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Staff Stories - March 30, 2022
By Kathie Miller
Every year on March 30, we celebrate Doctors’ Day. The first observance of this annual day took place in 1933, in Winder, Georgia. Eudora Brown Almond started the holiday. Being the wife of a physician, she thought it would be nice to dedicate a day to celebrate doctors.
Mrs. Almond chose March 30 because it represented a significant milestone in their local medical history. Dr. Crawford W. Long was the first to use ether during a surgical procedure on March 30, 1842.
According to other reliable resources, the first “public demonstration” of what would lead to modern anesthesia took place on October 16, 1846. On that day in history, a dentist, William T.G. Morton, assisted a surgeon, Dr. John Warren, in a procedure that involved a patient who had the courage to volunteer for this innovative approach.
It goes without saying that we all benefit from the courage of doctors and patients alike who contributed to the evolution of anesthesia. But March 30 is the day we focus on doctors, and the United States has formally recognized this date as Doctors’ Day since 1991, after a joint resolution was signed into law in October the year prior.
To celebrate Doctors’ Day this year, we reached out to two amazing physicians who provide exceptional care to those who trust Goodwin Living to be there for them when they need healthcare. Dr. Mariatu Koroma-Nelson serves as medical director for our two Life Plan Communities, Goodwin House Alexandria and Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads. Dr. Margaret Gloria serves as medical director for Goodwin Hospice. Both of these incredible women combine compassion and empathy with the highest level of medical training and expertise. They took time to answer some questions for us. We hope you enjoy getting to know them.
Dr. Nelson: My mother was a community nurse. I saw the impact she had at a very young age by providing public health education and medical care to people in need. I knew then I wanted to help others locally and globally.
Dr. Gloria: I started my career as a nurse in veterinary medicine because I love animals, but I quickly realized that I loved medicine even more and the options in veterinary medicine were somewhat limited. My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer around the same time that I was planning on submitting my application to veterinary school and I witnessed a surgeon treat her not very nicely at the bedside. It made me think “I could do that, and I think I could do better.” Both experiences have shaped me into the physician that I am today.
Dr. Nelson: Each phase in my life has influenced my decision to become a Geriatrician. I was very close to my grandmother and learned many things from her. As a teenager, I enjoyed my time volunteering at Goodwin House Alexandria. I had residents assist me with my homework and even learned knitting. During my residency training, I realized many of the patients admitted to the hospital were older than 60 and at the time, I felt I lacked the training to treat some of my patients appropriately. I knew then the gap in our healthcare system, including the lack of trained physicians and resources available for older adults. I decided to do an elective at the Washington VAMC which solidified my interest in Geriatric Care; it was there I saw my dream Geriatric care model which included an interdisciplinary team providing care to Veterans in diverse settings. The Veterans received personalized holistic care which addressed all determinants of health and wellness.
Dr. Gloria: I liked all fields of medicine. From Surgery to Neurology to Critical Care and Oncology – which is how I ended up in Internal Medicine (we have to know at least a little about almost all specialties). During my residency training in Internal Medicine, I learned some very important lessons that had nothing to do with medicine. Like the importance of considering the whole patient, the importance of bedside manner and clearly communicating with patients their medical issues and options. Those, in addition to the experiences I already mentioned, made me realize that I’ve always been a “hospice and palliative” physician at heart.
Dr. Nelson: Every one of my patients or residents is dear to me. In each phase of my medical training I have had pleasant and not so pleasant outcomes that I will always remember. Most recently, I took care of a resident who sustained a fracture due to a fall from a bike. When I met her for the first time, she told me the story of her experiences during her recovery as she transitioned through the medical system. She stated while being evaluated by the hospital team after my surgery, “this young person was trying to teach me how to navigate through a stationary bike safely. I was cooperative and laughed at the end of the session. I later informed the person, “Honey, I was riding a bicycle on the road while it was raining and stopped too fast to avoid hitting a dog. Down I went to the ground.” This resident in their late 80s, who has been very active all of her life, reminded me of many of the residents who continue to age gracefully by living on and making the best in their lives regardless of the anatomical and physiological changes they are experiencing internally.
Dr. Gloria: I have so many stories about special patients – which is why I do what I do. One that comes to mind illustrates why I make a good hospice and palliative physician and maybe not such a great primary care physician. One night late on the wards of the hospital when I was a resident, I found a patient wandering in the nutrition room (a snack closet essentially) by herself. She suffered from dementia and was looking for “cake” at 2:00 a.m. I helped her back to bed and decided to go downstairs to Starbucks to grab myself a coffee and her the last two cake pops they had left. I brought them back up to her room, gave them to her and tucked her in. The next morning her primary team demanded to know why I gave their patient (who it turns out had diabetes) cake at 2:00 a.m. To this day, I smile thinking of how happy she was to get her “cake.” I think there are more important things in life than your morning blood sugar level being high every now and then.
Dr. Nelson: I admire older adults. They have life experiences and knowledge that I’m yet to personally experience. I learn from each one and enjoy listening to the past and present experiences.
Dr. Gloria: I was always close to my grandparents. I remember them being warm and loving, but more than anything else I always appreciated how wise they were. They had had so many life experiences that I hadn’t. I love getting to know my patients and hearing about their own unique and individual life experiences.
Dr. Nelson: The Goodwin Living organization focuses on how to provide resources and tools for older adults who can age in place. The organization provides resources that give individual options for personalized holistic retirement plans depending on a person’s vision and goal. I also like that the GHI organization is innovative and continually evolving. The organization is dedicated to serving all people, including underserved older adults.
Dr. Gloria: I feel blessed to be at such an exceptional mission-driven organization. I see Goodwin Living consistently strive to do what’s best for residents/patients/staff, from their pandemic response to everyday clinical care.
Dr. Nelson: I went into medicine because I wanted to help people in my community like my mother had done, regardless of their social or economic status. I’m dedicated to providing medical services to military personnel, veterans and older adults. I also enjoy teaching medical trainees about Geriatric practices and care.
Dr. Gloria: I think I’ve said it all!
As Corporate Director of Marketing & Communications, Kathie Miller provides strategic guidance and tactical support for all areas of Goodwin Living. She writes, edits and manages The Good Life blog and newsletter. Kathie joined GHI in 2014 after nearly 15 years at NPR, where she honed her skills in brand and reputation management, content marketing and internal communications. Originally from Pennsylvania, Kathie has slowly come to realize she’s lived in Arlington for more than half her life and should call herself a Virginian. She enjoys the outdoors and brings her rescue dog, Remi, to work every day.