Faculty Feature - Dr. Anthony Schaeffer
Sep 9, 2019 12:00 AM
We sat down with University of Utah Health pediatric urologist, Dr. Anthony Schaeffer, to find out why he picked his specialty and what advice he has for future surgeons.
Q: What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job?
Dr. Schaeffer: Definitely the kids – it’s so fun to help them get better and get them through a surgery. I have a lot of young families that come in that are anxious and I get to reassure them that we have a plan and we will work things out.
Another fun part of the job is teaching residents. It’s amazing to see their growth and development from one year to the next. It’s fun to have them join me in the OR when they return to service after being elsewhere – they carry themselves so much more confidently, and have so much more familiarity with surgery. It’s fun and fulfilling.
Q: Why did you pick your particular specialty in surgery?
Dr. Schaeffer: Again, the kids. I love operating on them not only because they’re cute, but also because their tissues are so forgiving and heal so well. Picking my specialty was solidified early in residency, within the first 2.5 years, based on my great pediatric urology experience and mentors at Johns Hopkins.
Q: What advice do you have for medical students who are interested in surgery?
Dr. Schaeffer: If you love working with your hands, are very dexterous, get satisfaction with immediate feedback and are very results oriented, then surgery is a great thing to consider. It’s very fulfilling and fits a problem solver who wants to see immediate change and improvement. I would caution against listening to horror stories or crazy anecdotes about the rigorous training because if you love being in the OR, then it more than makes up for all the hours you have to put in.
I would also identify, as best you can, what your long-term goals are. What does your “ideal” job look like, and then acknowledge but don’t stress about what it takes to get there. Some people are worried about how many years the training is. I did a 6 year residency and a 3 year fellowship but I wouldn’t change any of that because I’m exactly where I want to be. In the big picture, an extra year or two over a 30 year career is not long at all.
Q: What does it mean to you to be an educator for the next generation of surgeons?
Dr. Schaeffer: It’s like paying it forward. I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing surgeons invest and believe in me. So in a sense, I see it as my duty to invest in another generation of colleagues and pass on that legacy of who I am and where I came from and who trained me…which was some pretty awesome people. I’m honored that I was able to train with some seriously talented leaders in Urology, so I need to pass some of their traits and teaching points onto others.
Q: What is something fun that the residents don’t know about you?
Dr. Schaeffer: Maybe, how funny I am? It’s not just dry humor, it’s a desert humor. Scorched earth. I laugh all the time at home with my wife - almost constantly. I don’t think the residents necessarily see that. I’m at peace in nature – so you’ll find me riding my mountain bike on the trails in Park City, skiing Solitude on a deep powder day, or walking my two dogs up on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.