Hosted by Erica Jolene with Dr. Sean Goretzke, Pediatric Neurology | Transcription HERE
In this week’s episode, we hear from Dr. Sean Goretzke, who is a Pediatric Neurologist and Division Director of Child Neurology Services at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, where he has a special interest in managing children with concussions and cerebral palsy. Dr. Goretzke is also an assistant professor of Pediatric Neurology in the Department of Neurology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
Dr. Goretzke is the father of six kids and I can say with certainty that this has greatly influenced his very relatable style when practicing medicine, which is something he shares more about in this episode. We touch on a variety of subjects ranging from navigating difficult medication decisions, comfort measures and quality of life discussions, and my personal favorite, the social inequalities that impact healthcare and medicine.
I also appreciated Dr. Goretzke's perspective when I asked him about the things that needed to change regarding healthcare. It is extremely comforting to know that our providers recognize the inequalities that exist and want to see systemic changes in our society so that they can better provide and rejoice in more positive outcomes for everyone.
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Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital
Welcome to Atypical Truth. I'm your host Erica Jolene. In this week's episode we hear from Dr. Sean Goretzke, who is a pediatric neurologist and the Division Director of Child Neurology services at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. Dr. Goretzke is also an Assistant Professor of Child Neurology at St. Louis University School of Medicine. He has a special interest in managing children with concussions and cerebral palsy. Dr. Goretzke is the father of six kids and I can say with certainty that this has greatly influenced his very relaxed and relatable style when practicing medicine. And this is something he shares more about in this episode. We touch on a variety of subjects ranging from navigating difficult medication decisions, comfort measures, and quality of life discussions. And my personal favorite, the social inequalities that impact healthcare and medicine. Dr. Goretzke is very transparent and down to earth, which really made for one of my favorite conversations this season. Still, I found myself getting so nervous when I would begin sharing something personal, like details regarding our experience as parents and caregivers in trying to navigate the complex world of neurology. It's actually kind of embarrassing, because you can hear this nervousness come out in me as I begin talking fast and loud. And it took everything in me not to just like, re-record that. But I felt like it was important for all of you to witness this side of me as well, the side of me that isn't as cool, calm, and collected when talking to these professionals. So please bear with me, as you all get a front row seat in witnessing my awkwardness. Okay, now that you have my personal confession, let's just get right to the good stuff that we have in store for you.
Thank you for joining me today, Dr. Goretzke. I've been looking forward to having this conversation with you.
Dr. Goretzke 02:30
Well, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
So we're just gonna jump right into this. I am curious to know, what is your favorite thing to nerd out on?
Dr. Goretzke 02:41
Oh, you know, I guess the the eight to twelve year old child in me still is very sports statistically driven. A huge percentage of my brain storage used for medical knowledge. And then there's a little bit for other things, and then the rest is filled up with useless sports trivia that probably where, if I'm not tied up with medicine or with other family responsibilities, my brain goes back to.
Okay, okay. I admittedly will never be able to quiz you on your sports trivia knowledge, but I'll take your word for it. My next question, are you an early bird or a night owl?
Dr. Goretzke 03:25
I've traditionally been a night owl but that has changed quite a bit. I've also tried to, as I age, I've tried to stay in shape mostly to keep up with my kids and not age out too quickly. So my workout time has had to shift as I've gotten older I can't work out after about three o'clock, and so I now I wake up usually at about 5:45 or six and work out in the morning before I go to work just in the basement and so that's kind of forced me to change my habits. But I had been a night owl for most of my life.
Okay, do you currently have a favorite song that you turn the volume up for?
Dr. Goretzke 04:05
I don't know that there's one song I would say any Foo Fighters song or any Pearl Jam song. Typically I have I have different playlists on Apple iTunes just for those artists. So those those are those are two of my favorites.
All right. What is one of the best pieces of advice you've ever received?
Dr. Goretzke 04:25
Um, you know, I it's a it's a good question. I think probably the best is, you know, don't forget to thank the wife. I think that's probably the best. When you, if you're ever doing public speaking, that if you if you remember that one thing you can screw up a lot of things and the wife will still take you back in at the end of the day.
I'm going to make sure Randy listens to that. Okay, tell me something interesting about you that most people may not know.
Dr. Goretzke 04:56
Yeah, I don't I don't know. I would say people probably find this hard to believe because I've had to become quite extroverted in my job and, and overtime; but I was, I was a really introverted, shy preteen and teenager. And, you know, I was a real homebody, and I didn't really, I played a lot of sports, but outside of that, you know, I, I always tell a lot of my parents of teenagers is I would never go back and be the ages of 12 to 18 again, those were those were not easy years. But you know, I just I've had to change quite a bit. I've had to develop an inner self-confidence. I think we all do that to some degree. But I think probably people forget that may not always be our natural thing and we are sometimes forced to go in that direction. So I think people might find that surprising that know me now or have only known me the past 10 or 15 years.
Yeah, I certainly do find that surprising. Do you have any pets?
Dr. Goretzke 05:59
I do. It's a little bit of a sore subject. I mean, I think automatically when you say you're not a pet person, people ask quickly, "What's wrong with you?" I do have; I do have six children, which I'm sure you'll get to at some point. So I don't really need any pets. I don't need any other living creatures to take care of. But we have two cats. And my wife, years ago, see, we did not have a daughter yet. So she bought a female dog without telling me. You know, I've never really been a true animal person. But I realized that my kids love them and so I will tolerate them.
Okay, I can respect that. What is one thing that you're presently grateful for?
Dr. Goretzke 06:44
I think I'm grateful that in today's world that we're in now my, my family has been able to make it through relatively healthy. Luckily, my wife and I are in jobs that we haven't had, you know, had to have a major change in our in our home life. And I think anybody that's in that situation in today's world needs to feel incredibly lucky because I certainly realized a good chunk of the world and of our country has not shared that same experience.
Absolutely. So what comes to mind when I ask you to recall a memory or moment that brings you great joy?
Dr. Goretzke 07:27
I think the birth of my first child was a striking moment in my life that I didn't understand the power that was going to have. I don't think I've ever driven a car so slowly in my life that the day we strapped him into the car seat, and I drove him home. Now, that didn't last very long. But boy, that was a that was a responsibility that I couldn't fathom was in my role. And so that was, that's something I probably don't tell him that enough. But that was amazing without any question. It's amazing to watch my wife go through that amazing how little I had to do with that, but just not really quite understanding the journey that was gonna begin from there.
Mm hmm. Yeah, I can totally relate to that. Dr. Goretzke, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what led you to your career?
Dr. Goretzke 08:21
You know, medicine was not something I intended to do. You know, I talked a little bit about about my baseball statistical nerdship. I went to Emory University down in Atlanta, for a couple of reasons. I didn't really know a whole lot about Emory back then, it wasn't quite as nationally known. But it was a great school and I went down there and was going to be an engineer. But then as I started attacking calculus three and other math classes, I decided there's no way this is what I want that the next four years, let alone potentially the rest of my life to be. I also like science, I had really no ambitions upon entering college though that I was going to be pre-med or go to medical school. And so as I started getting through those classes, and they started introducing some clinical correlations with some of the things we were learning, it just really it really captured my interest. Couldn't really give a why, other than it felt right.
Dr. Goretzke 09:17
And that I think that would be hard in today's world, it was hard back then, without being able to sell any more than that, that it just felt like the right thing to do. You know, how do you know that if you if you can't draw from personal experience, I didn't have a family member who was a physician. My mom actually went back to nursing school but wasn't in that program when I was making that decision. I didn't have some other, you know, life altering experience to some severe medical illness. It just it was a conviction that it felt like the right thing. So then I applied to medical school. I had already met my wife at that time and we had been dating and she was at University Missouri, Mizzou, for undergrad. And so I, I wanted to stay local and I applied to Wash U and University of Missouri, Columbia. And those are the only two schools I applied to, I didn't even apply to St. Louis University, the first go around. And I got waitlisted at both programs. And it was a little odd, I mean, I think even looking back, my qualifications were probably good enough to get into one of those schools, but didn't.
Dr. Goretzke 10:27
And then I kind of scrambled for a year I took the year off. I ended up teaching tennis at a little club that I took tennis lessons at in high school here in St. Louis, and then applied to those same two schools, but said, "Well, you know, I better apply at SLU this time because I don't want to do this a third time." And interestingly enough, it's it's the only school that accepted me. And so that makes your choice really easy about where you should go, and how committed you should be when that's your only option. So I really didn't I didn't know a lot about SLU medical school at that time, or how it differentiated itself from from other places. But it is amazing how your career trajectory and your future employment is sometimes those decisions are made for you. And it seems like fate, but maybe you don't have as much control over that as you would think what would I do for a career. Had I not applied to SLU, or SLU agreed with those other two schools and didn't accept me, you know, I can't even envision what my other career would be. Besides what I do now.
Wow. Yeah, it kind of seems like that was meant to happen. How long have you been practicing medicine?
Dr. Goretzke 11:39
So I graduated from medical school in 97. I also joined the Navy. So that's a an interesting story.
Ooh, do you mind telling me more about that?
Dr. Goretzke 11:53
Well, so I joined the Navy again, not because of, you know, I wanted one of those, I wanted to wear that uniform. But I got my financial aid paperwork the same day I got a letter with scholarships available from the Navy and the Air Force to pay for school. And that looked a lot better than what would end up being 450 grand between tuition and interest paid back over over 20 years. And so I, you know, how do you pick Navy versus Air Force? Well, the Navy was the only program offering four years of funding of tuition, Air Force only had three years slots left. And I said, "Well, I mean that that's enough to make a tiebreaker for me." So I joined the Navy.
Dr. Goretzke 12:38
Come to find out 15 years later, the only reason they had four year slots left is somebody made an accounting error and they gave out about 50 too many four year scholarships that year.