Thrive by IU Health

March 28, 2023

Doctors' Day - Celebrating IU Health Physicians

Doctors' Day - Celebrating IU Health Physicians

March 30 has been designated National Doctors' Day, a day set aside to honor physicians who work tirelessly to achieve a healthier community.

To celebrate IU Health's dedicated and highly skilled doctors, we asked them about what is most meaningful to them in their career. Their responses are examples of why they're deserving of endless appreciation.

Dr. Kate Pollard

Dr. Kate Pollard - Critical Care Medicine, Emergency Medicine

I am a doctor because: "I find meaning in using my knowledge and skills to help patients in their time of greatest need."

Most memorable day as a doctor: "During the COVID surge, the team at Methodist did incredible work to stand up entirely new care spaces in a very short period of time - including turning the ED observation unit into an ICU in the middle of the night. It was inspiring!"

Best part of being a doctor: "I work in the ED and ICU and often meet patients and their families at a very stressful moment in their lives. It's great to cross paths again when they've recovered.

Dr. Kashif Saleem - Thoracic Surgery, Cardiology, Transplant Surgery

I am a doctor because: "I like solving puzzles. Patient's don't always follow 'the books.' I enjoy looking at patients as a whole and putting the pieces of the puzzle together (their medical issues) to help them improve their quality of life."

Best part of being a doctor: "Being able to help the sickest of the sick. My area of expertise did not really exist 15-20 years ago. It is always advancing. I look forward to what the future has to bring in the heart failure world."

Dr. Onyedika Ilonze - Cardiology

I became a doctor to: "Make a difference in the lives of my patients. My grandmother had severe congestive heart failure that eventually led to her demise. I want to help my patients become the best versions of themselves. Moreover, I wanted to make my parents proud."

Most memorable day as a doctor: "The day that we performed a heart transplant on a young patient who hugged the whole team and broke down in tears because he was getting a second lease on life. He was misdiagnosed for many years and on our first encounter we arrived at timely diagnosis, initiated an evaluation and our team performed a heart transplant within a few months."

Best part about being a doctor: "When we are able to take a patient who would have otherwise died and lead them to a successful outcome whether it is through disease (heart failure, pulmonary hypertension or cardiogenic shock), stabilization with medications, or advanced therapies such as left ventricular assist devices or heart transplantation."

Dr. Bradley Sutter - Hospitalist

I am a doctor because: "I had the wonderful opportunity in high school (dare I admit in the early 1970's) to shadow my own family physician--Dr. Davis W. Ellis--in Rushville, Indiana, while he saw patients in the office and small hospital. I was totally enthralled and motivated by his compassion, expertise, genuine concern, and excellent care of all of his patients. That was the "light bulb" moment in my life when I knew I wanted to be a physician."

Most memorable day as a doctor: "I have experienced many memorable happy and tragic days as a physician; however, I recall a particularly ironic and funny event that occurred shortly after Dr. Mike Reeder and I helped launch the "new" Methodist Hospitalist Program back in the Summer of 1998. The term "Hospitalist" was quite new, and many physicians, nurses, and patients were unfamiliar with the terminology. When I walked into the Methodist PACU to see a new postoperative consult, one of the nurses sitting behind the desk looked at me and said: "Oh, are you from HOSPITALITY?" I smiled, agreed, and saw the patient. Hospitalists hopefully provide "hospitality" and expert inpatient care to every patient they encounter on a daily basis, so while the term the nurse used was incorrect, the intent was spot-on."

Best part about being a doctor: "Being able to intimately share in the lives and health of others. I learn from all of my patients as much or more than they learn from me."

Dr. Jim Cleary - Palliative Care

I am a doctor because: "It provides me the opportunity to provide optimal comfort for patients with advanced cancer while applying advancing the scientific knowledge that is the basis for that comfort. Being a University based physician, especially at IU, allows me to provide supportive oncology here to Hoosiers as well as leading initiatives in supportive oncology around the world."

I became a doctor to: "Do what my Dad, a physician scientist, did: providing care while improving science of medicine. I made that decision at age 17, in Australia, which still amazes me. I evolved into Internal Medicine, and then Medical Oncology and Palliative Medicine, to provide total care for patients, addressing the physical, social, psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care. Coupled with this is an interest in global health which extends from a medical elective in Kolkata, India in 1983."

Most memorable day as a doctor: "My medical career is full of memories (some not so pleasant) but the most memorable days are often when I met patients and their families for whom I have cared. Oncology is unique in that we can cure some cancers, resulting in patients living normal life spans. But as it is memorable to meet those living with long term after a cancer diagnosis, meeting the families of those who have died under my care is equally memorable. There is a humbling joy to receive the thanks from these family members."

Dr. Naga Chalasani - Gastroenterology, Hepatology

I am a doctor because: "I am able to serve the suffering whenever possible."

I became a doctor to: "Help people who are ill and for life-long learning."

Most memorable day as a doctor: "Many memorable days in my long clinical career, but one day that stands out is when a young patient, whom I took care for near fatal liver failure and managed through a liver transplant, comes to clinic with their new born baby and a box of candies."

Best part about being a doctor: "To be able to engage in the tripartite mission. Seeing patients especially those whom I have seen for long time gives me the most joy. Conducting clinical research, mentoring younger colleagues, and close friendships at work give me tremendous joy."

Dr. Khadijah Breathett - Cardiology

I am a doctor because: "I wanted to make U.S. cardiovascular care delivery more equitable. In my youth, I knew that cardiovascular disease devastated communities in the U.S. Minoritized racial and ethnic groups and women like my grandmother were disproportionately more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and less likely to receive appropriate treatment than their counterparts."

Most memorable day as a doctor: "My most memorable day was finding out that my dream of making cardiovascular care delivery more equitable was coming true. I received a perfect score on a competitive grant funded by the National Institutes of Health to test a strategy to make heart transplants and ventricular assist devices more accessible to minoritized racial and ethnic populations and women. The findings from this national study will help make the process of allocating advanced heart failure therapies, heart transplants and ventricular assist devices, more equitable."

Best part about being a doctor: "Helping patients live a long and healthy life. Patients, their families, and the community look to us for assistance and guidance during some of their darkest hours. Even when life-saving therapies are not available, we can still help address quality of life."

Dr. Shalu Manchanda - Pulmonary Critical Care, Sleep Medicine

I am a doctor because: "I have enjoyed studying human physiology and decided to pursue this further. I enjoy talking with patients and listening to them explain their symptoms. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out what illness is affecting the patient."

I became a doctor to: "Educate patients about their own health and empower them to take better care of themselves. I often saw my own family members not taking care of themselves because they were ill-informed about their illnesses. I think their outcomes would’ve been better if they were better equipped with knowledge from reliable sources. Educating the next generation of physicians falls into this category as they will carry on this important task."

Most memorable day as a doctor: "Several years ago, while still working as an Intensivist I was involved in the care of a patient with necrotizing pancreatitis and he recovered. Several months later he came to see me in the sleep clinic. This was a particularly rewarding moment to see a patient who was critically ill walk into my office."

Best part about being a doctor: "Seeing the comfort and reassurance I can provide the patient. The joy you see in the patients’ eyes when you have helped them out is very rewarding."

Dr. Colin Good - Family Medicine

I am a doctor because: "Healthcare is a universal human need and I love to serve others by meeting and caring for them in their time of need."

I became a doctor to: "Meet the needs of individuals and communities as well as to advocate for those who are most in need."

Best part of being a doctor: "Is seeing people find health and be able to flourish in their lives as a result."

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Dr. Ashley Hunter - Hospitalist

Dr. Eric Westergren - Family Medicine

I became a doctor because: "The practice of medicine exists at the intersection of medical science and relationships. It is very satisfying to get to use new knowledge and technological advancement to help improve the people’s lives in real ways every day. More specifically, I became a primary care doctor because I enjoy taking care of individuals over long periods of time—getting to know their desires, their goals, their concerns, and their fears—which, if done well, establishes trust over time. With this trust in place, I am able to effectively treat the majority of my patient’s medical problems, as well as provide good counsel as my patients seek care in more specialized areas of medicine."

Dr. Rocky Singh - IU Health North Chief Medical Officer

I am a doctor because: "My dad is a doctor. I felt this as a calling and realized I would be good at it as I sat in my father’s clinic during my preteen and teenage years. The best part is the satisfaction of knowing you’ve made a positive difference in someone’s life.”

Dr. Michael Sim - Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery

I became a doctor to: "Help those suffering from head and neck cancers. The best part of being a doctor is doing what I love, every day.”

Dr. Douglas Tannas - Palliative Care

Best part of being a doctor: "Is the opportunity to build a relationship with patients and their families.”

Dr. Karen Crevier - IU Health West Emergency Department Medical Director

Best part of being a doctor: "Is finding some sort of connection during my time with each patient. This can be challenging in the fast-paced environment of the emergency department, but it can be as simple as a discussion about where they are from and whether I’ve been there. Or, asking what they do for a living and whether I’ve ever anything similar—though this usually this ends up with me sheepishly admitting that my only skills are related to medicine. Even just an encouraging statement such as, ‘I remember when my child was three. Those were some crazy years. You’re doing a great job, dad!’ Making those connections helps improve my care and gives the patient the chance to open up and discuss what matters most to them.”

Dr. Nathan Lambert - Interventional Cardiology

I am a doctor because: "Of my father, Dr. Destry Lambert. He was my role model from a young age and still is to this day. I hope I can do the job half as well as he did!”

Dr. Elisabeth von der Lohe - Interventional Cardiology

Most memorable day as a doctor: "I remember a night 10 years ago. A patient having a heart attack came in around midnight. He was in cardiac arrest on the table and despite opening the artery and resuscitating him, he went into cardiac arrest over 30 times. At 6 a.m., they were still resuscitating him. I remember he looked into my eyes and said, “Am I going to die?” And I said, “Not with me.” And he survived and did well and I still see him in clinic today. It was one of the worst days, but one with a really good outcome. It’s really rewarding to still see him."

Dr. Justin Fuller - Pediatrics

Best part of being a doctor: “There are many things I love about being a doctor. I get to work alongside amazing doctors and practitioners every day. Our incredible office is full of caring, hardworking, and talented staff and nurses who make my job easy.”

Dr. Tashera Perry - Obstetrics & Gynecology

Most memorable day as a doctor: “I had to rely on my training, my instincts, and on the silent prayers I could feel from my team members in the room. That day in the delivery room stands out in my mind as one of the most frightening and humbling experiences of my career.”

Dr. Denisse Ambler - Psychiatry

I became a doctor because: "I felt that if even in a small way, I am able to help a child feel less misunderstood or broken, the world could be that much better."

Dr. Imtiaz Ahmad - Urgent Care

Best part of being a doctor: "Is being able to see the direct impact I can make on my patient’s lives. Whether I am doing a simple procedure or diagnosing a life-threatening condition, every patient encounter is fulfilling and drives me to become a better physician. From a young age, I have always been fascinated with medicine and have constantly worked to stay up-to-date with the latest literature, so as to provide the best quality of care for my patients."

Dr. Lindsey Reese - Infectious Diseases

Best part of being a doctor: "Is that I get to work in multiple areas, touching many lives. I have a wide perspective of care with Population Health and Value-Based Care, looking at 100s of patients and keeping them as healthy as possible. But I’m also a virtual care infectious disease provider and have outreach clinics that provide access to patients that are struggling with social determinants of health, HIV, Hepatitis C and addiction. There are some days I spend hours with just a single patient. They are very different types of work, but I love them both."

Dr. Thomas Lardaro - Emergency Medicine

I became a doctor to: "Alleviate suffering and promote happiness wherever possible using my knowledge and skills."

I am a doctor because: "It allows me to help people through some of their worst days and be a bridge to hope during challenging times. I learned this from watching my grandfather’s primary care doc make house calls and care for him when he had advanced heart failure near the end of his life. This same doctor, Dr. Hanson, made a phone call to my family after the loss of my grandfather to console us, and the conversation impacted me profoundly as a freshman in college at that time. Many years later when I decided to become a doctor, it was that simple act of compassion and kindness that taught me the profound privilege of being able to care for others in the way he took care of my grandfather and family. I am still grateful for his example to this day, it made me a better person."

Best part of being a doctor: "Is working with incredible teams of people who come together with the purpose of caring for others."

Most memorable day as a doctor: "Was helping deliver a baby in the back of someone’s car that pulled up to the ambulance bay at Vanderbilt University Medical Center during my intern year. The baby was breech and premature, but everything went well despite a very stressful situation. It really drove home for me the responsibility and privilege of being able to help people by practicing medicine."

Dr. Randon Upp - Radiology

I am a doctor because: “As an undergraduate student at Indiana University, I took a variety of courses, but I always had the most interest in courses involving the human body, kinesiology, anatomy, etc. I took one particular anatomy course, and I remember vividly the first time we cut into a cadaver and thinking: ‘This is awesome. I want to go into medicine.’”

Most memorable day as a doctor: "Was my first day on the job, right out of residency, at Arnett Hospital in the reading room. I remember strolling in and feeling proud of what I’d accomplished, but also a big sense of responsibility. I looked around and had this realization of, ‘oh my gosh, this is it, it’s the real deal.’ It was scary but also really exciting.”

What keeps me inspired: “About 1.5 years ago, I got a letter from a patient. I had found a tiny spot on her scan that turned out to be cancer. She was so thankful. That really affected me, and I still remember it. It’s easy to get caught up in the mundane day-to-day, but I try to remember that there are people out there who appreciate what we do.”

Dr. James Emerson - Hospitalist

I became a doctor because: "I enjoy taking care of sick patients with a wide range of diagnoses in the hospital. Being a hospitalist allows me to treat many different patients with many different disease processes and make a positive impact on these patients during some of their worst times."

Best part of being a doctor: "Is the ability to help patients through some of the most challenging experiences of their life.”

Dr. Roy Abraham - Emergency Medicine

I am a doctor because: "I always had a heart for helping people, healing people; it’s where my calling was."

Best part of being a doctor: "When you can help a really sick person, especially someone on their deathbed, make a recovery. The happiness you see on their face and their loved ones’ faces is rewarding."

Most memorable day as a doctor: "When I graduated residency at the University of Kentucky in 2013."

Dr. Julie Becker - Family Medicine

I became a doctor because: "I witnessed several family illnesses as a child, and just grew up wanting to make the world a better place for patients and their families."

Most memorable day as a doctor: "The days I delivered babies will always be the most memorable. The day I delivered the first baby to be born at White Memorial Hospital (then, White County Memorial Hospital), was pretty special."

Best part of being a doctor: "The patients, absolutely. When they’re grateful, even for a small thing like a timely refill on a prescription — that’s what I go home at night and feel good about."

Dr. Mesha Martinez - Pediatric Radiology

I am a doctor because: "I like to serve and help others."

I became a doctor to: "Help others feel loved and have hope."

Most memorable day as a doctor: "There are many. Whenever a patient looks me in the eyes and says that they feel safe, they give a sincere thank you, and/or say that I helped them, I will never forget."

Best part of being a doctor: "Is the impact you can make on patient’s life in a positive way. Oftentimes patients have stories to tell their friends and families about their physicians and their experiences with their health. I often overhear others talking about what their doctor said, or their experience at the doctor’s office. Thus, we have a very special role to play in people’s lives, and if we can make a person feel good/excited/hopeful/optimistic after we have an encounter with them, that is the best feeling and reward on Earth."

Dr. Dorota Szczepaniak - Pediatrics

I am a doctor because: "I enjoy and appreciate science, and want to apply science to help people."

I became a doctor to: "Make a difference in people’s lives."

Most memorable day as a doctor: "When I saved my patient's life. I performed CPR on and infant that stopped breathing and the baby survived."

Best part of being a doctor: "Is getting hugs from my patients; all of them from toddlers to teenagers, and their parents too.

Dr. Emily Scott - Pediatrics

I am a doctor because: "I love working with families to help their little ones grow and thrive."

I became a pediatrician because: "I believe that advocating for the health and wellbeing of my littlest patients and their families is the best way to grow a strong society."

Most memorable day as a doctor: "Was the day I received a letter from a family several years after I had cared for their baby in the well newborn nursery. Hearing what an impact I'd had on their first days as a family helped me realize that even small encounters with a pediatrician can be significant."

Best part of being a doctor: "Is sharing joy with families when their babies achieve new milestones. I am thrilled to hear about my patients' first smiles, first tastes of food and first words. And I LOVE seeing first birthday pictures!"

Dr. Brian Gray - Pediatric Surgery

I am a doctor because: "I can't imagine being anything else."

I became a doctor to: "Help make life a little better for people."

Most memorable day as a doctor: "The day that one of my longest-stay patients finally went home."

Best part of being a doctor: "Seeing a happy post-op patient back in clinic."