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.
from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and then go home and not be called until it is your week on call. With some practices, one in every four nights you
are on call. When I’m on call, I’m an infectious disease consultant now at the hospital. So most of the patients that I’m seeing, I have to
respond pretty quickly if something is going on. The first line people and residents are in the hospital. If you are a consultant, there is
usually a hospitalist who is the attending physician of record. So I will be called with consulting questions. Once I get done seeing them
during the day, I might get called in the middle of the night. But it is usually answering a question or being prepared to see them first thing
in the morning. And that is a one day period out of four.”
One of the advances that medicine has made is the evolution to electronic records. Perry’s high expectations have not been met.
“Medicine, in general, is struggling,” Perry said. “The electronic records have their pros and cons. I’m not opposed to it, but it has some
problems too. Now UW Health is supposed to be able to access my medical record online. It’s a farce. Maybe I expect too much. The lab
work I get may show up there in 3-4 weeks. I guess I can find future appointments on it. That helps. But I can’t find anything on there
concerning my medical records. I’m a little unhappy about it. Maybe I’m expecting too much.”
One of the biggest concerns that Perry and Sheryl see is the lack of family practice doctors due to the proliferation of specialists.
“Medicine is advancing,” Sheryl said. “Research is advancing where there are lots of specialists. I’m a specialist in that sense. One
person may go to several specialists overall. And that can be hard to track. There is a move toward the medical home. I think it is
important having someone who knows what is going on and can synthesize it all. If you are generally healthy, you have someone who is
there. We’re moving towards it, it is in writing and I think insurance companies are driving it there too. It’s on paper, something that is
happening. But we’re trying to figure out how it is going to practically work. We’re trying to figure out how we do the medical home thing.”
Perry has been retired for over 15 years and it seems that his perspective on medicine is evolving from that of a practitioner to one of a
consumer of medicine. And he looks at the proliferation of specialist from another perspective.
“My wife has osteoarthritis,” Henderson said. “That’s the diagnosis. $10,000. Hip surgeons? Left foot surgeons? Pretty soon, we’ll find
someone who specializes in the left middle finger. She had a problem with her hip one time. Orthopedic surgeons no longer do hips. She
had to go to someone else because she has a problem with her knee. All of these are orthopedics. Not only do you have to understand
why they do it that way, but whoever is taking care of that patient, the primary care physician, has to recognize not only that this
subspecialty has been cut up like that, but what about the individuals who are doing it? Some physicians are very caring and others …”
Henderson is as concerned about medical costs as much as any other consumer.
“When I was leaving practice, there was a heart surgeon who joined the faculty,” Henderson recalled. “At that time, he was making
$300,000 per year. He’s still practicing. Can you imagine what he is making now? And that is just salary. I don’t know what else is
involved. Ophthalmologists, my wife has a problem with her eyes. She has to go see an ophthalmologist once every other month or so.
She is in the office for 1-2 hours. We get the piece of paper — the insurance pays for all of this — showing the charges that have been
submitted and it says $1,500. The average rate for cataract removal is I think $5,000 and it took him 30 minutes to do a cataract. This
particular physician is at the university. He was hired just to provide service like that. And Friday mornings is when he would do
cataracts. He did 6-8 every Friday morning. That’s the time when he did all sorts of other things that he got paid for. So he just did six and
six times $5,000 is $30,000 for a half day’s work. Wow.”
While he is appalled by the escalation in medical costs, Henderson appreciates the dynamic that is driving up costs and creating a
dearth of primary care physicians.
“The average medical student when they graduate is now more than $100,000 in debt,” Perry said. “You can declare bankruptcy due to
the recession, but not for student loans. If you graduate from medical school with $160,000 of debt, that is going to be there until you
repay it. So you aren’t going to go into geriatrics making $125,000 per year where it’s going to take you 50 years to repay that debt as
opposed to heart surgery where you can pay it off in two years?”
The Drs. Henderson reflect the change in medicine past, present and future. But their love for medicine remains constant.
By Jonathan Gramling
Part 3 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.
Dr. Sheryl Henderson isn’t experiencing the great physical demands that
medicine placed on her father Perry. As a part-timer, she has some control
over her time and she can manage her personal and professional lives.
“Practices are set up so that call is shared,” Sheryl said. “In an out-patient
clinic setting, which I’m not necessarily in. you may go in and see patients