When you’ve been in practice for many years,
when you have some gray hair,
gray being the majority of the hair I have left,
and many of your peers have stopped practicing or stopped operating for one reason or another,
then it is inevitable that the question arises:
from patients: Dr. Holmes, when are you going to retire?
or stated more emphatically and desperately: Dr. Holmes, you can’t retire!
from colleagues in the hospital or at meetings (pre covid when we had meetings): How long you gonna keep doing this?
Well, I have a reply:
I love being a doctor.
I love being a surgeon.
I studied and worked many years for that MD and spent stressful, toilsome years to obtain my specialty designation.
It is incredibly rewarding – personally, (I grow every day in knowledge and connection) professionally (I’m practicing at a very high level of competence in my core ENT, yet pushing the envelope into newer technologies and methods) and financially (it pays the rent and more, sent our kids to college and more, allowed us to support charity and movements we believe in, and set us up for a comfortable retirement).
I have a wonderfully caring and competent staff, we are aligned in our desire to bring health and wellness to our patients, and meanwhile to support each other in our professional journeys.
Our office is a state of the art facility, with all the bells and whistles needed for modern practice, and all of it paid for.
Why would I want to give that all up now?
I’m just now getting into the next gear!
Perhaps you say to start your retirement, and enjoy it while you can, while you are healthy and vigorous, and can travel and not hindered by disease or immobility. Point received and I can tell you that my diet and exercise routine has never been better, that I’ve lost 10 pounds from diet and exercise over the last few months, and that my current life expectancy is around 95 yrs. old. If I can avoid an unforeseen cancer or accident, I have many, many more years of robust health and life.
Perhaps you say to go into different directions, to study another subject or discipline. Point received. Over the years I’ve taken formal courses in Latin, astronomy, and public health. I’m a member of two book clubs, read the Friday and Sunday NY Times every week, and listen to multiple news podcasts daily. When I do stop operating and stop seeing patients, I will pursue several master degrees, in exercise science, liberal arts, and fine arts (poetry), and perhaps even attend the Iowa writers’ workshop, in Iowa City, Iowa, where I did my ENT residency, and read the great books at St John’s college in Annapolis, MD, where my father attended undergrad. I might even finally finish Moby Dick.
Perhaps you say to take some time off and consider mission work or volunteering for the under served. Point received, and I reply we do that now, more than anyone knows. And I don’t need time off, as I revel in the challenge of caring for patients any day and any hours, since disease has no respect for the calendar nor the clock.
I’m a workaholic you say? Far from the truth, as a workaholic enjoys nothing but work and suffers when away from it. That is not me, witnessed by my wood working projects, my home repairs, my archery arrow pattern in the target, my weight lifting and rowing routine, my dogs with their walks and playtime (let me show you my Jeep I got to cart them around), my book shelf of books I have read, and of course the larger stack that I haven’t. I simply work hard, very very hard. Long hours, many important decisions, operations requiring significant concentration and expertise: bring it on.
Retire, not me. No way, No how.
Ask me again next year, doubt the answer will change, cause I’ll just be getting going into the next gear!