Susan Garstang's Path to Leadership
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Susan Garstang's Path to Leadership


Susan Garstang, MD is an Associate Professor (Clinical) of PM&R at the University of Utah Medical School and a Physiatrist at the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System. She also serves as U of U’s Associate Fellowship Director for Spinal Cord Injury Medicine and the VA’s Deputy Associate Chief of Staff for GME. She has previously served as the Residency Program Director at both UT Southwestern and Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School. Discover Susan’s path to leadership – in her words.


I initially chose a career in medicine as I wanted to help others. I was fortunate to work with a group of occupational therapists in college, who opened my eyes to the importance of function and the role of rehabilitation in the recovery from many conditions. Once i was in medical school, I found myself enjoying every rotation, but especially Neurology, Orthopedics, and Rheumatology. But something still was missing; then I happened upon PM&R. My first day included a team conference, and it made me realize how much I enjoyed working with a group of other healthcare providers with a common purpose. While I initially chose to do a fellowship in Spinal Cord Injury medicine, my career since then has been more varied. I have spent much time in the care of those with spinal cord injuries, but also really enjoy other neurologic conditions such as stroke, ALS, and the treatment of spasticity.

The AAP has been a huge part of my professional growth; the mentor networks I have found at the AAP have been very important to my success. Mentoring has been a key factor in my professional development, every step of the way. As I have progressed through my career my needs have changed, and my mentors have varied to meet these needs. Most of my mentors are still both mentors and friends, although some served their purpose and have shifted to mentor others. I feel so lucky to be a part of a group of fabulous mentors; I now have “grandchildren” who have been mentored by someone I mentored. This cycle of professional development has been one of the most rewarding things I have seen in my career. I also believe that by good mentorship we can grow our field; the more students we influence as physiatrists and educators, the more we can expand the field PM&R and benefit our patients.

The biggest challenge in my career has been having a dual physician marriage (especially two subspecialists). While it is wonderful to have someone who truly understands my work, it can be difficult ensuring both of us can grow and benefit from job opportunities that may be in different locations. I have been fortunate to find work in many of the same geographic locations as my husband, in large part because of the network of people I know who value my work and are willing to hire me.

I am not sure what the future holds for my career; but I know it will include the AAP and mentoring others towards success.