What would you say are the accomplishments that you are most proud of during your career?
I would list three, not necessarily in order of importance:
- Learning and becoming fluent in Spanish-in my mid-50s I took night class twice per week for two years at the local community college to learn Spanish. I was motivated by my interest in going on medical missions to Central America as well as the significant number of Spanish-speaking families that we see in our practice.
- Ultrasound guided regional anesthesia-attending CME as well as being mentored by others in my department has allowed me to become proficient in this skill and I have earned the ASA/ASRA certification. Hardly a day goes by that I do not use the ultrasound for blocks or vascular access.
- Building relationships-developing these trusted relationships with co-workers, nursing and support staff, and administrators has not only helped our department to grow and flourish, but has allowed me to evolve and grow both personally and professionally.
What do you do to maintain some semblance of work/life balance?
Having a wonderful wife to share experiences with has been an excellent outlet for me. She is also my trusted advisor when I am in need of it. We will be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary later this year. We have a 12-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever, Lola, who is a trained therapy dog. She and I have been members of the hospital’s Buddy Brigade and made regular visits until they were halted by COVID.
My wife and I do like to travel, especially to visit our children, which has been difficult the past year.
I am an avid road cyclist and enjoy getting outside whenever possible for some rides out in the country. I especially enjoy going on a cycling vacation to the mountains for some challenging climbs and descents.
Has the last year changed your approach to your practice and life in general?
Overall, I do not think that my approach to either has changed significantly. I would be lying if I said that this has not been an extremely challenging year, but I think my personal philosophy that “you are only as good as your last anesthetic” still is my guiding principle in practice. Patients and families still deserve our best care and even in these stressful times, they respond to our empathy and professionalism. On the personal side, I consider myself to be an eternal optimist, and being surrounded by great colleagues and family members who support each other has helped me to be able to continue that optimism at work and at home.
Mark Polak, DO, FASA, is a pediatric anesthesiologist at The Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters (CHKD) in Norfolk, VA.