Exceptional Women in Medicine: Dr. Jan Rothschild
Published on Sep 7, 2023. Updated on Sep 15, 2023.
What inspired you to work in medicine?
My eighth-grade science teacher, Mr. Saper, sparked my interest in biology. I would be the one to bring in organs and animals to dissect. At the time, I thought I just wanted to study the body. I soon realized working in medicine was possible (this was a long time ago, in the dark ages of the first wave of the Feminist movement) and that a career in surgery was what I wanted to take on.
What are the most and least satisfying aspects of your work?
I love solving the puzzles of the problems my patients bring to me and then solving/curing illnesses that those problems cause. Along with solving the puzzles is the reward of “fixing’ them,” which a surgeon gets to do much more than most medical specialties.
The least satisfying aspects aren’t being on-call and working 60 hours in a row. It’s the drudgery of maintaining the electronic medical records and documentation that’s become such a big part of my day.
What does work/life balance look like for you as a medical professional?
I was in a meeting recently and commented that I’m not familiar with the concept of work-life balance – and it’s only a bit of an exaggeration. My patients and my job have always been on equal footing with my family. However, when I had to choose, my family came first, but only if I could find a solution for my patients.
Raising my four kids always required live-in help since my husband often worked evenings and weekends (though not in medicine). Somehow, I was almost always home for homework and usually for bedtime. These days, with my children grown and my professional responsibilities more flexible, I have more time for myself and my husband, though it often means catching up on work at night.
What experiences have contributed to your success? What would you have done differently?
Hmm, very tough question. I would say that I’ve chosen not to be a dynamo in academic medicine to maintain time for my family. I think my intense investment in my patients, lifelong learning, and improvement have been critical, including the early adoption of new technologies like laparoscopy and robotics.
The one specific thing I would have done differently is not tell my boss that I was pregnant with my first child so early on because it gave him too much opportunity to replace me in many of my projects. He assumed I would not be returning to full-time surgery (as if I would give up my career after years of training), which definitely put a monkey wrench in my academic career.
What advice would you give to your past self to prepare for working in medicine?
Not to underestimate the degree that gender discrimination still exists and to be more prepared to be aggressive about fighting it.
A lesson I just learned recently has been very rewarding. I've always approached academic medicine on the wards and in the operating room, teaching students and residents “on the floor.” Starting work with Osmosis has been a very edifying new chapter. It’s been a great new journey to discover other ways I can contribute; the adventure of trying new experiences and learning new skills has been eye-opening.
There were plenty of times when I was overwhelmed and overextended, but I would tell my past self to stay open to new paths and to keep up with our changing world.
About Jan RothschildJan Rothschild, MD, FACS, is a Clinical Content Editor at Osmosis and an Academic Surgeon, practicing Surgical Oncology for 35 years. She's trained surgical residents and medical students and worked as an assistant program director, with a focus on teaching colleagues and residents minimally invasive techniques and complex oncology, which led her to her current role at Osmosis. She's also working on a residency project to expand the Osmosis product to students who will be starting residency.
She's mother to four children, the youngest of whom is a 2nd-year medical student. She and her suitemates appreciate their resident expert!