June Physician Spotlight: Michael Simpson, MD

Who or what inspired you to become a physician?
I have wanted to be a physician for a long time. My parents were both in healthcare; my dad was a hospital administrator and my mom was a nurse. I always wanted to be a physician but didn’t know what I wanted to do. When I was fifteen years old, I tore my ACL skateboarding and had surgery. At that point, I decided I wanted to be an Orthopaedic surgeon and have not wavered from that.

Briefly describe a "peak experience" from your career: interaction with a mentor, memorable patient, etc.
There was a young man I took care of who was an Air Force Academy cadet. He fell off Pulpit Rock and had a horrific injury. He was treated by a colleague of mine who asked for me to assist with his care due to injuries to his lower extremities. The concern was he may not be able to stay in the military. The Academy was going to board him out. I advocated with a letter in his support of recovery and he was granted a one-year waiver. He got back, graduated with honors, went to flight school, and is still in the Air Force. I keep in regular contact with him. His dream was to be a pilot. I have been fortunate to live my dream of Orthopaedic Surgery. To be able to help somebody else pursue their dream was very meaningful to me.

What led you to become involved in the El Paso County Medical Society?
I think all medicine is local. I think communities are important. I started as a physician in the military. The collegiality experienced in the military, always seeing each other day in and day out was something that is missed as communities get more spread out. In the hospital setting, everyone used to engage in rounds and that has changed a lot. The ability to connect with colleagues and be involved in the community is what got me interested in joining the El Paso County Medical Society.

What advice would you give to physicians-in-training who are just starting their careers?
I think it all comes down to figuring out what it is you love to do and pursuing that. Everything else falls into place. I think it’s a challenging environment now where we are transitioning from mostly private practice to employed physicians. There is a push and pull with the pros and cons of each of those environments. At some point, you have to decide along those lines what fits your mentality best. Individuals are more geared to one or the other. That is important to try to identify that in yourself. Don’t be afraid to admit when you are wrong and you have made a mistake. Learn from it. You continue to get better and better when you learn from your mistakes, but to think that you go into the career and never make a mistake is naive and sets you up for being really very stressed.

What do you enjoy doing outside of medicine?
First of all, I love fixing things which is probably why I am a surgeon. I like fixing things around the house or working on a car or piece of equipment. Trying to troubleshoot what is wrong with it and making it work again. I am not a throwaway person so I love keeping things and keeping them working for a long period. I have always loved doing stuff like that.
My wife and I enjoy traveling to historical and archeological sites. We have done a lot of traveling. Traveling to those places and photographing our journeys.
Lastly, we have four-legged friends and enjoy spending time with them.

“What is your favorite item you have fixed, that you still have?”
One of the first things I worked on was converting an antique into a computer furniture piece. We got the idea of taking an antique French armoire and converting it into a computer desk before you could find computer furniture. We converted slide-out drawers for the printer and keyboard and such. At the time, it was uncommon to find computer furniture pieces. That project was fun to do, to repurpose something we just loved looking at to make it functional.

“What was the most memorable historical site you visited and why?”
That is a tough one. The top place is Machu Picchu, partly because we were there at 9-11. Being at Machu Picchu during 9-11 was somewhat surreal but also propelled my wife and me to realize that life changes in an instant. We needed to evaluate what we loved doing, which was visiting historical sites. At the time I was practicing in Plano, TX, outside of Dallas, TX. We realized if we waited to retire, some of the historical sites may not be accessible, maybe too Westernized, or maybe anti-western and not safe to travel. We took time off work, initially planned for one year off, and ended up taking nearly three years off.
We went to Tibet and that was really special. We went there a long time ago and got to see it before a lot of the changes that have occurred now. When it was time to get back to work and start working again, that was what landed me in C/S in 2009.

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