Sharon Douglas, MD, Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean for Education at the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center, is retiring this month after 35 years of service to UMMC and the VA. Douglas clinically practiced pulmonology at the VA and was heavily involved in medical student and graduate medical education at UMMC. Douglas also displayed a strong interest in ethics and was a core faculty member of the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at UMMC, Associate Chief of Staff for Education and Ethics at the VA, and a former member of the Veterans Health Administration National Ethics Committee. She also served on the AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs for seven years. The VA has recognized Douglas’ work with a number of awards, including the 1998 Chief of Staff Award, the 2005 VA Secretary’s Hero Award, and the 2009 William A. Nelson Award for Excellence in VHA Healthcare Ethics. Douglas was voted into the Carl G. Evers Hall of Fame for teaching excellence, was named AOA Teacher of the Year in 2010, and has been the keynote speaker for both the Long Coat and White Coat Ceremonies for the School of Medicine. Here, she reflects on her career and what’s in store for her after retirement.
What is your first memory of UMMC?
My first, and happiest, memory of medical school was Gross Anatomy. I loved that course. It was my favorite course in all of medical school.
What has been your favorite thing about your time at UMMC?
My two favorite things about my career have been caring for veterans at the VA and teaching medical students, residents, and fellows. I have learned more from trainees and patients than I have probably taught them. It has also been a blessing to watch my niece and her husband come through medical school—although I was not able to talk either of them into doing internal medicine. 😊
What about your time at UMMC made you sad?
I am always sad to see trainees and colleagues leave.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my privilege of getting to do national ethics work for both the VA Central Office and the American Medical Association.
What advice would you give to those career planning for the future?
Find your niche—that is, your passion in your career and make that your goal.
What do you plan to do with your time now that you are retiring?
Initially I will be caring for ill family. However, I also plan to do some volunteer work, spend time with my parents (both of whom I am blessed to still have), rescue dogs, and travel within the US.