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Vital Signs

Clinical Observation

In this section, we highlight the human side of clinical academic
medicine, putting a few questions to a physician at DMS-DHMC.

Torunn Rhodes, M.D.
Associate Professor of Pediatrics

Rhodes specializes in neonatology and neonatal pulmonology and is medical director of DHMC's home oxygen and ventilator program for infants. She has been on the Dartmouth faculty since 1987.

How did you get interested in neonatology?
I had no exposure to newborns in medical school—they were off limits for clumsy medical students—but as soon as I set my foot in Dartmouth's Intensive Care Nursery (ICN) as a pediatric intern in 1982, I knew that was what I wanted to do with my professional life. I believe strongly in family-centered care and strive to get the infants home as soon as possible where they can be better co-managed with the family.

What do you like most about your job?
That's a very difficult question to answer. My job is a tapestry of intense experiences, all interwoven and important: the complex medical management in the ICN, the emotional rollercoaster we are privileged to go on with parents, the close working relationships with the staff. If I must pick, I would say the constant daily challenge. It is never a dull moment and there are always opportunities for learning. I love to go to work every day.

What advice would you offer to someone new in your field?
Listen to parents. Don't be afraid to love your patients. Practice evidence-based medicine.

What's the hardest lesson you ever had to learn?
The lesson I am still learning—to accept the things in my life that I cannot change.

Where did you grow up?
In Norway, in a small, idyllic coastal town. I explored the fjords and islands all summer, and skied in the nearby mountains and played in the snow all winter.

When you were young what did you want to be?
A telegraph operator on a Norwegian ocean liner that would take me all over the world (remember, this was 1950!)

What is your most memorable accomplishment?
Probably the Canadian Ski Marathon, which I did with my daughter in 1996. It is North America's longest and oldest Nordic ski tour. We ended up with blisters and frostbite, but triumphant.

What about you would surprise most people?
I am an open book, no surprises.

What's the last movie you saw?
The Hurt Locker. It brought the war in Iraq close to home—it was heartbreaking.

What's your favorite nonwork activity?
Spending time with my two granddaughters.

If you invented a time machine, where would you go?
Forward five generations to 2160, so I could look at the world as I want it to be—one country, with peace and justice for all. I could get to know my great-great-grandchildren.

What is a talent you wish you had?
Playing the violin.

What was your first paying job?
I have worked all my life. My very first job was at age 8, picking up daily groceries for an elderly neighbor for about $1 a week. She would also give me a Christmas present wrapped in colorful cellophane paper from America. It was the most elegant package under our tree.

If you could trade places with anyone, real or imaginary, who would it be?
Honestly, I would not trade with anybody.


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