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A Different Kind of Exam

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You’ve heard of a teaching hospital... But how about a schoolteacher who’s now an emergency-room physician? Meet ER doctor and former Hagerty High teacher Lindsey Elmes.

For better or worse, there are sniffling, coughing children in classrooms all over Florida. Others come to school with broken arms and ask their friends to sign their casts. Or they fall at recess and need an ice pack during the course of the day. But for most teachers, that’s as close as they get to the healthcare profession.

But imagine going to school to be a physics teacher – eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in physics and then a master’s in science education, landing a job at an Orlando middle school, then at Hagerty High – before deciding to completely switch gears and become a medical doctor, instead.

For Oviedo’s Dr. Lindsey Elmes, it meant a total upheaval while her career was in full swing. Four more years of school were required, then a move to Ohio with her husband and toddler son to complete her three years of residency.

“My mom is a nurse, and when I told her what I was planning to do, she said, ‘Are you sure?’” laughs Lindsey. “She knows it’s  hard work.” 

But Lindsey was looking for challenges and growth in her career. She was committed to her goal and did some soul-searching and careful research on the medical profession before diving in. She even shadowed some doctors for a day. Lindsey wanted to be sure the day-in, day-out nature of the healthcare industry and the environment were right for her.

“I took one thing at a time,” she says. “I went about it very methodically and logically.”

After leaving Hagerty High, Lindsey took a year off to plan her new career. She also had her son, Nathan, in 2010. Then it was on to Florida Atlantic University, where Lindsey earned her medical degree in 2015. 

But she didn’t want to be just any doctor.

She opted to be an emergency-room physician – where the types and extents of cases that come through the door are always different. On any given 10-hour shift at Oviedo Medical Center, where Dr. Elmes works, she could examine a baby with a fever, deliver cardiac care to a senior, or respond to a person in need of resuscitation.

“You get to take care of young, old, folks from all walks of life,” says Lindsey. 

She has even had some of her former students come in as patients. They are understandably very surprised to see her again – especially in the hospital, wearing a white coat and stethoscope.

You Can Come Home Again

Lindsey and her husband Sean welcomed their second child, daughter Rosemary, around the time she was beginning her residency at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. The busy, urban setting of the hospital taught Lindsey a very important lesson that was otherwise absent from her medical textbooks. She learned she would prefer working in a smaller, community hospital. As luck would have it, just as Lindsey was wrapping up her residency in Ohio, Oviedo Medical Center was being built back at home.  

Lindsey always wanted to come back to this area, she says, and is thrilled to be practicing medicine in our community.
She is aware that the jump from educator to doctor is an extreme one. But having done both, she sees similarities in the two professions. They both serve other people, just in different ways. 

“You have an emotional investment in the ER,” Lindsey says. “You have to be compassionate to give good care. It’s just like investing in students. You really get to know them.” 

Lindsey has adapted to the non-traditional schedule of her role in healthcare, working 13 days a month, in 10-hour shifts. She enjoys days off in the middle of the week, which were rare during her teaching years when school was in session.

Getting back into teaching at some juncture, maybe as a liaison at a university medical school, is a possibility, Lindsey says.She is glad she explored her desire to be a doctor and act on it. Along with being mom to her children, now 9 and 5, it is a part of her identity. She credits Sean as instrumental support in her journey from teacher to mom to doctor.

“Now I have no regrets,” Lindsey says. For others in a similar boat? “If you’re sure you want to do it, go for it.”

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