Trainees often wonder about the lifestyle of a hematologist, so we asked former Trainee Council member Martin Palmeri, MD, to give us a snapshot of a typical day.
When asked, “What is your average day like?” I have to chuckle to myself. There is no average day! I have a 10-, 7-, and 1-year old, so there is always a daily surprise. A few years ago, my sons wanted to see what happens when you put all of your toys in the upstairs bathtub and turn the water on high. Answer: It rains in the downstairs kitchen! Fortunately, we have a “water damage by children” clause in our home insurance policy.
I am a private practice, community-based hematologist/oncologist at Cancer Care of Western North Carolina. We are one of the largest hematology/oncology practices in Western North Carolina with five regional satellite offices. I practice primarily in Asheville, the town I grew up in during the 1980s and 1990s, and where I launched my career in 2013.
6:00 a.m. – The baby starts to stir. I throw my hand over to my wife’s side; she’s still asleep. I’m on deck for diaper change.
6:10 a.m. – I bring a clean little girl to my wife so I can rush to get ready.
7:00 a.m. – At tumor board, I present and review cases with a multidisciplinary team. There is great buy-in from the other community physicians, and these tend to be evidence-based, robust discussions. Two days per month, I meet with the Medical Executive Committee or the Medical Administrative Committee as a representative for the Cancer Service Line for Mission Health, the regional hospital system. This is a wonderful opportunity to address the larger issues facing the hospital system and how they affect hematology/oncology care.
8:30 a.m. – The mad dash to see patients begins. A nurse practitioner and I work as a team and we divide up the daily schedule. Despite all the pressures on doctors today – the cumbersome electronic health records, insurance roadblocks, and the administrative hogwash – when I step into the room with my patients, all of the muck washes away. Having grown up in Asheville, my patients are often old neighbors, acquaintances from high school, or former teachers. As my practice has grown, patients are referring their husbands, wives, brothers, and sisters – which is both an honor and a heavy responsibility. I am deeply rooted in my community, and I feel privileged to be able to give back. I tell my patients that they should never feel rushed when they see me and that they can ask all the questions they want. This comes with the understanding that I will also never be on time.
12:00 p.m. – I take a 30-minute break – mostly to refill on coffee, wolf down lunch, return a few calls to community doctors, and answer staff reminders.
5:30 p.m. – I wrap up the office visits and make sure there are no outstanding clinic issues.
6:30 p.m. – I enjoy dinner with the family. I play with our youngest and help get her ready for bed. I also catch up with the older children, go over homework, and/or play a game. I put them to bed around 8:30 p.m.
9:30 p.m. – I log in to the hospital system from home, make sure that all outstanding nursing requests have been answered, and follow up on any labs and imaging from the day. I often look over the charts for the following clinic day.
12:00 a.m. – Off to bed!