A Retired ER Doctor Finds New Ways to Use Her Skills

From a Wall Street Journal story by Julie Halpert headlined “A Former ER Doctor Finds New Ways to Use Her Medical Skills in Retirement”:

As an emergency-room physician, Paula Glosserman didn’t have time for much else for many years.

“I loved my job and never doubted that I made the right decision,” she says.

Even so, she grew weary of working overnight, weekend and holiday shifts.

She decided to take full early retirement at 58. It allowed her a pension while she continued to work at a reduced schedule for the next seven years.

Now Dr. Glosserman, who is 69 and lives in Los Angeles, is busier than ever, removing tattoos, working as a summer-camp doctor and coaching medical-school students.

She had started to explore other ways to help people well before retiring. In 2000, she met a person who helped develop a tattoo-removal program as part of Homeboy Industries, a nonprofit that provides support to former gang members and other marginalized members of society.

“I thought that was an amazing way to have a palpable impact on somebody’s life that’s so dramatic and so transformative,” she says. “It spoke to me right away.” She became the volunteer medical director in 2015.

“Taking off unwanted tattoos helps a person get a fresh start in their lives with a clean slate,” she says. “It provides an opportunity for them to thrive without the stigma, shame and regret of a prior life.”

When removing a swastika from a formerly incarcerated client in 2019, Dr. Glosserman, who is Jewish, asked him if he ever had a Jewish friend. “I do now,” he replied. She says she has had many such positive exchanges. “Every day, it’s just so emotionally fulfilling.”

She also has been spending more time at a summer camp on Catalina Island. She started volunteering there as a camp doctor in 1995 for one week a summer. Since retiring she has increased that to three weeks.

“It’s my happy place,” Dr. Glosserman says of the camp, where children engage in hiking, swimming and other activities. “I chose emergency medicine as a specialty partly because I could work in my pajamas (scrubs),” she says. “Working in a bathing suit is even better.”

Last fall she started a paying gig as a student coach at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. She has a group of first-year students whom she coaches throughout their four years of medical school. She sees this as particularly important as med-school students have faced significant mental-health challenges in recent years. Her goal is “to find the problems and then make suggestions to lead the students to the right people who might help them.”

Dr. Glosserman says her current pursuits provide her with a variety of fulfilling purposes. “One of my greatest challenges at this point in my life is surrendering to aging,” she says. “I still feel that I have something to contribute, and when I don’t is when I’ll stop.”

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