The long-held trademarks of physicians and medical schools include an unfailing sense of curiosity and compassion combined with the hope of healing. As we head into spring and the promise of warmer weather, we celebrate and observe National Doctors' Day which takes place annually on March 30. 

When we trace back through the history of National Doctors' Day, its roots began in 1933 when Eudora Brown Almond decided to create this day to honor doctors. She was married to a Georgian physician and understood the level of dedication required for those who heal. In order to recognize the importance of this career choice, she began with mailing cards to doctors she personally knew; thanking them for their service to people and to their communities. She also placed red carnations on the graves of those who had passed away. The commemoration occurs on March 30 because Mrs. Brown recalled that in 1842, Dr. Crawford W. Long applied an ether anesthetic during surgery for the very first time on that very day. In 1991, National Doctors' Day became a country-wide observance, and today we celebrate our doctors in 2022 for the very same reason. 

As we celebrate all our physicians at the University of Minnesota Medical School, we spin the spotlight toward Dawn Schissel, MD, ’88, who chose the U of M Medical School, Duluth Campus as the springboard for her medical practice. As a family medicine specialist, she is currently in solo practice in West Des Moines, Iowa. 

“I see the full gamut of family medicine but no longer do OB or hospital care. I share call and overhead with two other family doctors,” Dr. Schissel said. “We are not affiliated with any hospital system, so we can pick and choose who we send patients to when we need a specialist.”

Her favorite thing about her work is taking care of families. “Many of my patients I have cared for over 30 years. I like watching the children grow, taking care of the elderly and seeing everyone in between. I enjoy the puzzles of medical challenges and working through patient problems to get to a diagnosis.” Dr. Schissel adds, “I also have a medical student from the local osteopathic school and/or from the University of Iowa constantly. I love to teach and they keep me up to date and on my toes.” 

Before she chose to begin a solo practice, she was approached by an orthopedic surgeon who was planning to start a multi-specialty office building. Another family physician in Des Moines was a part-owner of the building and supported Dr. Schissel by referring her to a lawyer who helped navigate the red tape.  

“I have now been in solo practice for 15 years and still add six to eight new patients weekly,“ she said. 

Among the challenges as a physician, Dr. Schissel acknowledges that the current pandemic has created a new set of frustrations. “Too many people listen to friends, Facebook and other social media for their medical information and forgo immunizations,” she said. “I am continually frustrated as I try to convince patients that they need to listen to the science and not their non-medical peers.” 

At the same time, Dr. Schissel has seen an increase in depression and anxiety in patients. She has applied more psychiatry than at any other time during her career. While telehealth has emerged as a solution for some aspects of her work, she is only serving patients through online means three to five times a day rather than full time. “Telehealth is convenient for medicine refills and minor illnesses,” she said. “But it is tough to do a good job when you don’t actually see the patient in person.”

Even though the challenges have been difficult at times, Dr. Schissel notes that there are many positives in her line of work as a physician. “My success is that I have a very busy practice with people from all walks of life. I found time to be on the Board for the Iowa Academy of Family Physicians and was president 2014-2015. I spent two years as a hospice director. I am frequently called on to sit on committees in the community when they need a family physician presence. I am happy and still love what I do after so many years.”