Lean Toward Risk: Conversation with 54 Year Old Medical Student, Suzanne Watson.

suzanne watson- peerspectrum

“Lean toward risk…many more seniors regret the risks they didn’t take than regret the ones they did.” -David Brooks

Name: Suzanne Watson

Location: Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston Salem, NC.

Specialty: Medical Student


Medical school acceptance and AARP card in the same week.

As we find her today, in February of 2017, Suzanne Watson is medical student finishing up her final year at Wake Forest School of Medicine. She’s also a mother of four, a former minister, a widow, and she is 54 years old.

With a growing family, Suzanne voluntarily left medical school in her twenties but never gave up on her dream of becoming a physician. The dream never flickered, even through her career as an Episcopalian minister, all while raising her four children alone after the tragic death of her husband.

We’re going to talk with Suzanne about what happened to her husband (a Neurologist) 15 years ago. We’re going to see how that experience impacted her and her family. We’re going to see how it guides her current mission to become a healer, and an advocate for those suffering with mental illness.

If I had to pick one word to describe Suzanne, it would have be resilience. As you’ll see though, that one word alone really isn’t enough to describe Suzanne. She’s someone with incredible kindness, an inspiring mission, and someone, we predict, you’ll be hearing more from in the future. It was a real privilege to speak with her at the beginning of this next journey in her life. With that said, let’s get started…

Show Notes:

-“One of the happiest days of my life.”

-”Life is so precious.” What can I do with the next segment of my life?

-”I really don’t plan on ever retiring.”

-Who Suzanne consulted with before applying. The elements of her decision.

-Medical School Part I. Suzanne’s first time in medical school.

-Entering medical school at 50, as a widow with four kids.

-Why Suzanne’s financial ad visor suggested that she buy a Ferrari and take a year off!

-How to pay for it? The financial considerations Suzanne faced.

-Would Suzanne be accepted by her younger medical school classmates? Beer Pong?

-Uniting with others through a common goal.

-How Suzanne helped her fellow classmates.

-What has Suzanne learned from her younger classmates?

-How has medical education changed in the last 25 years? Suzanne’s unique perspective.

-Suzanne’s grandfather. An early inspiration.

-Why Suzanne decided to withdraw from medical school the first time.

-Loosing her husband. How Suzanne moved forward after a tragic loss.

-The stigma of seeking help for mental illness.

-Barriers to seeking treatment for mental illness.

-Mental illness in medical school students/ residents. How big is the problem and what can be done?

-Are suicides under-reported in medical education programs?

-Medical board reporting requirements. A barrier to seeking help?

-Are we punishing those who need help the most?

-Suzanne’s career as an Episcopalian Minister.

-How good psychiatric care has helped Suzanne’s own family.

-The link between good mental health and adaptability.

-Suzanne’s plans for her future practice.

-Public advocacy. Her mission and future research goals.

-Resources for mental illness.



Interview with Wake Forest:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0-2QvfktH8

David Brooks article that inspired Suzanne to apply for medical school: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/29/opinion/brooks-the-life-reports-ii.html

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

“Creating a Safety Net: Preventing Physician Suicide.” https://news.aamc.org/medical-education/article/creating-safety-net-preventing-physician-suicide/

“Utilization and Barriers to Mental Health Services Among Depressed Medical Interns: A Prospective Multi-site Study.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2941380/

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