Renewing Passion

The field of medicine has a reputation for attracting some of the sharpest and most astute minds. It’s a discipline that requires nearly inhuman competence, skill and devotion. Even the best doctors, however, need a break from work from time to time, and The Voice-Tribune took the time to talk with a small handful of the fantastic doctors in the area to discuss any hobbies or passions that they may have outside of the office.

160523_VoiceTribune_Doctors_JohnMeyer-4_webDr. John Meyer - ophthalmologist

“I kind of don’t like to sit still. I’d much rather be doing something,” says Dr. John Meyer, an ophthalmologist at The Eye Care Institute. His interests are varied, and his devotion to them is absolute. “It started out as playing sports,” says Meyer. “I got interested in martial arts and things. My kids were doing that, so I took classes and it got to the point where I was going five or six times a week. Eventually, I got to a second degree black belt. I started playing volleyball, and I was playing that four or five days a week. I started running, and it got to the point where I was a running a lot. A couple years ago, I ran the Chicago Marathon.”

Meyer does many of these activities with his son. Together, they built a 1933 roadster from scratch. “My dad didn’t want to pay somebody to do something that he could do himself, so if something broke, he would just learn how to fix it. So I grew up like that and didn’t have much fear of trying new things,” recalls Meyer in explanation of his ever-inquisitive nature.

Another activity that Meyer shares with his son is woodworking. “My son flips houses, so it has brought me closer to him. We put floors and windows in a house, and now we’re renting it out to some college kids. It gives me something to do that I don’t really have to think too much about. I really appreciate anything that keeps me busy or teaches me something new,” attests Meyer. The doctor claims that the relatively menial task of woodworking helps keep his mind clear and lets him think outside the box. “In the operating room, things happen that you’re not counting on all the time. Knowing that you can get through it keeps you from feeling stressed. It’s also really nice to see when it’s all done. You develop a plan and you build it. I like to keep my mind sharp so I’m always thinking on my feet, and it keeps things interesting.”

160523_VoiceTribune_Doctors_MelannieLevin-4_webDr. Melanie Levin- radiologist

Dr. Levin is a radiologist by trade, but she chooses to fill her free time mostly by skiing. “I cycle. I run. I ski, but I also ski race. I race in a recreational race league called NASTAR, which is a national way of preparing yourself against other racers in your same age and gender category,” says Levin. According to her, if you place in the top two to five percentile of people in any of the places that run NASTAR races, you get invited to the nationals.

Levin acknowledges, like most doctors, that the world of medicine requires constant attention, so one of the reasons that she is so attracted to strenuous physical activity is that it, too, begs the full attention of the participant: “I like to do this because I tend to disappear when I do that activity. I’m not really worried about work issues, family issues, friendship issues. All I have to really worry about is, Where is my next turn? What lift am I riding? I can just really put the rest of my life on hold and enjoy my activity.”

Levin also speaks to a child-like exuberance when skiing: “You know, like when you’re a kid. If you ever liked riding a bicycle, the second you get on it, it’s just fun to ride it. You get that feeling of ‘Whee!’ When I do that thing, I evoke that feeling.”

Being a doctor is undoubtedly a stressful undertaking. The weight of constantly making complex decisions that impact others’ lives is heavy. “It gets really important to have at least one thing,” says Levin, “If not several things you’re passionate about that isn’t work as a way to sort of blow off steam. Without that, I think the stress really becomes unmanageable.”

160523_VoiceTribune_Doctors_Debra-1_webDr. Deborah Massey - pediatrician

One of the stereotypes surrounding doctors is that they’re all work and no play. Because of this idea, many doctors who are parents can be absent from their children’s and spouses’ lives. In the case of Dr. Deborah Massey, pediatrician at Prospect Pediatric, that could not be further from the truth. “When I have my daughter, we are really active. We like to go out in nature. We go hiking in Cherokee Park and Iroquois. We go to concerts for the Louisville Orchestra or for chamber music. I’ll take her to places like Forecastle or Cave Hill,” she says.

However, Massey is also aware of the importance of spending time with herself. To that end, Massey describes herself as an avid reader and a robust film buff, and she certainly seems to possess a host of evidence to back that statement up. “I watch a lot of movies from the Criterion Collection,” she says. “At last count, I’ve watched around 600. I used to go to Wild and Woolly to rent the more esoteric ones that you can’t find on Netflix or Hulu.”

Claiming to have over 6,000 books in her personal library, Massey is more than qualified to speak to the transportational and revelatory power of a good read: “I read every day. I think that having something fun to do helps you decompress, and it broadens your horizons. I think with books and films, you can travel the world in your own home, and being out in nature, it opens your eyes. I think it just makes you more well-rounded and more accepting of viewpoints different than your own.” This sentiment can only help Dr. Massey connect with her patients and live a full and varied life for herself and her daughter.

160523_VoiceTribune_Doctors_MelanieStory-2_webDr. Melanie Story - family medicine physician

“I have realized over the past few years that medicine can be all-consuming, and it’s easy for us as physicians to find ourselves submerged in it. It’s initially fine when you come out of training and residency. That’s what we’re trained to do. Over the past couple of years though, I have realized that I needed to have more,” explains. Dr. Melanie Story, family medicine physician at her practice, Genesis 1 Health.

Story first turned to her own home to find that missing passion in her life, asserting that she desired to be more than just a parent. She wanted to be a mother. “Medicine was going to always be there, but life was going to pass me by,” she says. “I had to give more time at home with my children. Playing outside with them, riding dune buggies, creating with them is my first passion outside of medicine. Being with them. That truly brings me joy.”

Story goes so far as to say that even this preliminary yet influential step made all the difference in her career: “I started to become a better doctor because of it because I started relating to my patients even more than I was already.” Over time, Story continued to rediscover herself, rekindling interests in playing the piano and working in her yard.

Eventually, however, Story unearthed a new passion, one that has blossomed into a beautiful talent: “I build dollhouses, and I think it’s a blast. I put the electric in them. I put Christmas trees in them. I build little furniture and rugs for them. I have two little boys and my husband, so that’s my girly thing.” And that’s not all. Story continued in this vein and also makes Derby hats and other sundry crafts. “Anything I can make with my hands brings me true joy. It doesn’t have to be huge and extravagant, it’s just what comes natural,” says Story, and as is the case with most doctors who attempt to live full lives beyond medicine, these natural gifts have only further enriched her time with her family, her knowledge of herself and the success of her practice.

160523_VoiceTribune_Doctors_ScottKuiper-4_webDr. Scott Kuiper - sports medicine & orthopaedic surgery

Sometimes the interest a doctor has is a direct correlation to his or her career, and sometimes, it’s the complete opposite. In the case of Dr. Scott Kuiper, orthopaedic surgeon and physician of sports medicine at Louisville Orthopaedic Clinic, it’s both.

“I cycled in college and got away from my fitness routine as a married father of three kids. I became a spectator for a number of years and just worked. A number of years ago, I wanted to get back for health but also the demands of my job are very physical,” Kuiper admits. The doctor decided to make a change, however, and he returned to the seat of his bike, eventually joining a couple of teams to race that bike such as Texas Roadhouse Cycling.

“The cardiovascular benefits alone are tremendous,” attests Kuiper pragmatically. “It helps my energy level, my focus level, my endurance level for my work day. A big part of my life is just trying to stay healthy and maintain my weight. I’m always looking into ways to improve my nutrition.”

Kuiper also has another passion, one that utilized the other hemisphere of his brain: “I got interested in sports photography. It’s just another way to express your creative side and allows you to study things in ways that aren’t really a part of medicine. It’s great to take a break and see the world differently, to see things from another perspective.” Some of the greatest minds in history were able to see the individual merits of science and art, especially when coupled together, which is perhaps why Dr. Kuiper’s career has been and will continue to be so illustrious.