Last year, when Dr. Christy Stanat had the opportunity to work for a weekend as a “locum tenens” surgeon at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, the temporary experience opened her eyes to a career possibility.
This young surgeon who grew up in the Bronx was looking to settle with her family in an area relatively close to home, and she saw in her per diem stint at L+M a place that afforded many of the best things she’d been looking for in a hospital.
“I was here for a weekend, and I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I really thought this place would be a good fit.”
Dr. Stanat arrived in the area in August, with her husband and little girl, who just recently celebrated her first birthday. She started officially as one of L+M’s newest general surgeons January 1, and she’s eager to build a reputation and a patient base. And, yes, she’s taking new patients.
“I really enjoy the patient population here and the mix of smart yet down-to-earth people,” she says. “And, secondly, the staff in the hospital is great. This is a really nice group of surgeons. They get along. They’re very collegial. And I like the fact that there’s a great mix of experienced doctors and some who are fresh out of training.”
She adds that: “When surgeons on the team bring different perspectives, the mix of ideas and solutions helps provide patients with the best care.”
Growing up in the Bronx, Dr. Stanat had to make her own way. Her parents never attended college, and her family had little in the way of resources. So she worked extra hard, concentrating on her schooling and building her academic reputation.
For example, after attending public schools in New York City, she enrolled at Lehman College, part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. She had to work a job by day and take most of her classes in the evening, but she graduated with a chemistry degree from Lehman.
As far as medical school, she always knew it was something she wanted to do.
“It sounds clichéd, but I always wanted to be a physician,” she says. “Why? I don’t know, but I liked the sciences in school and I always liked the idea of making a real impact in someone’s life. Some of my friends were going into business careers, but I wanted something with a human touch. I wanted to make a big impact on individual lives.”
She applied to medical school and got into several, but she stayed with the SUNY system and attended Stony Brook on Long Island. After earning her medical degree, she continued at Stony Brook for a five-year residency.
Next, after meeting her husband, Dr. Stanat had the unique opportunity to practice surgery on an Indian reservation in New Mexico, something she considers a highlight of her career. She worked for the U.S. Indian Health Services near the Navaho Reservation, and she served a patient population often with remote, limited access to healthcare.
In fact, some of her patients had to hitchhike for hundreds of miles to get their medical care, and, in many cases, those who needed surgery were suffering from advanced medical conditions unlike those she typically saw in the patient population during her years at Stony Brook.
“We were often seeing patients who were extremely sick,” she says. “It was very sad at times, but it was a great professional experience, and I’m really glad I did it because I think it made me a better doctor.”
Beyond the medicine she practiced in New Mexico, Dr. Stanat says the Indian population also touched her personally.
“Some of the stuff we think is important – well, when you see these people and how little they have, and how they live – you realize that that kind of stuff is not important. It was very touching. Most of the Indians and the Navahos I met were among the nicest people I’ve met in my entire life.”
Dr. Stanat brings that open mindedness to her new position at L+M and she says she looks forward to meeting the physicians and the people of New London and all of southeastern Connecticut.
“When I see a patient, it’s not necessarily to operate on them,” she emphasizes. “We evaluate each patient, and we operate on the ones who need surgery. If you do need surgery, the satisfaction for me is that I’m able to intervene on a very personal level to help that patient. That’s something that’s very powerful to me.”
Dr. Stanat and her husband are looking forward to exploring the region with their daughter as time goes by, including the beaches in Rhode Island. She added that L+M is the kind of hospital that will give her a healthy balance between a challenging professional career and a good family life.
“I loved growing up in the Bronx,” she says, “but I also want my daughter to grow up in a place where there are trees and fresh air and not so much the grind of the city. We love the seasons here and it’s a really pretty area. There are these four deer we see in our backyard on a regular basis. It’s pretty neat. And we’re waiting to see some wild turkeys, too.”
To learn more about Dr. Stanat, click here.