A season of change

I put my latte mug and tea kettle in a box, dropped my badge on the desk and left my office at UROC for the last time earlier today. Yes, I worked half a day on Thanksgiving, the day after my last day, helping to get some afflicted lasers realigned after a repair.

Transitions are always difficult. And a gamble. My transition to Vassar Brothers / Health Quest two years ago was a big one. I had been self-employed for 12 years, calling the shots and personally making both the policy decisions and the cost-benefit decisions. But things had changed in my personal life and it seemed clear at the time that regular full-time employment was the right course for me and my family. Easier said than done in practice – it may come as a surprise at first to hear but it’s actually fairly challenging for me to find a suitable new job. This is a very small field and I am both senior and high-profile, not to mention demanding. Oh, and I suppose expensive (but surely an excellent value). As with any specialist, it’s important for me to find an employer who actually wants me to do the things I’m good at.

I was really pleased with the HQ option. Dan Pavord is a friend and a trusted colleague and the prospect of doing senior things like program development while Dan dealt with the administrative overhead really was appealing. (If I never ever have to be involved in another HR prayer meeting it will be way too soon.) The big surprise was the Hudson Valley. I really, really love living here. No small thing to say for a credentialed Southerner. We built a truly excellent highly custom house in a neighborhood with excellent neighbors and a block from both the pool and the very good elementary school. Life here truly is good. I say that to this very moment, having just enjoyed a fabulous Thanksgiving feast prepared by Chef John Novi whom I’ve gotten to know a bit.

But on balance this move was a disaster on all fronts. I never could find traction in the job to do the things I came to do. My marriage has imploded. I’m going to lose a small fortune on the house. My health has suffered under the stress of nothing really working quite right. I blame nobody for any of that, but it is how things turned out. Good decisions led to unfortunate outcomes. New York has been very rough on me.

The two years were hard, but a whole lot of the actual moments were really good. I have made some truly important personal connections with some of the folks at HQ and particularly at UROC. I’m proud of some of the things we were able to accomplish. I’m proud as I can be of my first resident, and happy to have been able to help recruit such quality in my second resident and in my second banana. These guys are a strong team and I truly hate missing the evolution. I will also sorely miss my favorite physicians, dosimetrists, nurses, therapists, front office staff. And I’ll miss Dan a lot.

What comes next is something of a homecoming. I have been friends, colleagues and business associates with the senior folks at P&CP for about 25 years. In the 1980s they used my treatment planning system to provide their contract treatment planning service, putting them way out front of others who waited for the wave of commercial 3D systems that would not come until several years later. Over the years that I had my own business in a geographic catchment that neighbored theirs we worked collegially and collaboratively to share contract jobs, equipment, advice, whatever. And they were always very, very supportive of me. They have recently taken on one of my former clients and hired my first trainee to staff the contract, a tremendous vote of confidence. So my joining them now has been 25 years in the making. I hope they are half as happy as I am about it. And as my friend Jim Gaiser says, it’ll also be so good to be back where the tea is sweet.

My homecoming also coincides with a significant transition of the company. P&CP has joined the Global Physics Solutions family, which means that I have too. I will be frank that GPS made a pretty poor impression on me when they first appeared on the scene several years ago. But the company clearly has evolved and I’m pleased to now be affiliating with folks like John Swanson with whom I went to school back when we were both getting our medical physics degrees from the University of Florida, and Bob Pizzutiello with whom I’ve had the pleasure to serve on the AAPM’s Professional Council. These guys in particular are part of that very small cadre of medical physicists who both know how to run a business and also understand how important it is for practicing medical physicists to support the profession through involvement in the efforts of the AAPM. To be part of the same organization as folks with whom I have worked on the national level to advance the profession feels like a different sort of homecoming.

Transitions are hard, and a gamble. I’m making that one-way drive on Sunday with a mix of great sadness at what didn’t work and what I’m leaving behind here in New York but also tremendous anticipation of finding a more suitable niche back in Charlotte. You never can know what you’re going to find until you are in it, but I’ll be very surprised if this is not an excellent fit. Both with my old friends at P&CP and with the larger picture of GPS. Stay tuned – and wish us all luck.

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