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A Time To Remember: Dr. Susan Ostrowski

Serr, Bonnie. "A Time To Remember: Dr. Susan Ostrowski." Northwest Blade, 3 November 2011, 10.


At the front door of Dr. Susan’s home, I’m heartily greeted by two black labs (McIntosh and Ostrowski tradition). She is finishing the supper dishes. (Note: this kitchen does NOT have a dishwasher). She stacks the plates and cups in meticulous order—it must be a doctor thing! The fridge holds pictures of past and present pets. Of course, the majority are of Peter and their three children. She sits down with a cup of coffee. She offers me a beer. Oh, she knows me all too well.

When she was in the third grade, she decided she wanted to be an anesthesiologist. Why? She doesn’t know. After her freshmen year of medical school, she did a preceptorship in New Jersey for anesthesiology. It was then she decided she wanted more patient interaction. She had big shoes to fill, literally and professionally. In 1977, she joined her father, Dr. Mac, in his practice. Dr. Mac was a well-known, skilled surgeon. The community assumed she would also perform a wide array of surgeries; however, she had completed a Family Practice residency, and her primary focus was family medicine. She did assist her dad and Dr. Tinsa from Ashley in numerous surgeries. When she first started practicing, all the patients would come at 9:00 for their appointments. It was based on a first come first served basis. She was determined to start scheduling appointments throughout the day so patients didn’t have to wait so long.

When her thoughts drift back to 1977, when she joined her father’s practice, her eyes mist over. She has that long thoughtful pause (another McIntosh and Ostrowski tradition). "It was a wonderful experience to practice with Dad. I could appreciate all he had been through." Two areas of expertise she gleaned from her father were the fine art of suturing and the tender care of OB and delivery. They shared a wealth of family histories that aided in their diagnostic care. Their combined years of practice spanned seven to eight generations of patient care.

Dr. Mac retired and Dr. Susan was the only physician in Eureka from 1988-1991. How does a full- time solo doctor, wife, mother, and daughter survive? "One day at a time. God has been with me in the best of times and the worst of times. I’m never totally alone.God was always with me." There is no further need for words.

She also credits her husband, Peter, for helping to carry the responsibilities of parenthood. "The spouse of a doctor is very important." A one-minute commute to work was also a big plus. When she returned home from a delivery, her own children were always anxious to hear if the baby was a boy or a girl. Dr. Susan responds with a heartfelt smile, "The best sound is to hear a healthy baby cry." She was suffering from a bad case of the flu during her delivering babies years. She had cancelled all her appointments for the day. She started feeling better before noon; and at 12:30 pm, she delivered a healthy baby. She credits the good Lord. She states the power of prayer, hope, a positive attitude and faith aid in the healing process.

Great relief came to Eureka in 1991 in the form of Dr. Antonio Alandy. Now, Dr. Susan had a colleague to share call and the patient load. This allowed her a much deserved break from the years of the 24/7 commitments.

"One thing is for certain. There will always be change; and undoubtedly, change is coming down the road." Yes, Dr. Susan relies on advanced technological diagnostic tools. She spends many hours on continuing medical education to keep her up-to- date. However, she still uses her clinical judgment and experience to formulate a diagnosis. She is a strong proponent for frontline care and treatment in the rural areas. Rural and tertiary care must work together for the best possible care of her patients. Practicing preventive care is a strong emphasis in her practice.

"I enjoy medicine - helping patients with their health problems and helping provide a better quality of life for my patients." Her words and touch on the shoulder (one more McIntosh and Ostrowski tradition) are extended in a kind and caring manner. Dr. Susan cares for the sick of body, mind and spirit.

The love and joy of her life is their children. They have followed their own dreams and talents. John was banging on the kitchen bowls at nine months of age - the future percussionist. David used the kitchen as his lab to mix a variety of ingredients - the future physical chemist. Diana always had the strong love of animals and the outdoors - the future wildlife biologist.

She was there when my grandparents and parents died. She was there when my sons were born and when they were sick. Dr. Susan has been with this entire community through the ups and downs of our lives. That’s why we respectfully and lovingly call her Dr. Susan. We are so blessed. I called her recently. I was crying. I had to put my beloved dog to sleep. She couldn’t help me physically but she knew the right words to say to help ease the pain in my heart. How’s that for a hometown doc? I call her doctor. I call her friend.

When she reads this, she’ll say, "Oh my!"

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