer be a guarantee of high salaries. Reimbursements may continue to drop, and this will be reflected in decreasing compensation for physicians.
I recently began performing piano recitals and concerts after a five-year hiatus as I retrained in anesthesia. I continue to be involved with athletics including swimming, biking, RAGBRAI, running, marathons (with an ultra-marathon this winter) and triathlons. I have completed studies at Nashotah House Theological Seminary. I am awaiting to be ordained in the Episcopal Church and to serve St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Grinnell. In the last year I also became involved in motorcycling and love riding cross-country in Iowa and beyond.