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Vital Signs

Faculty are fond of a garden-variety avocation

By Henry Homeyer

Let's face it: Being a healthcare provider is not a job for sissies. The hours are long and the decisions are often a matter, quite literally, of life and death.

Labors: So how do doctors and other caregivers unwind at the end of a stressful 10- or 12-hour day? Some find relaxation in a cold beer and ESPN. Others recharge their batteries by hoeing and weeding and, later, gathering the fruits—or flowers—of their labors. Gardening, some DHMC providers have found, can be a great way to relax.

"I think of myself as a Darwinian gardener," says Dr. Pat Glowa.

Dr. Peter Mogielnicki and his wife, Nancy, number among the dedicated gardeners on the DMS faculty; he was longtime chief of medicine at the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Vt., and she's a pediatric physician assistant at DHMC. Back in 1977, they bought a house in Plainfield, N.H., that came with an attached greenhouse. Peter Mogielnicki starts seedlings there in the late winter—some 1,000 to 3,000 of them each year. He cultivates not only vegetables, but also annual and perennial flowers. Eventually, they started a small cutflower business that they ran for 12 years, selling to restaurants and florists.

Family physician Pat Glowa considers digging in the dirt "to be good therapy."

More hours: Nancy Mogielnicki struck a deal with DHMC some years ago: she'd work more hours in the winter—when flu and pneumonia are prevalent—if she could work fewer in the summer. As for her husband, he finds there are about three weeks of the growing season when there's a conflict between doctoring and gardening. In early spring, he must rush home at noon to move his seedlings out of the greenhouse so they don't fry.

The Mogielnickis both find gardening a perfect way to unwind. "I don't think of weeding [as] a chore—it's a way to channel my aggression in a productive

way," he says. For her part, she sees gardening as a "blend between science and physical labor and art and other forms of creativity and business and nutrition and mental health. Flowers make people happy."

Dr. Patricia Glowa, a family physician, states unequivocally, "I consider gardening to be good therapy. It's wonderful to watch things grow and develop." Glowa grows both flowers and vegetables but does not regard herself as a compulsive gardener. "I think of myself as a Darwinian gardener. If [the plants] make it, great. If they don't, I'm not responsible."

Love: Glowa began gardening in Springfield, Vt., at age nine when she discovered a volunteer squash plant growing in the family's compost pile. "It was mine. I had to love it," she recalls. Now she grows a little of everything. "If I let myself walk out the back door, I won't come back for half an hour—or two."

The one thing that Glowa does not have—even though she is one of the few physicians in DHMC's family medicine group who still delivers babies—is a cabbage patch.

And, she adds, "I don't have any storks' nests either."

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