My Kind of Medicine: Real Lives of Practicing Internists: Christine Laine, MD, MPH, FACP
Christine Laine, MD, MPH, FACP, Editor-in-Chief, Annals of Internal Medicine confides that she almost went to art school. Dr. Laine, an artist? Who knew?! She is the editor of one of the five most widely cited peer-reviewed medical journals in the world, a published author, a researcher, and a physician; but, according to her, as a high school student she had her sights set on going to Cooper Union, a college in New York City that offers 3 programs—art, architecture, and engineering.
Dr. Laine grew up in the Queens section of New York City, the oldest of 3 girls. In high school she was a good student who loved reading, writing, and drawing, and who elected to take art classes despite her mother’s advice that she take typing instead. Dr. Laine’s father, however, an engineer and alumnus of Cooper Union, encouraged his daughter’s interest in art. “My mother was worried about my financial future,” says Dr. Laine, “talk of art school literally brought tears to her eyes.”
So, Dr. Laine put away her drawing pencils and went off to Hamilton College in upstate New York to focus on writing. At the end of four years, she graduated summa cum laude with a double major in writing and biology. “I began as a writing major,” says Dr. Laine, “but along the way I decided to add a biology degree in case I wanted to apply to medical school.” She laughs about it now, saying, “It’s possible I have ADHD. I seem to have trouble focusing on just one thing.”
Dr. Laine also admits she did not grow up wanting to be a doctor. “I was not the child putting Band-Aids on my stuffed animals,” she says, “but I did well in school and liked science, so medical school seemed a possibility.” The possibility became her reality. In 1987, Dr. Laine received her medical degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Following that, she went on to complete her residency training in internal medicine at New York Hospital Cornell University Medical College.
Choosing internal medicine was the easy part for Dr. Laine. In medical school she was not drawn to the study of any particular part of the body. Instead, it was teacher and internist Dr. Harry Fritz who influenced her. “Dr. Fritz was my mentor at Stony Brook,” says Dr. Laine. “He was the nicest man and a truly great doctor. I knew I wanted to be that kind of doctor.”
With degrees in writing, biology, and medicine, it would appear her trajectory toward the role of medical journal editor was being masterfully crafted. “It looks well-planned,” says Dr. Laine, “but it wasn’t. It was more a series of ‘happy accidents.’”
One of the most significant “happy accidents” in Dr. Laine’s life was meeting husband, David Weinberg, MD, MSc, a gastroenterologist who is currently the Chair of Internal Medicine at Fox Chase Cancer Center. The two met when she was an intern and he was a medical student at New York Hospital Cornell Medical College. A princess (yes, an actual princess) from a small country had come to New York in need of a CAT scan. When it was determined the princess would also need a lumbar puncture, Dr. Laine was charged with admitting her and was told to invite then medical student David Weinberg to assist.
The couple, however, was at different stages of their medical careers, so when Dr. Weinberg went on to do his residency at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston; Dr. Laine applied for a fellowship in general internal medicine and clinical epidemiology at the same hospital. The fellowship earned her a master of public health degree, with a concentration in quantitative methods and clinical epidemiology from Harvard University. When Dr. Weinberg then “matched” for his gastroenterology fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, the couple moved to Philadelphia where they began their careers and started a family.
The road to Annals
After moving to Philadelphia, Dr. Laine accepted a position at Jefferson Medical College, because Jefferson offered her the opportunity to split her time between research, teaching, and clinical practice—“there’s that ADHD thing again,” she jokes, but then adds, “One of the great things about internal medicine is that it offers such a wide variety of career choices to medical students.”
While working at Jefferson, a former associate she had worked with on a research project in Boston called her. It was Dr. Frank Davidoff, who was then Editor of Annals of Internal Medicine . Dr. Davidoff was looking for an internist to join his staff as an associate editor and invited her to fill the post. It was initially a one day per week commitment, but within a few years she had become a full-time editor. Dr. Laine credits Dr. Davidoff with teaching her everything she knows about editing a medical journal.
In 2009, Dr. Laine was named Senior Vice President and Editor of Annals, becoming the youngest editor in the history of Annals. She feels fortunate and privileged to have such an interesting job and loves the diversity of the work and its challenges. On any given day, she might be reviewing manuscripts with her editors, discussing paper quality and printing costs with publishing staff, or working with IT staff to develop apps or further enhance the electronic delivery of Annals content.
Dr. Laine says she can see the day “when print goes away and everyone is reading Annals on their tablets.” “Like newspapers, we have to continue to adapt and evolve,” she says, “and it’s not just the issue of print to electronic, but how the journal is financed and the type of research and manuscripts we are publishing.”
Dr. Laine has retained her ties to Jefferson where she is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Internal Medicine and volunteers one day per week as a preceptor for medical residents. Widely respected in the field of medical journalism, she is a member of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, the Council of Science Editors, and a member of the Ethics Committee of the World Association of Medical Editors. She has authored numerous articles on subjects such as patient-centered communication; preventive care; quality of care; women in medicine, and HIV/AIDS care.
Managing the balancing act
Drs. Laine and Weinberg have two children, 19-year-old Matthew who is studying architecture at Washington University and 17-year-old Emilia, a high school student who is currently writing essays for college applications. As the mother of two teenagers, Dr. Laine is a veteran when it comes to balancing career and family. When medical residents ask her for some practical advice she always tells them, “make sure your child’s school or daycare is located between where you work and where you live—it eliminates unnecessary travel.”
Addressing the challenges of family and career in a more serious way, Dr. Laine admits, “As a young parent, I was afraid my child would know the babysitter’s name before the word “Mommy.” “But,” she acknowledges, “if we, as working parents, think that no one else can make a valuable contribution to raising our children, we will never be happy with the choices we make.” Dr. Laine considers herself and her family fortunate that her children have a wide social circle that includes strong ties to other adults.
|Eli, the family’s pet, is a large Chesapeake Bay retriever, who despite his pedigree, is afraid of birds.|
Dr. Laine says she also learned a great deal about managing priorities from two significant women in her life—her mother-in-law, a practicing physician who raised 2 children and Dr. Barbara Turner, a former Annals editor and mother of three. “I was fortunate,” says Dr. Laine, “these women who had come before me had already figured a lot of it out.” “It also helps,” she adds, “that I married someone who did not grow up with a mother who was doing all of the childcare, so he didn’t see it as the norm.”
With her full-time schedule, Dr. Laine hasn’t yet gone back to drawing (maybe when she’s an empty nester), but she still likes going to art museums, and she especially enjoys traveling with her family. Last summer, the family vacationed in Sicily, and previous trips include Turkey and Morocco. For the past several winters, they have also enjoyed ski vacations in Utah.
As for Dr. Laine’s own mother, a woman who clearly influenced her daughter’s career path, one has to believe, she probably had little reason to worry about her daughter’s future. It is unlikely Dr. Laine would have suffered the plight of a starving artist. It is more likely she would have become a renowned artist or a trailblazer in the art world. Her energy and passion for learning would have assured her a successful career no matter what path she chose.
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