An Open and Sincere Letter to My Patients and Colleagues- Past, Present, and Future

Transitions
Transitions

Had anyone inquired as to my future plans for my career in early December, I would’ve responded, “Just what I’m doing now and right here where I’m doing it”.  You see, I’ve had a tremendous career experience with my current institution- working with excellent, service-minded healthcare teams and getting to take care of some of the nicest people that one would ever hope to meet.  My institution, Baylor Scott & White Health, has also fostered my career by allowing me both time and training opportunities to grow from being the great Internist/Cardiologist that the Mayo Clinic trained me to be to also having significant positions of leadership within our institution and within my national/international professional organizations.  For the past 5 years, I’ve also been blessed to be the Chair of the Department of Medicine for the largest, and my opinion, the best Department of Internal Medicine in the State of Texas.

This all changed with an afternoon phone call in late fall as I was finishing up my clinic.  Despite me being perfectly happy in my current clinical practice and administrative role, at the insistence/persistence of a recruiter, I agreed to “just come take a look” at an opportunity that presented itself to me well outside of the familiar confines of the Lone Star State. Anyone who has known me for more than just a little while knows that I’ve told people for years, “Don’t be surprised if I retire early and become a Coach!”.  What I’ve learned in serving as the Chair of a large Department is that this is exactly what the major portion of my administrative role is these days- to lead teams, develop strategy, outline the tactics to get there, and to develop the “players” to fully live up to the potential of their talents.  While I had envisioned that I would be coaching football, this other type of coaching and team building has also been tremendously rewarding to me. Additionally, anyone who has known me for more than a short period would be completely taken off-guard to think that I would ever consider leaving my beloved home state- full of Friday Night Lights, longhorn ranches, Ford F-150’s, and the best barbecue and Mexican food in this country- for a second time after returning from Minnesota in 1998!

Well, my friends, Suzi and I feel called at this point to step outside of our comfort-zone for a new challenge, adventure, and a new opportunity…in Chicagoland.  Tomorrow, I’ll start my last week with Baylor Scott & White Health and I will be taking over as the Louise W Coon Chair of the Department of Medicine at NorthShore University HealthSystem, an affiliate of the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine at the end of the April 2020.  I have long been acquainted with the storied tradition of this fine group as well and the new team has been so warm and welcoming to Suzi and me as we’ve deliberated through this significant life change.

To all patients and partners in health present and past, THANK YOU!  I feel honored, humbled, and privileged to have been a part of your lives and I carry a big part of you with me in the knowledge, skills, living, and learning that we have experienced together over these many years.  I had hoped to be able to reach out to each and every one of you personally before now, but alas there are just too many special people and not enough hours in the day. This has also been confounded by the Covid19 pandemic in which we find ourselves. It has been a tricky last month and half to continue to help my current work family prepare for the surge as well as keeping up with the plans and contributing to the strategies to help my new work family during the transitional phase. Leaving without the many planned handshakes, hugs, and personal gatherings has been tough. but your encouraging words and prayers have meant the world to me. Indeed, how sweet it has been to love and been loved by you all.

To my new colleagues and patients, thank you for having the confidence to bring in an “outsider” – one that talks with a funny accent and fancies boots and Dallas Cowboys!  I promise to give you the best of servant leadership and clinical care.  This will be my daily prayer and I expect y’all to hold be accountable to that!   While the Bears will never supplant my Cowboys in my heart, I look forward to having a National League team again and I will embrace the Cubbies with gusto!

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28

I must also give a “shout out” to my younger brother, Bryan.  He was a very successful, if not legendary, football coach here in Texas who retired a few years ago.  He gave me a little axiom that he’d picked up in his coaching journey that “sometimes the best opportunities come when one is not looking for them”.  Without his coaching, I may have been more averse to this new challenge and in moving out of my familiar environment.  Over these last few weeks to months, I’ve also learned a tough lesson that he had with each of his moves- having to tell special people farewell.  I’ve seen numerous patients over the last 3 months that I’ve cared for over 20 years…there have been tears with each of those visits.  I’ve also said “so long” to many partners, mentors, proteges, residents, and fellows who have been equally hard with which to part ways.  My solace here from what we’ve learned together, is that this team will carry on in even bigger and better ways than I ever could lead it- I’ve seen it evidenced in the planning for and execution of our COVID-19 strategy and operations.  May God bless and keep you all! I know that you, too, will leave it better than you found it!

Love, John

“Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you” – Proverbs 4:25

36 thoughts on “An Open and Sincere Letter to My Patients and Colleagues- Past, Present, and Future”

  1. So proud of you, John. My John found with each move we just gained new challenges and new friends. With God’s help, we trusted Him to guide us as we dealt with those challenges and cherished our old and new friends.
    God Bless you and Suzi. Prayers go with you.

  2. Very well written. Very heartfelt. What a great physician, teacher and leader you have been and will continue to be.
    A doctor with a heart. Just what patients and other clinicians need. God bless you, Doctor. You are the prime exemplar of what Dr. Hippocrates implore. Helen Borel,RN,PhD

  3. Blessings in your new adventure!
    They are blessed to have you in their institution. I know you will instill in your students the same level of integrity and excellence you have practiced at BSW!
    Doug Heath

  4. Seán agus Siúsaidh, go n-éirí an t-ádh libh féin agus do chlann.

    Irish for “John and Suzi, good luck to you both and your family”

    Jim Ryan

  5. Congratulations and best wishes! A most happy and blessed Easter to you and all your loved ones, this year and always. Mary

  6. Dear John,
    I have always had the utmost respect for you as an excellent leader, exceptional colleague and compassionate physician to our mutual patients. You will truly missed. I wish you and your wife the best luck, love and joy as you enter the next chapter of your lives together.

    With Warmest Regards,

    Charlie Stern

  7. Blessings to you and Suzi in your new endeavor! I know without even a smidgen of doubt that you will be uber successful and just as loved as you are in Texas.

  8. Johnny, God’s blessing will follow you. Congrats on having the courage to answer the call. We will all miss you!

  9. You made me cry!!!! Remembering the “old Stampede days”….so much fun……glasses with liquid in them splashing people……..your presence when I had my heart attack…was a very comforting time…my loss of James and the kind words……you are a one of a kind friend, inspiration and physician……Take care in Chicago….wear your Stampede jersey to the Blackhawks games…….and know you are loved by so many of us who do not see you often but think of you so many times…….Hugs to you and Suzi..
    Ann Womack
    San Antonio, Texas

  10. John, What I have always admired about you is you unwavering love of Jesus Christ, and that you are not ashamed to share that in public, which is a rare feat. May God continue to shine his grace upon you and Susie. I get to Chicago every so often, next time dinner at the Chop House is on me. I’m still waiting for the invite to Dove hunt at your place. De Colores my friend!

  11. Hummmm, perhaps you’re not leaving, just moving into another room in the Mansion that’s been prepared for you since the day you were born.

    Happy Heart, Happy Easter, Happy Trails from Boston
    : D

  12. Wow !! Excited and sad at the same time !! Been so great working with you .. sure gonna miss your positive attitude and wealth of knowledge . God bless you and Suzi in your new adventures!! 😊❤️🙏 thank you for all you have done for our community, our hospital , patients , families and staff 🙏

    1. Lots of great memories of taking care of the sickest of the sick with you, Vanessa. You’re a rock start CVICU nurse and Flight Nurse. You and LeRoy will have to come visit us!

  13. “To whom much is given, much is required.” I’m so proud to call you brother, teammate, and friend! I know the Lord will continue to lead and guide you and Suzi to greater heights! You epitomize what it means to be a “Servant Leader!” I love you! VA Axe’Em Jacks!

  14. Doctor Erwin….I should say Johny because that’s what you alway have been and always will be. You are an extremely gifted doctor with the best bedside manners ever. You are a special Christian witness who has influenced many. You came from great stock. Your Mom and Dad are both very special people. Your Mom a superior nurse and your Dad an excellent doctor who saved the life of our son. All I can do at this point is ask that God guide your every step.
    Love you Doctor…….Johnny!

    1. John , almost 10 years ago I relocated from ny with some vestiges of backward northerner ideas . I also didn’t know any physicians that shared my faith , or they didn’t show it . You shattered all of that and taught me to be a better person. I never quite grasped how people could develop friendships on the internet – until now . Thank You my friend . And if this tree hugging Lifestyle Medicine doc can ever be of benefit to you or your family , I would consider it a privilege. Gods Speed and I know we will meet again ; by the “ glassy sea” if not before ! Keep The Faith and warm virtual post Covid embraces to you and Suzi .

  15. Congratulations to NorthShore University & The University of Chicago for having you as the chair of Medicine 💐

    I’m sure that your leadership is a great asset to any organization you may wish to join.

    Best wishes for you John, and your respected family.

    Sincerely,
    Zack

  16. Continue to follow your dreams. I consider it a privilege to know you (even if that was a long time ago). I have followed your career from afar and let me say congratulations. I know you will be great in your new role.

  17. You are so much like your dad. A God fearing man of integrity is what I would say to describe you. I love you and Suzi very much and I’m excited for you John. May God bless you as you follow His will for your lives. ❤️

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *