Dr. Mark Wulkan is a champion of wellness. When he’s not giving 110 percent to surgically treating his patients, from the simplest hernia to the most complex abdominal wall defect, he’s giving it his all as a workout enthusiast: running, biking, swimming and occasional yoga.
As Akron Children’s newest chairman of the Department of Surgery, Dr. Wulkan is most looking forward to bringing that energy and enthusiasm to enhance patient care. In fact, wellness is one of many reasons that lured him to practice medicine.
In his new role, he is committed to helping patients and families achieve optimal wellness by building upon the solid foundation of excellent clinical care among the surgical specialties. In addition, he hopes to develop cross-discipline programs to improve outcomes for all children, in coordination with the hospital’s department chairs.
Because if you ask him what gets him up and out of bed each morning (besides coffee), it’s the opportunity to make a difference for the better each day — for both patient families and staff.
Why did you choose to come to Akron Children’s Hospital?
There are two reasons I chose to come to Akron Children’s Hospital. I chose to join the organization because of the awesome culture that takes to heart the hospital’s 3 founding promises. I am also excited to be a part of our leadership’s vision to develop regionally and nationally recognized programs.
Describe your role at Akron Children’s and what you hope to accomplish?
As chairman of surgery, I hope to continue to build on a solid foundation of excellent clinical care among the surgical specialties and beyond. My goals include working with the other department chairs to develop cross-discipline programs to enhance the care of all the children we serve. I would be thrilled to see us achieve regional and national recognition of our surgical programs.
What is your area of expertise and why did you choose it?
My primary area of expertise is minimally invasive surgery in all patients, from newborn babies to my pediatric/adolescent bariatric surgery patients. I am especially passionate about helping my bariatric patients achieve their goals. I am fortunate to work with the phenomenal Healthy Active Living team here at Akron Children’s.
When did you decide to become a provider and why?
I wanted to be a doctor as long as I can remember. There were other opportunities that presented themselves while growing up, but I always came back to doctor. There is nothing that can replace the direct interaction with patients and families to help them achieve wellness.
What do you like most about being a provider?
What I like most about being a surgeon is the privilege of caring for patients and their families. As a surgeon, we are often caring for patients who are in their most dire moments. The opportunity to bring about a positive outcome in such a situation is very rewarding.
How do you deal with the emotional impact of being a provider?
I am a champion of wellness and try to practice what I preach. I try to be mindful of self-care and give myself recovery time. My recovery time usually involves physical activity, and when I have time, getting out on a sailboat.
What are you most looking forward to?
I am most looking forward to seeing what all the great people at Akron Children’s can achieve.
What medical innovations do you think will have the most impact in the next 5 – 10 years?
This is such an exciting time to be in medicine. In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have to mention telemedicine. I think this is going to change how we deliver care to all the patient populations we serve.
I also think the way clinicians continue their education will change. There will be less dependency on meetings and instead, focus more on interactive technology for continuing education. In the surgery world, I believe we are going to see more image-guided technologies, augmented reality and artificial intelligence.
Where did you grow up?
I am originally from Pittsburgh, where I lived until I was almost 13. My family moved south to Boca Raton, Fla., where I graduated from high school.
What is your greatest personal accomplishment?
I would have to say my 3 children: Abby (21), Ben (18) and Elana (15). They each bring unique skills and beauty into the world. I am very proud of them.
What do you do when you aren’t working?
I enjoy running, biking and swimming. I also like to relax by the water and I love to sail.
What’s the first thing you do when you get home from work?
I put my keys and badge in the same spot, so I can find them the next morning.
What makes you get up in the morning?
Coffee. Seriously, I look forward to the opportunity to make a difference for the better each day.
What’s your favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. When I was young, it might have been because my birthday occasionally fell on Thanksgiving day. As I grew up, I came to love the family time. Thanksgiving is always such a fun family holiday. Now my favorite Thanksgivings are when I can celebrate with my parents, siblings, their families and my children.
What’s the last adventure you went on?
Last December before the pandemic, my son, Ben, and I took a 48-hour trip to Alaska to try to see the Northern Lights. While we didn’t see the Northern Lights due to cloud cover, we had the best time exploring a glacier and the area around Anchorage.