Women in Medicine Month: Dr. Sandra Maruszak

September 13, 2017

In honor of Women in Medicine Month, NHMS asked members to contribute stories of women physicians in the state. This week we feature Dr. Sandra Maruszak.

Sandra Maruszak, MDWhile I didn’t always know I wanted to be a physician, once I made the choice to go to medical school, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be an emergency physician. What started out as a quest to gain medical skills to lead trips for the Dartmouth Outing Club morphed into the goal of improving the delivery of healthcare in New Hampshire.

Working as an emergency physician is both rewarding and challenging. It is certainly a wonderful feeling when you make a positive difference in someone’s life, but the current limitations in healthcare are making that harder to do each day. Finances have become so tight that hospitals have had to reduce staff, which significantly impacts patient care. It used to be that if a patient needed to be admitted, I could make a phone call and it would happen. Nowadays, it’s commonplace to have a waiting list to admit patients and they board overnight in the emergency department. This is particularly a problem for critical access hospitals, as they do not have specialists to help provide patient care. This problem does not appear to have caught the attention of the media, and I find it surprising that more people are not concerned about the impact this has on patient lives. A striking example was a young women with a head bleed who required urgent neurosurgical intervention. I couldn’t find a hospital in New Hampshire or Massachusetts to accept her in transfer! Combined with the drug epidemic and the lack of support for mental health, it is a challenging time to work in emergency medicine.

As president of the NH American College of Emergency Physicians, I want to improve the quality of healthcare throughout the state. When I hear patients remark with frustration about limitations to their care, I often ask them if they’ve written to their senators and representatives to let them know how their healthcare is affected by the decisions made in Congress. So far the answer has always been “no”, but I hope by bringing up the point, people will take a more active role. If people work together, I have no doubt we can find solutions to the many the challenges in healthcare.