Medicine from the heart . . . Michael Rousse

On Thursdays, the Daily Voice showcases selected Thursday Morning Memos, reflective essays about clinical experiences written by faculty, alumni, residents and students of the Department of Family Medicine & Community Health and, occasionally, contributors from other departments. Thursday Morning Memos is UMass Medical School’s homegrown version of narrative medicine, in which the authors process their experiences through writing. To learn more, visit:


Former medical director of Hahnemann Family Health Center Michael Rousse, MD, who now practices in St. Johnsbury, Vt., at the Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital, was moved by another recent memo to write about the power of our dedication—first our dedication to our patients and, secondly, the dedication of our partners at home who support us day after day, and night after night. This success story is a tribute to this dedication.—Hugh Silk, MD 

Partners in Profession

Warren Ferguson’s most recent memo, which brings to light our dedication to our patients, reminds me of a little fella with the same birthday as me and why we do what we do.

My wife, Ginger, has been amazing during this long career ride we call “medicine,” having been there since day one. Messed up holidays, missed anniversaries, baseball games, soccer games, and family reunions. One year, when I was the team doctor for the Wachusett High School football team, the whole family had to wait for the completion of the Thanksgiving game before we could pile in the car to drive to Connecticut, much to the chagrin of the waiting family members at the other end. So many times late for dinner I lost count years ago. And then there are the times we get “interrupted” with a call from home that someone is sick or having a problem, or a pipe broke or there was an accident. Those drop-in visits from family that we make awkward with our focus on the schedule and waiting patients. All in the name of dedication to our patients! We have weathered hundreds of these difficult situations. It’s not for everybody. I have to give credit to all of those spouses and significant others who understand this business.

One evening this was particularly poignant. It was my birthday. I worked all day seeing patients at the office, trying hard to be efficient because Ginger and I had a “date” to meet for dinner and a movie to celebrate my 40-something’th birthday. One of the patients that day was Nancy, who was at term with her second baby. I said it could be any time now and that I wasn’t going away anywhere. I hoped to be there for her delivery. Ginger and I made the rendezvous, had a nice dinner, but sometime during the movie, the pager went off. My colleagues were with Nancy and she was in active labor. From here it was all a matter of timing. I committed to watching the movie to the end (it was nearly over). From there we went directly to Labor and Delivery. If I made it in time to do the delivery it was just barely (I think I just missed it). Nonetheless, the patient was so touched that I made it to her delivery, on my birthday, she always reminded me of the shared birthday I had with her son. Meanwhile, Ginger read a magazine in the waiting room. When I came out all smiles she just shook her head. It was a balancing act played out many times over since. Once again, family life interrupted by “medicine.”