When Wendy was in 8th grade, her 2nd cousin died young from “brain cancer” that nobody ever talked about. Her intuition always told her that something felt “off” about the situation. Later in life, she found out that he actually died of AIDS and always wished that she would have known he was sick.
Witnessing this stigma is what led her to root for the underdog. When she pursued medicine, she thought she’d be interested in infectious diseases, but discovered that her true calling in medicine was advocacy.
As an Internist at HCMC, she cares for a high risk population who are vulnerable and frequently admitted to the hospital. They are typically medically very complex and may struggle with housing, addiction or mental health issues. In her day-to-day work, she focuses on anything she can do to remove stigma for her patients. That includes stigma around drug addiction. If her patients can be open and honest with her, she is better able to serve them. She takes great pride in the creative problem solving required for this type of work.
Wendy always liked science and religion when she was a student. In high school, she thought she would be pastor, but that changed once she reached college and discovered new ideas in subjects like Eastern philosophy.
She studied plant science at Carleton College, which set her back in med school. What she did learn though, the understanding of how things work, ultimately set the foundation for the work she does today.
One of the main reasons that Wendy decided to work at HCMC was because they approach care with a team of problem solvers and everyone is committed to making a plan with their patients. She has resources like social workers and psychologists, and together they collaborate to serve the patients.
Her style strategy is to wear pieces that don’t require a lot of time to style and thoughtful consideration for what her day looks like. She may, literally, have to run to the emergency room, so her shoes need to be sturdy and comfortable. Fluevogs are her signature shoe! She wears a lot of dresses because it saves time in the morning, and has even less of it since becoming a parent.
She doesn’t always wear the white coat, even though she thinks about if it will work over the outfit she has selected for the day. There’s a lot of debate about wearing the white coat. For women providers, wearing the white coat establishes that they are the physician when they are working with other team members in the hospital. However, the white coat was not designed with women in mind. It works well for men because their shirt collars fit tighter. For women, the best thing to wear under the white coat is a sleeveless top. Wendy mainly wears the white coat when she meets with her patients in the hospital, where there are a lot of people around, or when she meets them for the first time. She’s less likely to wear it for her clinic appointments where her patients already know her.
Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? Oprah. As a kid and in college, I never missed an Oprah show. I feel like I learned a lot about the world watching her show. I also have a ton of questions for her about the decisions she made.
Would you like to be famous?
Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
I really dislike talking on the phone and it’s a big part of being a physician. I don’t practice because it feels too stilted. If I have to call someone, I do it as quickly as I can. It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid
What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
I love canoeing. I worked at The Boundary Waters in college, so I’d like to go canoeing with my family. Have lunch on Sawbill Lake and finish the day looking at Lake Superior and the stars at night.
When did you last sing to yourself?
I sing most mornings in the car. One time, I arrived at a team meeting and heard someone talking about passing a car with loud music with the driver singing. Turns out, it was me they were talking about!
If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
I’m most terrified of dying of cancer or a disease where I have to make a lot of decisions. It’s not suicide anymore, which at one time, it could have been.
After I had my first daughter, I suffered from postpartum and anxiety. I wasn’t expecting it, so I didn’t know it was happening. I had this vision of what a working mom would be and the reality was quite different. I had no maternity leave because I always made myself available. Poor self-care is part of Doc culture. We congratulate each other about it. The effect of that culture can be very dangerous.
By the time I had my second daughter, I knew the signs, so I was able to manage it. It’s a very common experience for new moms. Now, they are screened for it as part of the post natal care.
What do you and your partner appear to have in common?
We’re both introverts, committed to our kids and we both love “Uranus” jokes.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I wish my sister and I would have spent more time together. As kids our age difference made it hard simply because when I was in high school, she was in college. She’s 4 years older than me.
If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
To speak a foreign language. I have Dyslexia, so I’ve never been able to do it. Being able to speak Spanish would be very useful.