Journey to Medicine: Jennifer (Walthall) Sullivan, MD

– I was first interested
in medicine when I was a little kid. My hometown pediatrician
was my favorite human being on the planet. There are stories, I don’t
remember them I was very young, that I would take her
stethoscope and follow her around in the office. I just thought what an
amazing thing that this woman does taking care of kids and helping them feel better, and she did in
this incredibly elegant way. And so when I realized that
medicine was the thing, it was the thing that I
wanted to do, there was really no other choice than to
come back home to IU. I interviewed early
decision, got that letter in and my fate was sealed. I joke that I keep trying
to leave Indiana and IU and I never have. There’s always something
in the backyard that’s the next thing that makes a
difference in people’s lives. Every time you turn around the
School of Medicine is always at the forefront in
making that thing happen. – So Jen deserves this award
because she is a committed public servant. As a physician I know that
she could be doing a million other things, but she’s chosen
to serve the state and to serve Hoosiers, and
help ensure that Indiana is on the right track to really focus on health equity and
individual healthcare needs. And so for that reason because
she’s compelled by that mission and comes to work daily
affects so many individuals. I can’t think of a better
person to receive this award. She brings an energy that is unparalleled. It is a natural, I would
say kind of evidence based experience with her. She stills works in the
E.R. so she’ll come in on Wednesday mornings with
a very concrete example of where our safety net programs
may be where she found some gaps, or where we’re doing
well, and so every fiber of her being which plays
out within the agency is how can we serve people better? How can we improve our safety net? How do we encourage
health equity and really transform our services? So she just brings just a
tremendous amount of passion and focus, and she’s very,
there’s a lot of teaching in what she does, and it’s a very
natural and unassuming you don’t know it, but you
spend a little bit of time with her and you’re a
better person for it. – I’d like to accomplish in
this career a couple of things. One, I love being a doctor, and I want to make sure that
when I walk out of every single shift that the people that I work with and the people that I took
care of, knew that they had somebody who was really
invested in their health, invested in their care. And secondly, I would like
to make sure that the work that we do is not just a pet
project, but that when I’m not here anymore and no one remembers
who I am, that the legacy that we left behind is
that we deliver excellent compassionate services that
impact people in ways that they really don’t even understand,
and that we’ve driven health outcomes to put Indiana on the map, not as the bottom of the
quartile, but at the top. This award is really extraordinary. I didn’t know that I had been nominated, and so the call was incredible. I thought when I came
here back in 1996 this was not on the list. The list was finish. Just the idea of coming from a
small town and then going off to school, and then coming
back to medical school without a whole lot of folks
in your life in medicine, I just wanted to get it done. I wanted to be good at it. But the idea of being good at
it and then someone saying hey you did a good job, and you’re
making an impact, that’s not the reason that you do the
work, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

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