Father - Daughter Dr.s Sheryl and Perry
|Dr. Sheryl Henderson (l) followed her own path in
deciding to obtain her MD and Ph.D. in medicine which
her father, Dr. Perry Henderson, supported once she
made her decision.
department that is closely related to obstetrics. Obstetricians are the first ones to see the babies that pediatricians care for. As I have
gone around meeting people, to a person, everyone whom I’ve met who has said, ‘I know your father,’ talks about what a great,
mentoring teacher he was. I have to pass that on. I’ve had people look at me and say, ‘Don’t I know you?’ I say, ‘You know my father.’
And they go, ‘He’s a great obstetrician.’ It’s been really kind of neat being here and learning more about both of my parents and what they’
ve done for the last 30 years and still are doing.”
Medicine has changed a lot since Perry first entered medical school before a lot of reforms were instituted that make medical school
“When I finished medical school, I did an internship,” Perry recalled. “That was one year of slave labor. And that was anticipated. The
better places that you could apply to would say, ‘You should be glad you are coming here.’ The programs further down on the totem pole
would say, ‘We’ll give you $100 a month to come here. We’ll give you $500 per month.’ So the more they paid you, the less quality the
program was. If you went to the big hospitals, you weren’t expected to get anything. I got $50 per month. That was a good residency also.
There were crazy hours.
“In our obstetrical rotations, we were on every third night. When you are on, you are up doing things, delivering babies and updating
charts. You were sleeping right there on the delivery bed. ‘I just need 20 minutes.’ If I could get back there and put my head on a pillow
for 20 minutes, I was good for another 2-3 hours. It was busy. The longest period I was up working and being responsible for things was
24 hours. That was common. You were on every third night. With emergency room shifts, you were on second call, which meant that
unless it was very busy, you could take a nap in the middle of the night just enough to keep working. With my residency in obstetrics,
you averaged 10 deliveries. In one 24-hour period, you could deliver 30 babies. Other times, you might have 5-6 deliveries. But you are
Things started to change by the time Sheryl began her residency in 1990.
“My first rotation was surgery,” Sheryl recalled. “The surgeons were on every other night. Pediatrics said no. There was no way that the
pediatrician on the pediatric surgery would be on every other night. So we were on every third night. The surgeons’ mantra — and maybe
others’ too — was that if you were on every other night, you missed half the cases, so you missed that educational experience. It was
towards the tail-end of my residency that there was the move — perhaps it was the Zimmerman case in New York where was the
recognition that not all residents were supervised all the time and there were residents who had been up for 36-48 hours who were
treating patients. Nationally, limitations were placed by the graduate medical board offices that residents can only work a certain number
of consecutive hours and no more than a certain number of hours per week. I can’t tell you the specific hours right now. And every
residency program has had to adapt to them. That’s in-house call. Now where I am, I’m on 24/7 when I am on call. But that means
someone can page me at 2 a.m. and I’ll talk to them for 15 minutes and go back to sleep. That’s different than actually physically being
there and seeing a patient. I think it is beginning to work out a bit because every program has had to do what’s best for them whether it
is hiring more residents. They’ve had to balance how the residents get their education when half are only on at night due to the shifts. It’s
a dance to fit in the optimum residence education while making sure that they are getting their sleep. It really is a patient safety issue.”
The change also extended to when doctors began their practice. When Perry took up teaching with a small private practice on the side,
he had little control over his life.
“In academic medicine, if I’m on call, I might deliver 4-5 babies during the night and then at 7 a.m., I would make rounds with the
residents and we had lectures and work with students,” Perry said. “I sort of resented it also when I was up all night taking care of
patients and deliver at 5 a.m. and literally I’m at peek most of the night and then I was expected to make rounds at 7 a.m. because I was
full-time faculty. I was expected to give that lecture at 9 a.m. And I was expected to staff the clinic in the afternoon. The fact that I had
been up for 24 hours prior to that, no one cared. Everyone was doing it.”
Sheryl, on the other hand, has had some options. It hasn’t been one size fits all.
“If you look at pediatric practices not only here, but other places as well, there are a lot of people who aren’t working full time,” Sheryl
said. “This is in the clinic practices. For example hypothetically, my daughter’s pediatrician might not be there on Wednesdays and
Thursdays because that is a day off. So there are many opportunities to flex time overall. Actually when I started here at the university, I
was part-time. There is that opportunity and I can build up time over time. But right now, there is the ability to balance family and practice.
There might have been less opportunity to do that 20 years ago. You might have full-time equivalents. There are some people who are in
for one full-time equivalent and others who are sharing a position 50-50 and 75-25. There are many different splits depending on how the
funding flows. A department might say that it has three full-time equivalents, but they might be filled with five people.”
On top of his work as an educator in the UW medical school, Perry also had a private practice one half day per week. In some cases,
Perry would see someone in his private practice, refer them to UW Hospitals & Clinics because theirs was a high-risk pregnancy and
then end up seeing them in his role in the medical school.
Perry announced one year early that he was going to retire and he had 65 patients. His patients were attached to him.
“I told the patients, ‘Look, I’m retiring and I won’t be here,’” Perry recalled. “’I can’t promise that I will be here to deliver you, but I will do
my best. I have another woman in life who takes priority over you.’ But I was able to deliver all 65 of them personally. This one patient —
I had delivered three of her children — came in for a check-up and she was fine. After the visit, I told her that I was retiring as of June
30th. I wouldn’t be practicing anymore. This was a year in advance. You would have thought that I had smacked her. ‘You can’t do that,’
she said. ‘I was planning on having another baby.’ Eight weeks later, she came into my office and she was pregnant. I delivered her. I
hadn’t expected that reaction.”
And as he left his practice, Perry got a taste of how medicine was changing.
“My partners — there were seven in the group — and I got into a big discussion about how we were going to split the pay for the patients
that I delivered,” Perry said. “They were my patients, but if I weren’t taking calls anymore, I wasn’t in. I got a little ticked off.”
Next issue: Modern medicine
By Jonathan Gramling
Part 2 of 3
As they raised their children, Dr.s Perry and Virginia Henderson, like any
loving parents, allowed their children to choose their own paths in life. As
her career evolved, Dr. Sheryl Henderson, their daughter, eventually settled
on pediatrics and then medicine. She devoted herself to both research and
then the clinic and ended up at Emory University in Atlanta. And then after
she adopted her daughter and her parents were nearing their 80th birthdays,
Sheryl did something that modern medicine allows. She moved back to
Madison and became a part-time pediatric practitioner at UW Hospitals &
Clinics. And in doing so, Sheryl made Madison — a place she had only lived
for two years before going to college — her home.
“I kept up with what my parents were doing, usually on the telephone if I
could catch them because they were often in meetings and running around
making an impact here,” Sheryl said. “So here I am 30 years later in a