The Balancing Act: Clinician, Researcher, Wife
Dr. Pamela McShane is an Assistant Professor in the Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. She received the U.S. Military Health Professions Scholarship to attend medical school. After finishing residency and one year of fellowship, she served in active duty in the U.S. Air Force. While deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, P.J. received her second Meritorious Service Medal for Outstanding Achievement for her work in the Surgical / Trauma ICU in Balad, Iraq, the busiest trauma center in the world at the height of the conflict. After finishing her commitment to the U.S. Air Force, Dr. McShane completed her Pulmonary and Critical Care fellowship at the University of Chicago and stayed on as faculty. In 2013, she received the Department of Medicine Outstanding Clinical Service Award for Junior Faculty. Her interest in bronchiectasis led to the development of a large database and referral clinic for bronchiectasis patients, which in turn has resulted in publications of her research in Chest and the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
It may just be semantics, but for me, the phrase “work-life balance” conjures thoughts of a risky circus act that may end in catastrophe. Instead, I think a successful life is the right mixture of different components that result in the feeling of being fulfilled and energized. For me, importantly, I have a marriage that is a joy and sanctuary. My husband is also a physician so we have an understanding and appreciation of each other’s work, but we pursue a number of interests outside of medicine together. For example, we enjoy fitness and travel together. We have not had children. We have two bright and beautiful German Shepherd dogs (who I joyfully treat like children). I trained my older dog to be a certified therapy dog. I have proudly brought him to work with me on occasions to provide support to my patients (in photo). Sewing is a hobby that I love and is part of my life that is uniquely my own. My Mother, who went to the New York Fashion Institute of Technology, had a short career in the New York garment industry and taught me to sew when I was a child. It is now a creative outlet that I really enjoy. It has also provided me with the vast majority of the clothes I wear to work and evening events. Sometimes I use my vacation time to take courses in advanced couture sewing techniques. One great outcome of these sewing weeks is that by the end of them, I can’t wait to get back to my dogs, husband and patients. My eagerness to return to work is affirmation that although I value the other aspects of my life, I wouldn’t feel complete without being a physician (and that I have found a career path right for me). Doing something entirely different for a short time re-energizes my conviction for my career in medicine.
Advice to Women Faculty and Trainees
There are many different ways to live a life. Create a life at work and at home that makes you happy and provides you with a sense of fulfillment. It is crucial to find a career that you enjoy. Fortunately, a career in medicine can be can have different components such as research, teaching, and clinical work. Find the path that is right for you. Outside of work, find what makes you happy and fulfilled and pursue that. Don’t tolerate pressure to pursue life choices that don’t fulfill you and bring you joy. Success will follow for those who find happiness and fulfillment first.