John Studdard, MD, FCCP, has been a member of the American College of Chest Physicians for 36 years, and, this November, he will be inaugurated as CHEST President. This will not be Dr. Studdard’s first time in a presidential role for CHEST, as he served as CHEST Foundation President in 2013 and 2014. Currently, Dr. Studdard serves as a pulmonologist at Jackson Pulmonary in Jackson, Mississippi. Being a physician and being as heavily involved with an organization as Dr. Studdard is takes a lot of prioritizing, hard work, and dedication. Get to know CHEST’s new President through this interview.
Born and raised in Mississippi, Dr. Studdard says there were four factors that inspired him to become a physician:
1. I have always loved people and working with them, and I always admired the respect that physicians received in my community.
3. I am competitive and decided if it was going to be hard to get into medical school, then I wanted to go to medical school.
4. My dad always told my brother and me that we would be doctors when we grew up, because we were going to be our own boss. I have been in private practice for 36 years, and that is not the case, not if you are doing it right. I obviously love medicine, and my dad was great in that he paid for our education…but he called the shots.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have encountered throughout your career?
Private practice makes you gain more independence and autonomy; you have to become more agile, more efficient, and you have awfully big workloads. However, you give up the academic stimulation of being in an academic center. It is a tough discipline in the private practice of medicine to try to stay up to date. Whether going to the CHEST Annual Meeting, reading our journal CHEST, or looking at CHEST education online products, those of us in the clinical practice of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine are more dependent than any group on what our clinical educators write and teach.
How do/did you balance work and your personal life?
We are busy in practice, particularly when taking on volunteer opportunities, and that time comes out of something: time with family, hobbies, it has to come from somewhere. But it is not unique to those of us in medicine. My daughter is a 33-year-old mother to a 20-month-old beautiful granddaughter of ours and is pregnant with another child, and she and her husband both work full time. Our son and his wife also both work and must find ways to balance work/life issues. So work-life balance, particularly in today’s world, is more difficult than ever for everyone. I am blessed that my wife is the daughter of a general surgeon, and she understood a little bit about stressors in a physician’s life – sometimes she seems to understand more than others—she is a unique person. Work-life balance is all about priorities – our priority was our family. We spent a ton of time with our children, great vacations, rarely missed a program or ballgame (there were lots of them), and frequently that involved going to work early in the morning, coming home early in the evening, and going back to the hospital to finish up late at night. A lot of being a good parent is being lucky. We either did a lot of things right, or were lucky, or a combination of both, because I think our kids turned out pretty darn well.
What has been your favorite project throughout your involvement with CHEST?
Early in my days as a member of CHEST, a mentor of mine from training at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Doug Gracey, gave me the opportunity to join the CHEST Government Relations Committee, which he chaired. After a few years, I was given the opportunity to serve as its Chair. We became heavily involved in the tobacco wars, as some people called them. Our Attorney General in Mississippi at the time, Mike Moore, and a plaintiff’s attorney in Mississippi, Dick Scruggs, whom I knew from some work I had done from the defense side of asbestos litigation, took a lead role in the Attorney General’s Master Settlement - a group of attorney generals suing the tobacco industry (basically, state’s Medicaid was suing the tobacco industry for reimbursement of funds). It was a completely different approach. The tobacco industry turned its nose up at it at first – they did not think it had a chance to fly, but it did. CHEST got involved early on, and then a big a group of people, including Tobacco Free Kids, the American Cancer Society, and many others in the public health space, got involved. CHEST represented the public health community during part of the negotiations that led to the Attorney General’s Master Settlement. We should be very proud of the role CHEST played in this critical public health effort. If I can look back at my time spent in CHEST leadership, and see it as fondly as I do when I look back at my time just being a part of our CHEST Foundation, I will feel incredibly fulfilled.