Perseverance: Icing on Cake for Pastry Chef

Meet Bruce Dodds

Bruce early in his cake manufacturing career
Early Career

Bruce admits he was a poor student at North Dakota’s Fargo North High School. Book learning was not his thing. The social part was. Hands-on learning trumped books, always.

Yet, he found unconditional love and support from his parents who weren’t deterred by his poor attitude and poor grades.

They understood with time and finding his passion, Bruce would thrive. And, how right they were.

At age 50, Bruce retired as Vice President of Research and Development in a business he helped build. Then sold.

Here’s Bruce’s Story.

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Rich Texas Life

Bruce is completely content with his life’s path. “I’ve been blessed beyond my wildest dreams. I couldn’t possibly wish for anything else.”

He and his wife of 39 years, Teresa (Wickenheiser), a registered nurse, are both retired and living in  Texas. They’re the proud parents of two adult children and five grandchildren.

Most days Bruce awakens early and takes his two Labradors out to train for field trials. “It’s stress-free fun that gives me a reason to get out of the bed in the morning.  My dogs just love it.”

Hunting in North Dakota

Afternoons are spent in his pottery studio “throwing clay on the wheel or hand building pieces.” He doesn’t sell any of his many works. “One day my kids will have to figure out how to get rid of it all.”

He does get the parallel between cake baking and clay. Cake baking and pottery design both require immense amounts of creativity. Each begins with raw ingredients eventually shaped into a finished product-a cake and a beautiful functional art piece.

When not creating, he’s planning repeat trips to remote parts of the world, like Africa, to see wildlife and scenery not found in the USA. Or, he’s hunting in his home state of North Dakota and polishing up his photography skills.

Path to Texas Via New York

Education

Bruce’s NDSU West Dining Center boss is to thank for his career path. As a high school student, he worked there after school and during the summer. Early in his senior year, work peers asked about post-graduation plans. “I shrugged my shoulders and said I didn’t have a clue.” The thought of that question made him sick. “I knew I didn’t want to go to college.”

His boss suggested culinary school because he seemed to enjoy his job there so much.

Bruce sought direction from his high school guidance counselor who steered him to The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. https://www.ciachef.edu/

“One look at the brochure and immediately I knew I wanted to go there, without even stepping foot in the school.” He applied and was accepted.

He started in January 1978 after quitting his NDSU job and working in a restaurant for a few months (a pre-requisite for admission).

Despite feeling lost and homesick, Bruce “loved school.” He even landed on the Dean’s List-a cause for family celebration on a school break.

He graduated in August 1979 with an Associate’s Degree taking classes ranging from Beginning Bake Shop (3 weeks) to Classical Pastry and Showpieces (3 weeks) to meat cutting to table service.

Lesson #1

It doesn’t take a four-year college degree to be successful. “If one finds what they love to do and are willing to work hard, anything is possible.”

Jobs to Lay-Off to Career

Bruce held many jobs before landing a career in the food industry.

  • Baker for 4 months at a Monticello, NY hotel
  • Pastry Chef at a hotel in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands for a year
  • Pastry Chef at a country club in The Woodlands, Texas for a year
  • Pastry Chef at the University Club in Houston, Texas for six years

Like many, he contemplated a career switch, going so far as applying to become a Houston police officer. He decided to remain in the food industry after just one interview with the department.

He found himself with “walking papers” when the oil economy and real estate market tanked in Houston. “A pastry chef is a luxury for most clubs. There are outside sources for cakes and pastry without having to pay a salary.”

On his last day of work at the Club, he grabbed the classified ads on his way out and saw an ad for a pastry chef at a dessert and coffee bar.

Dessert Manufacturing

Product Line

Bruce went to work for the owners of the dessert and coffee bar and a year later owned a small percentage of the business. It had 4-hourly employees and a 600 square foot bakery.

As the business grew, the bakery moved into a 7000 square foot building and within another year it moved into a 30,000 square foot facility. One year later, they doubled their square footage to 60,000 square feet.

Eventually, they built their own 160,000 square foot place.

When the business was sold in 2006, it had 350 hourly employees.

Bruce was the Owner, Pastry Chef + Vice President of Research and Development for 21 years.

He learned large volume production on the job and initially leaned heavily on his food scientist ingredient suppliers. “It was very stressful for me as the entire business relied and counted on my being able to formulate recipes that:

  • Mixed and baked well in large volume production
  • Tasted good
  • Could be produced efficiently and cost effectively.”

250,000 Cakes

Overnight the company grew from 5-6 hourly employees to 75 employees to fulfill their first large volume club store company order: 250,000 9-inch, 3-layer black forest cakes.

“We were so naïve. We really didn’t know what we could or couldn’t do in production. We may not have had a darn clue but we needed the business and figured it out.” Most of the time, things worked out fine. “It was stressful at the time but quite humorous today.”

Lesson #2

A strong work ethic is huge in achieving success.

“Don’t be afraid to work hard. In fact, if you don’t, you likely won’t succeed.”

Lesson #3

“If you fail at something, pick yourself up, shake off the dust, learn from the mistake and keep pounding away. Sooner or later, it’ll all work out. You’ll be richer for it.”

Family Matters

The food industry is physically demanding and can be all consuming, thus taxing on the home life. “We eat and sleep the business. A supportive family sure does help.”

Teresa, his wife, “held down the fort at home” and was supportive of Bruce’s work. “She was, and is, my rock. Without her it would all have been for nothing.”

Lesson #4

Those who succeed in this industry, like most, “work hard and grind it out, daily.”

Work Life Balance

Bruce thinks a work life balance is important but easily admits “I found it to be pretty difficult.” Work consumed him both at the office and at home. Test kitchen and production deadlines were always looming and the phone rang constantly, even during the middle of the night.

“I’d say, if one is able to close the office door and go home to enjoy his or her family without thinking of the work sitting on the desk, you are better for it.”

Accolades + Awards

Bruce’s proudest achievement to date is his family.

Forced to cite professional awards, he lists being able to retire at age 50 as his greatest professional achievement. “The sale of our company was the ‘award’ my partners and I strove for and fought for all those years.”

Along the way, he

  • Survived in a household with two older academic and athletic brothers. One a dentist. The other an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.
  • Won a Bailey’s Irish Crème food competition in Houston
  • Appeared on the cover American Airlines’ American Way magazine behind a 5-tiered wedding cake prepared for his final project at CIA.

3 Principles + Values

What always guided Bruce toward these achievements were the three principles and values learned at a young age.

Lesson #5

Timeliness is important in business and everyday life. Be on time for meetings and appointments. “Being late is rude and shows you think your time is more valuable than the people you are to meet.”

Lesson #6

Preparedness. Always show up well prepared and knowledgeable. “Nothing bothered me more than having folks show up ill prepared and clearly not ready for the meeting.” This is inconsiderate and shows laziness.

Lesson #7

Exceed Expectations. Learn all you can about your customer’s business, including their customer base. Knowing this makes it possible to meet or exceed expectations. Bruce made many trips to see grocery store bakery buyers from all over the country. “If I was asked to bring a certain product, I did. But I also brought variations of it as well.” Many times, customers don’t quite know what they want. Offering options shows you did your homework and went the extra mile. “This was always appreciated.”

Future

“I can’t think of a thing I’d like to accomplish yet in my life. I am content and happy.”

Finding what he was meant to do and fulling that calling were hallmarks of Bruce’s success and path in life.

Not surprising, his go-to song today is Lauren Daigle’s, “You Say.”

Listen

“When we think we are worthless and don’t recognize our strengths. God sees them.”

And many thank God for helping Bruce discover + understand his greater purpose.

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©Copyright. May 2019. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images or copy on this site. All are copyright protected and images are available for sale.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Contact her using the form above.

Life of Maine’s Executive Chef Matthew Ginn

Popular Portland, Maine Chef

Recognize this chef?  You should.

He’s Executive Chef Matthew Ginn of Portland, Maine.

He leads the kitchens at both EVO Kitchen + Bar and the Chebeague Island Inn (Open May-October).

Matthew competed on several 2018 Food Network “Chopped” episodes, leaving with a $10,000 prize and a 3rd place finale finish.

In 2015 he was Maine’s Lobster Chef of the Year.

Balance is Key

Matthew’s a married father of two young children. He works 50-70 hours a week. Time management is his greatest obstacle. Unmarried and childless, work was his life. Today, like many, he struggles with work and life balance. “Sometimes I feel like I can’t give either my job or my kids enough; therefore, I am not being as good of a chef or as good of a dad as I could be.” However, Chef Matthew keeps the challenge in perspective:  “A great dish is all about balance, and life is too.”

Tough Love Leads to Kitchen

Matthew abruptly quit college in 2005, coming home to parents who insisted rent start the next day. His prior work experiences all included food: strawberry picking, prep cooking and dishwashing at small restaurants and working in produce and meat rooms in neighborhood groceries. Naturally, he found a restaurant gig.

His calling was gradual. Initially, he was drawn to the energy and speed of a kitchen. It mirrored his past sports competitions, filled with adrenaline and excitement. He began enjoying going to work, “which I think is very rare.”

Four years later Matthew knew he was never leaving a kitchen. The precision, technique and refined plating of fine dining had him all in. “I couldn’t get enough”. Combining an artistic and creative outlet with the speed and physicality of sports hooked him.

New Chefs Listen Up

Matthew knows a ton about what it takes to become a successful chef. “Young chefs are always surprised by how hard it actually is.” Many think in a year or two they’ll be a sous chef.  “That is totally the wrong attitude. You have to put in the work and be ready to make sacrifices.”

  • Say goodbye to weekends, as you know them.
  • Your weekend will be Monday and Tuesday, if you get two days off in a row.
  •  Say goodbye to holidays. Matthew’s worked 6 Thanksgivings in a row and hasn’t had New Year’s Eve off in over a decade.
  • Find a new Valentine’s Day for you and your loved one.

New chefs are often surprised by the wage differences between the front to back of house staffs. “You have to know what you’re signing up for. You don’t line cook for the money. If you are in the restaurant business for the money, you should be a server.”

To be a good cook you need to be

  1. Patient
  2. Hardworking
  3. Humble, and understand
  4. A great dining experience includes good food, warm hospitality and great company. And above all else,

“Know that it’s not what is on the plate that matters, it’s what’s in the chairs.”

5. Find inspiration. Cooking inspiration comes and goes. Matthew looks at old cookbooks, his old recipe journals and even to fellow cooks. He thrives in collaborative kitchens where everyone is encouraged to participate in menu development. “Cooking inspiration is like the tide. Sometimes it’s in and sometimes it’s out. And, there’s not much rhyme or reason for it.”

Adventurous Eaters Wanted

Matthew doesn’t have a favorite food or dish. Instead, he likes what’s in season and when a product is at its best. Like asparagus in the summer. And, he loves the challenge of cooking food people think they don’t like.

Chickpea Fries

The most popular menu items at EVO are tuna and chickpea fries. They’re dishes influenced by the eastern Mediterranean and made with local Maine products in a modern, progressive way. They’re approachable.

“Fries make people more comfortable, even though they are not French Fries at all. They’re actually a technique called chickpea panisse. However, when panisse was on the menu, no one ordered it.” With a name change, it’s now one of the most popular items ordered at EVO.

Making Good Food is Objective. Taste is Subjective.

You don’t have to be a “foodie” to enjoy Matthew’s cooking. In fact, it’s a term and attitude he dislikes. With the growth and popularity of the restaurant and food scene in the past two decades, people’s interest in food and cooking has grown, and will continue to grow.

Matthew acknowledges that somewhere along the way non-hospitality professionals needed to express their knowledge and understanding of the cooking and restaurant world by dubbing themselves, “foodies.” Here is what he sees with everyone now being a “foodie.”

“Making good food is objective. Use the best ingredients and cook the product with proper technique. Taste is subjective.” Some might like bitter things more while others prefer sweets.

“But because you don’t like bitter doesn’t mean the properly cooked broccoli rabe is bad or the grapefruit sorbet isn’t good, because you don’t like bitter. Someone might not be familiar with every ingredient or technique used.

You have to be adventurous. And, I’ve met plenty of “foodies” who are not adventurous.”

Favorites

Matthew wants to cook whatever is your favorite thing to eat. His competitive spirit makes him attempt to make it the best you’ve ever had. In addition, he wants to please you and cook what you want.

I’m in the hospitality business. Making sure guests are happy and leaving ever happier is the name of the game.

As famed chef, Thomas Keller says, “When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, then the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear: to make people happy, that is what cooking is all about.”

Last Meal
His wife is the person he’d choose to cook for if given only one more meal to prepare. “She and I have shared many wonderful meals together over the years and I think it has always been something very special to our relationship. There is no one I like cooking for more.”

Legacy
“If I’m remembered for anything, I want to be remembered for being a good dad. A great chef would be a close second.” Matthew’s wishes are likely to come true.

Recently, his 3-year-old son told him, “thanks Dad, you’re a great chef.” Matthew’s heart rightfully melted as he watched his son enjoy his cooking.

Now that’s what cooking and being a chef is all about.

SHARE this post with anyone traveling to the coast of Maine, anyone working or aspiring to work in the hospitality industry, and all who need work/life balance perspective.

Written while roasting Brussels sprouts and simmering a pot of cauliflower soup in my kitchen. Recipes found under “Recipe” tab (side dishes + soups) on this website.

©Copyright. December 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images on this site. All are copyright protected and available for sale.
Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.
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One to Watch: Newly Elected 22-Year-Old Harry Griffin

Youngest City Council Member Ever Elected in Charleston, South Carolina

Harry Griffin is living proof that dreams do come true, even if in a down-scaled sort of way.

Full disclosure. Harry was a classmate and friend of our son, Alex. He played tag football in our Charleston, South Carolina yard and basketball on our driveway. Harry ate at our table and celebrated birthdays on our screened porch. He was part of a group of West Ashley young men. Yet, he was different. He stood out as a leader and made no apologies for it, even as a child.

As one who’s career included two stints on Capitol Hill, I kept an eye on him. I especially took interest when, as a 3rd grade student, he announced on a local TV station that he’d one day run for President of the USA. I knew he could, and should. He had leadership talent. Family, teachers and friends all noticed and fostered it.

At age 22, Harry Griffin is the youngest Charleston City Council member in modern history. He was elected in a District 10 run-off in November 2017. He smiles every day for the honor to serve his community. Harry knows he’s lucky and he gives all glory to God and thanks to his family, who, according to his mom, Susie Podiak, will always be in the front row cheering him on.

Maritime Industry

The second oldest of four boys, this 2016 Citadel graduate is a Project Manager at Neal Brothers Charleston, Inc.-a 100-year-old international export packing company led by his father, Darryl Griffin, Sr. A man Harry calls “a very strong leader who’s always been my hero and mentor.”
Harry grew up exposed to the business and enjoyment of one of Charleston’s most important industries-the Maritime industry. He’s foresees himself as an experienced leader one day at Neal Brothers. And, he projects a political career, fighting for “civil liberties of all Charlestonians.”

Getting Elected

Although Harry’s election at age 22 is novel in the City of Charleston, he doesn’t think youth is as important as it once was. He does acknowledge, however, that his age did help him stand out and gain additional coverage. He claims his positivity and work ethic were equally important to the historic victory. Familiarity and ease of using social media to communicate his platforms and message to a broad range of voters in rapid time were also key victory indicators.

Harry never doubted he could win. He was ready to make a positive, direct impact on the lives of his friends, family and neighbors. He sought out campaign advice from two-term council member, Marvin Wagner. Wagner was also the first to congratulate Harry on his win and told him to get ready to work. “The easy part was over.”

Getting to Work

Harry hit the ground running. His District notoriously floods, so he’s working with companies and various government entities toward flood mitigation and infrastructure improvements. He keeps his constituents updated with regular social media posts. He spends weekends meeting with residents and doing civic projects. Harry is an active member of the St. Andrew’s Rotary group and the South Carolina Maritime Association.

He’s learning while he’s going. He dissects bimonthly agendas to gain an understanding of key issues before casting a vote. He’s eager to learn more about public transit. “It’s so important to Charleston’s future and we haven’t used it to the full potential.”

Harry is working hard to stay true to the Citadel motto: Honor, Duty and Respect. His actions and decisions are about his constituents and putting their needs first.

National Politics

Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) is Harry’s national political role model. “Senator Scott is a strong leader who is truly admirable. He not only fights for Republican values but also South Carolinian rights and values.”

He opines that politics on a national level has great intentions but subpar results. Given an opportunity to appoint a President and Vice-President, he’d appoint the current office holders. “We needed something different because the same old political practices were not working.”

Not surprisingly given his upbringing and career interest, on a national level, Harry cares most about the nation’s infrastructure and Commerce regulations.

Harry Griffin Gets Personal

Harry looks forward to one day being a husband and father. For now, he’s content to spend time with his four-year-old brother, Timber, and to watch his brother, Buster, march in step at Citadel parades.

He writes his own music and sings Karaoke.

Harry dreams of a trip to Hawaii where he can turn off his phone and lay on the beach for a week.

He seeks out and admires those with humility, perseverance and generosity.

You’ve done well, Harry Griffin.
The future is bright. You’re one to watch. I’m watching.

 

 

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

© Copyright. March 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All rights reserved.

Dr. Havidich on the Life & Practice of Successful Medicine

Introducing Dr. Havidich

Jeana, as she likes to be called, is one of the most well-rounded professionals one will ever meet. She’s a brilliant,  20-year practicing anesthesiologist and researcher. An outstanding chef and world traveler. She’s a community servant. A history buff who explores archeological sites. Secretly, she dances waltzes to big band music. She lives her life to be remembered as one who positively impacted others. She has. She continues to. Here’s how.

Principled Life

Jeana values friendship and time with those she cares about most. She gets boundless joy spending time with family and friends, particularly when they’re having a great dinner filled with laughter and cheer.
She understands her many achievements came with the help of her husband of twenty years, Dr. Mark Herrin, and her family and friends. “Although my life has been a fantastic journey, it’s been challenging at times.” Their love and support have kept Jeana grounded during the most difficult times. So have the principles guiding her life.

Honesty and Integrity: These are the traits she values the most. No matter what mistakes one makes in life, individuals who strive to incorporate honesty and integrity are respected by members of their community. Always trying to do the ‘right thing’ by others allows one to sleep soundly at night.

Service to Others: This has provided Jeana the greatest sense of satisfaction. Being able to help children and adults during a very difficult and stressful time in their lives is very challenging, but extremely rewarding.

Personal & Professional Growth: Growth is the key to happiness. Jeana continuously strives to improve herself to help others. She believes complacency is detrimental, on every level.

Choosing Medicine

Jeana feels fortunate to have found a profession that aligns with her values-something she considers key to a successful and fulfilling life. Medicine allows her to incorporate her principles of service, independence, and continuous professional and personal growth into her daily life.

“My choice to become an anesthesiologist was based on my desire to provide life-saving care to patients in critical situations. I thought I’d pursue a career as a Critical Care specialist in Anesthesia but soon realized my passion was providing perioperative care for children. I have not regretted my choice.

After 20 years of practice, “I still enjoy coming to work and providing this care.” She enjoys the daily interaction and learning from her patients, colleagues and students.

In fact, her most memorable moments as an anesthesiologist come from being outsmarted by children. For example, the six-year-old who locked himself into a bathroom so he didn’t have to have surgery. Or, the three-year-old who showed up for surgery and promptly went behind the nurses’ station and ate a nurse’s lunch, prompting an immediate cancellation of his procedure.

She’s humbled by the many patients who’ve survived against all odds-patients with tremendous resilience.

Dr. Havidich at Dartmouth

Jeana is a board certified Pediatric Anesthesiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire. She was awarded a scholarship from The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice (TDI). She spends 75% of her time as a clinician, 20% researching and 5% lecturing/teaching.

Her current research focuses include health services research, quality and safety initiatives and the science of health care delivery.

Her latest research publication illustrated that patients born prematurely have a higher incidence of perioperative complications that last until adulthood. This research will enable anesthesiologists to prepare for the possibility of perioperative complications. “By understanding when and why complications occur, anesthesiologists can develop plans to minimize risk to patients.”

Jeana’s excited about an upcoming research project that looks at cancer development in patients exposed to opioids. Currently she is seeking government funding for this research.

Since the first rule of medicine is DO NO HARM, she is continually identifying those areas and processes to improve anesthesiology practices. “There is nothing more devastating than to watch a patient suffer or have an adverse event.” Her goal is to prevent that from ever happening.

7 Tips for Successful Career in Medicine

Educating and guiding young women into medicine is a passion for Jeana. While not claiming “to have all the answers,” she hopes younger professional women can learn from her experiences.

She believes the most important character traits leading to professional success are strong leadership and communication. “Fortunately, life-threatening situations are rare. However, those who handle these situations well by remaining calm and focused are most respected.

Persistence is also key to success. “As one moves up the ladder, competition is tougher. It’s not going to be easy. There are failures and disappointments along the way. Persistence pays off.”

Other tips for a successful career in medicine include:

1. Excel as a Clinician. Physicians respect other physicians who are hard-working, knowledgeable and provide high quality, safe, and compassionate medical care to their patients. This is medicine’s primary mission – “and you must do it to the best of your abilities. If you are not perceived as a dedicated, successful clinician, you will not have respect from others.”

2. Pursue Your Passion. Engage in the area in medicine that energizes you. Your specialty will find you–not the other way around. The amount of time and energy required to be successful in this field outweighs any financial gain. Circumstances change–and so do lifestyles and financial compensation. Be dedicated and passionate about your work.

3. Cultivate Strong Communication Skills. When the American Board of Anesthesiology first published core competencies that focused on communication and professionalism, Jeana was somewhat perplexed. After thoughtful consideration, she realized that mastering these skills ensures success for both the physician and the profession. Doctors work in a highly complex, fragmented medical system and effective communication with patients and colleagues is necessary to provide high quality, safe medical care.

4. Become Resilient. Doctors also work in a high risk, high stakes profession. They work long hours in a stressful environment. Patient lives are on the line and unfortunately things don’t always work out. How one addresses adversity in their personal and professional lives impacts their ability to care for themselves and others. Flexibility and adaptability are essential components as well. She recommends developing and cultivating these skills early in one’s career.

5. Get a Sense of Humor. It will be needed. Although practicing medicine is one of the greatest professions in the world, it is also fraught with frustrations. Therefore, one must develop a strong sense of humor in order to go about their day. The great thing about working with kids is that they provide a unique perspective that enables laughter. Try to take it in stride. Remember what’s really important.

6. Embrace Failure. Learn from it and move on. One of the most difficult lessons Jeana has learned over the years is how to deal with failure. “We are not perfect, and we will make career mistakes along the way.” While dedication and persistence are important characteristics to achieve success, it is also important to recognize when they are detrimental to one’s career. The important thing is to learn from failure and move on. The past cannot be changed. One can only learn from it. “In many respects, my biggest failures have led to my greatest successes. Correcting real or perceived deficiencies through determination and persistence have enabled me to achieve my goals. I’d tell my younger self not to fear failure but instead learn from it and move on. Take chances.”

7. Appreciate Life. It’s Too Short of an Adventure. Medicine constantly reminds Jeana that life is both extremely fragile and resilient at the same time. She watches patients endure unspeakable hardships and yet emerge with new-found hope and strength. “This always amazes me.” It’s also reminds her that it’s important to cherish every minute and to strive to reach one’s full potential. “Life is a gift, but often it seems too short.”

Work/Life Balance

Jeana reports that recently there has been a lot of attention given to physician burnout. “Medical professionals simply cannot provide care for others if they are not well themselves.” Maintaining a work/life balance can be a struggle. But, it is necessary to achieve personal and professional goals.

Work/life balance ratio will change over time. Career opportunities, family obligations, economic circumstances and practice changes impact the right balance. “It’s important to recognize signs of burnout early and make changes before serious issues in relationships or one’s career occur.”

Separate but Together

Drs. Jeana and Mark have lived in different states for a number of years due to professional opportunities. To some, this distance can be distressing. To them, it’s strengthened their relationship. “We designate protected time each day and throughout the year for each other.” They focus on their relationship when together and on their work and outside interests when apart. They understand the temporary nature of this status and have consciously decided to “make it work” with the support of colleagues, family and friends.

Having the right perspective matters. They understand other couples are less fortunate than they are, particularly those military families with overseas deployments.

Giving Back

Jeana subscribes to the belief that community service and engagement are key factors for resiliency and achieving happiness. Therefore, one of Jeana’s greatest personal satisfactions comes from “giving back” to both her profession and her community.

To Her Profession
She is grateful for the physician scientists and educators that have moved her profession forward. Advances in patient safety, technology, and education have decreased perioperative mortality over the past several decades. In return, Jeana has volunteered time at the local, state, and national levels with the hope of contributing back to her profession. Participating in national organizations such as the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF), serving on State Appointed Task Forces, and lecturing at local schools and community centers have enriched her professional life.

To Her Community
The hard-working, blue-collar Croatian-American community in Jeana’s Pennsylvania hometown raised money for children of Croatian heritage to further their education. These scholarship funds greatly benefited Jeana in achieving her career goals. In return, she has been working with the Association of Croatian American Professionals to develop a birthright “Domovina” scholarship program and a national Medical Tourism program in Croatia. “I hope to repay the Croatian American community by contributing to the development of these programs.”

Tips from Dr. Jeana for Patients

Surgical Patients Should Ask Anesthesiologists These:

Anesthesiologists have developed protocols and screening tools to identify medically complex patients who may be at risk for perioperative complications. If identified as such a patient, Jeana advises you to ask your anesthesiologist:

1. Based on my surgical procedure and medical history, what are my major risk factors for perioperative complications and what we can we do to decrease that risk?

2. What resources are available should an unexpected emergency occur? For instance, is there a blood bank readily available in the event I would need blood? Are there appropriate emergency equipment and personnel able to provide care in the event of an emergency?

3. What should I expect after surgery? Are there other means of controlling pain in addition to narcotics?

3 Skills Every Great Doctor Must Have

“Over time, I have found patients gravitate to physicians based on whether or not they approve of their personality.” Some physicians are scientific and matter of fact. And, some patients prefer this style over what others may refer to as a more compassionate physician. Jeana thinks the important thing is to find the right fit for you as a patient. “Ask for an interview or schedule an appointment to see if the physician is a good fit for you.”
Other things to consider in choosing a physician:

Solid Communication Skills. This is important not only for the patient but also the medical team. In today’s world of advanced technology, doctors are using web-based programs to communicate with patients.

Great Technical Skills in the procedural area. Investigate their outcomes data, although it might be hard to find. “It’s easier to find out more about a car you’re purchasing than who will provide your medical care.” Get a second opinion and ask for patient references and interview them.

Consistent Follow-Up Skills. Find a physician who follows up with their patients both personally (communication skill) and with processes like lab tests, x-rays, etc.

What’s Next for Anesthesiologist Dr. Jeana?

She’d like to continue practicing pediatric anesthesia and pursuing academic interests like:
• Research on health services-analyzing outcomes and quality using large databases.
• Research on the science of health care delivery systems
• Monitoring the growth of the Medical Tourism industry

As a researcher and practitioner, she’d like to see the development of regeneration of tissue, especially neural tissue. For instance, enhancing the growth rate of functional neural cells, one could theoretically make a quadriplegic patient walk again. Regenerating hepatic cells could eliminate the need for liver transplants. Generating neurons that produce hormones could cure diseases like Parkinson’s.

As an academician, she’d like to see expansion of individualized/targeted medical therapies tailored to a patient’s genetic makeup. This allows physicians to find the right drug for each patient, based on their genetic makeup. (This already exists for certain types of cancer and genetic diseases.)

Jeana wants the medical profession to discuss the cost of getting a medical degree and offer solutions. “It’s expensive and not reimbursed.”  She’d like to see the practice of ‘simulation’ to advance patient safety.

On a personal level, she wants to explore more of the world as a traveler with husband, Mark.

Jeana is an endless crusader for her profession and her own personal and professional development. She is a blessing to her family and circle of friends. Knowing her makes each of them better.

Here’s wishing anesthesiologist, Dr. Jeana Havidich,  many more years of practicing medicine, researching and developing and training new practitioners.

Do you have a question you’d like to ask Dr. Jeana or a recommended travel location for her? Share below.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. February 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved.

Want to Be Promoted? Get a Pioneering Mindset

Automotive Executive’s Pioneering Mindset

Want to understand automotive executive Ron Meier? Grab a copy of Willa Cather’s My Antonio-a 1918 published novel that’s stuck with him for decades. In the late 1800’s story, Jim and Antonio’s families settle on the Nebraska prairie. Though their lives take very different paths, they remain lifetime platonic friends. Throughout the book, Cather captures the great American spirit, portrays the vast landscape and reveals the mindset, determination and willpower of the pioneering people. “The characters and setting bring North Dakota childhood memories back to me and remind me of the many who’ve come in and out of my life over time,” reflects Ron.

Natural Pioneer

Ron’s attraction to pioneering stories comes naturally. In the fall of 1966, the Meier family of seven relocated from rural south central North Dakota to Ypsilanti, Michigan. Worn out by farming, Mr. Meier boarded a train for Michigan where he secured a Ford Motor Company job. After finding housing, he sent for his family who moved the day after Thanksgiving, pulling a small rental trailer behind their car.

Ron is adaptable to relocations. To date, he has lived in eight places, mostly for work advancements. Today he and Karen, his wife of 35 years, reside in southern California. They are the proud parents of five sons and a daughter. Their lives are blessed with two grandchildren and two more are expected in 2017. Theirs is a full and rich life created by the personality traits Cather used to describe pioneering Midwesterners: hardworking, faithful, persistent and determined.

Rising through the Ranks of the Automotive Industry

Ron worked his way up the automotive industry career ladder using these pioneering traits. In 1978, he started as an hourly employee in the Hydra-matic transmission factory (a division of General Motors). Today he is the Western Executive Regional Director for Chevrolet in Moorpark, California. He’s responsible for sales in 13 western states, including Alaska and Hawaii.

His path was anything but a paved highway. Along the way, he was an apprentice powerplant mechanic and a Journeyman (skilled tradesman) powerplant mechanic at Hydra-matic. He paid his own way through night school, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration (Accounting and Finance) degree in 1984. He then was a salaried cost accountant at Hydra-matic. His MBA in International Business followed in 1990.

General Motors World Headquarters then offered him a staff assistant role in the GM corporate accounting and finance department. In 1995, he became a GM administrator working in numerous staff functions as a people leader. Four years later (1999) he was relocated to the field staff as a financial administrator supporting the GM Sales, Service and Marketing staff.

Ron became a Buick and GMC Zone Manager (OH, MI, PA and KY) in 2007 and was promoted to Senior Zone Manager (IL, IN and WI) in 2013 before promotion to his current role of Western Executive Regional Director.

“I’ve stayed with GM because I’ve developed a passion for what I do. Additionally, I work around some of the best and brightest people in the industry. GM has evolved into a well-run, innovative and dynamic company in a dynamic industry.”

Recession & Celebrity at GMC

Ron’s most memorable career experience is the 2008-9 economic recession. “These were troubled times filled with high anxiety. No one knew how things would turn out. In times like these, it becomes abundantly clear how important faith, hard work, focus and the values instilled in childhood are in overcoming adversity.”

Because of what Ron does professionally, throughout his career, he has had the opportunity to meet many public figures like Peyton Manning, Shaquille O’Neal, Erin Andrews, Fred Couples, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, and more. Meeting these individuals makes him realize that people generally have the same hopes, fears, concerns, etc. no matter how famous they are. “They just perform on a larger stage.”

Leadership

Ron’s first leadership role was drum major for his high school marching band. “Back in those days one was chosen based on musicianship, physical ability and leadership. I realized then that people do not necessarily follow you because of your title, but they will follow you if you lead them.”

Traits of a Good Leader

  1. A good leader sees diversity of his group as a strength and finds ways to extract the best thinking from its members. “Over the years, I’ve found when people understand how what they do fits into the overall success of the organization and they feel they’ve contributed to that success, I’m on my way to developing an engaged, high-performing team.”
  2. People relate to leaders who are comfortable in their own skin and show some humanity.
  3. A good leader is also a good teacher.
  4. A good leader is a powerful and prolific communicator who not only focuses his group on what needs to be done but also the “why” behind the “what.”
  5. A good leader defines what success looks like and effectively conveys how this success benefits the entire group.

Selecting Leaders

Ron looks for several characteristics in leaders. “You don’t need to be a leader of people to possess these characteristics. Each is important in business. You are more likely to succeed if you can build an organizational culture where these are valued.”

  1. Personal Capability
  2. Results Oriented
  3. Acceptance of Responsibility
  4. Accountability for Results
  5. Strong Interpersonal Skills
  6. Being a Change Agent through Innovation
  7. Strong Character and Integrity

Principles & Values

“The dumbest mistake I made in my early life was thinking that reaching out to others for help or guidance was a sign of weakness.” Through conversations with others and a lot of self-reflection, Ron’s realized reaching out to the right people at the right time can be a smart move. “It enables you to get a fresh perspective and resolve a lot of issues, perhaps more quickly.”

Live By

  1. Be Responsible– “Own It”- Doing so helps one acknowledge his mistakes, take corrective action and learn from mistakes rather than pointing fingers at others or circumstances.
  2. Be Self-Motivated-No need to wait for an invitation to do what needs to be done…do it!
  3. Put Others First-Be part of something bigger than yourself. While some self-indulgence can be healthy, the majority of time should be spent in service of others.

UpSide of Downs a 501(c) (3) Non-Profit Organization

Ron and Karen put these principles to use in 1996 shortly after their son Steven was born with Downs Syndrome. They created UpSide of Downs in response to a lack of helpful information for parents and caregivers of these children. “We wanted current and less depressing information.” Initially they assembled materials into a booklet but today have a website that has branched into an informational source for caregivers of special needs children, adults and captives of dementia disease.

Not on the Golf Course

One’s not likely to find Ron on the golf course. “If pressed into service because of work, I’ll go and have a good time. But, the amount of time needed to become decent makes me turn away from the game.” Instead Ron spends as much time as he can with his family, attends church regularly and works on projects around the house, whittling away his “to-do” list.

Ron’s greatest joy comes from the blessings of seeing what wonderful people his children have developed into and the fine people they’ve married. Seeing the legacy being passed on in the parenting of their children is an added bonus.

Happy and Proud Influencers

If asked, Ron’s three cited influencers would likely list the same source of personal joy. Each of them possesses pioneering traits similar to the characters in Cather’s My Antonio. His dad Steve had a strong work ethic, a deep Catholic faith, a sense of humor and was known for how well he treated people. His mom Margaret taught him the skills for living and values that kept him on the straight and narrow. And, his wife Karen, the mother of their six children (two with Down Syndrome), has been a gift to his life. She managed their family life while he completed two degrees, primarily through night school; navigated many corporate relocations and supported him through his own life’s journey.

Share this with others who will learn from Ron’s journey and approach to life, especially those seeking to be leaders with a pioneering mindset.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

© Copyright. April 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

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