Q&A | Susan Herzlinger Botein, M.D., of the Joslin Adult Clinic
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Earlier this year, after a fellowship at Joslin and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Susan Herzlinger Botein, M.D., joined Joslin as a staff clinician. (“I’m home-grown,” she jokes.) Dr. Herzlinger sees patients in the adult clinic and performs clinical research. Here, she answers seven questions about her medical background and her current work.
What led you to become a doctor?
I always had a native interest in medicine and health. In college I studied anthropology and evolution, and focused on reproductive endocrinology in non-industrialized societies. While that was a major interest of mine, I thought that after college people went and got a “real job.” But after working in finance for a few years, I realized that science was much more interesting to me, and I went to medical school.
Why did you decide to become an endocrinologist?
I enjoyed every minute of medical school. Primary care, pediatrics, ob/gyn and all the specialties were not only interesting but truly rewarding. But when it came down to making a choice it was clear I wanted to take care of adults, and pursue endocrinology. That was always my interest. Every doctor has one organ system that they find more interesting than the rest, and for me it’s the glands. It’s amazing that these hormones are secreted in such a tightly controlled way and govern so many of our bodies’ functions.
How did you end up at Joslin?
After I went to medical school in New York City at Cornell, my husband and I decided to move to Boston, and Beth Israel was far and away my first choice for residency. That led to the joint fellowship with Joslin. Then when I was coming to a point where I could end my clinical training, I saw the opportunity at Joslin, and the fates aligned!
What’s it like working as an M.D. here?
It’s wonderful. I’ve always admired Joslin’s philosophy of providing really excellent patient care with no ulterior motive. It’s all about the patients and providing what they need. The physicians are excellent and we’re privileged to utilize all the other professionals here, from exercise physiology to nutrition to teaching nurses to nurse practitioners to special groups like renal health and mental health. Joslin offers patients an amazing treatment team. I think the combined expertise doesn’t exist elsewhere.
I see a huge variety of different kinds of disease in different people. Everyone brings their own issues—be it the type of diabetes, the types of medicines they respond to, the types of exercise, or the behaviors that they’re willing to do or like to do. Every day is different; every person is different. And we’re able to treat everyone as an individual.
How do you split your time?
I spend 50% of my time seeing patients and 30% of my time in clinical research, and I’m a 20% mom (I have two young children).
What’s your focus in clinical research?
I study incretin hormones, which can help to control type 2 diabetes in several ways. What is less well understood is how these hormones may affect the liver, blood pressure and cardiac function. I also have a special interest in exercise and metabolism, and their effects on diabetes management.
How do you translate that interest in exercise for your patients?
Obviously many people with diabetes need to be treated with medication, but I have a special interest in encouraging people to take care of their bodies overall. Exercise is helpful for glucose control, but also for general fitness and a sense of well-being. I think the tone of national discussion is turning toward maintaining a healthy body throughout life, not just when disease starts to appear. This includes maintaining a healthy body weight, staying active, eating well, spending time outdoors and taking supplements, such as vitamin D, as needed.
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