Known by family and friends as a kid at heart, Dr. Thomas Mike admits a perk of the job is being able to bring his playful personality to work. In fact, Akron Children’s newest pediatric hospitalist has been known to tell goofy jokes, use funny voices or do an absurd number of high fives, even breaking out YouTube videos like Sesame Street or The Village People’s YMCA.
It’s a win-win. He gets to have fun, while using laughter to build a strong bond with patients suffering from a wide variety of illnesses and injuries that require a hospital stay. Because at the end of the day, getting to the bottom of what’s causing a child trouble and how he can help him quickly get back to childhood is at the heart of what he does.
Why did you choose to come to Akron Children’s Hospital?
I did my residency here so it was an easy decision to start my career here. I have had a lot of great mentors throughout these last few years, so that helps.
Describe your role at Akron Children’s and what you hope to accomplish?
I am a hospitalist both at our Akron campus and Wooster locations — primarily nights for the latter. I have a lot of interest in Quality Improvement (finding better ways to take care of patients), education (med students, residents, families, etc.) and the Social Determinants of Health. Ultimately, I want a career where I can take good care of patients and still pursue some of these extra-clinical interests.
What is your area of expertise and why did you choose it?
My official area technically is general pediatrics, but I’m specifically going to be a pediatric hospitalist. I love the acuity of inpatient medicine, as well as the team aspect, but more than anything I love the intellectual challenge of it all. There’s nothing I enjoy more (workwise, at least) than sitting down and trying to think through why a patient is sick and how we are going to get him better.
How does your personality fit your role?
I used to joke around with my friends in med school that I was going into pediatrics so I could get away with goofing off at work. It was kind of a joke, but it’s certainly a nice perk of the job where I can be intellectual and still have fun.
What’s the most memorable thing that’s ever happened to you as a provider?
As an intern, I was taking care of a patient with a developmental delay who was admitted for an infection. The patient was there for a few days, but on the last day when I went to go check in to see if there was any last-minute things he needed before leaving the hospital, the child turned to me, unprompted, and said, “You’re my favorite doctor.” That was probably the nicest thing I could have heard at the time.
How do you deal with the emotional impact of being a provider?
I have spent a lot of time figuring that out myself. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about self-care/compassion. Different things work for different people, but my ideal combination seems to be meditation, exercise (lifting and running, primarily), making time for friends and family, and pursuing interests outside of work.
What medical innovations do you think will have the most impact in the next 5 – 10 years?
No. 1 is absolutely the COVID-19 vaccine. No. 2 I would have to say would be all of the advances being made in genetics — genetic sequencing is obviously part of that, but CRISPR technology, a type of bacterial DNA now being used for genetic editing, has the potential to be a major game changer.
What does success mean to you?
Success means to me being able to go to sleep each night (or, in my case, the morning after a shift) and say that I did my best to make things a little better out in the world.
Where did you grow up?
I am originally from the northeastern corner of Pennsylvania, just outside of Wilkes-Barre (which is just south of Scranton, for reference). I was there all the way until I moved to Pittsburgh for medical school.
What makes you get up in the morning?
Besides my 4 alarms, the chance to learn something new and challenge myself energizes me every morning.
Who’s on your playlist?
Right now, it seems like my entire playlist is the cast of “Hamilton.” I’ve been addicted since it came out on Disney+.
What question would you most like to know the answer to?
I want to know the answer to the ultimate question to life, the universe and everything in-between.
What was your first paying job?
My first job was with a catering company back in my hometown. I was actually a bartender there for a while. It’s amazing how well some of those skills translate to being a physician.