Dr. Dee Ann DeRoin has the ultimate balancing act.
To catch her in the early morning would require a 2.6-mile walk through downtown neighborhoods.
To see her in the middle of the day one would need to be seeking medical care; and at night she's usually at meetings, local sporting events, or working with school organizations.
The one sure place to catch up with Dr. DeeAnn DeRoin is at the family dinner table. No matter how busy the day gets, every member of the DeRoin-Ellsworth family has to take time out to eat an evening meal together. DeRoin and her husband, Steve Ellsworth, are parents to two children, Lia, 13, and Tyler, 16.
"It's your opportunity to connect and to know what's going on with everyone," DeRoin said of the dinner discussions.
What's going on with DeRoin is, well, a lot. Late last year she was named the 1997 William I. Koch Outstanding Woman of the Year, a distinction she shares with former Gov. Joan Finney and Kansas women's basketball coach Marian Washington.
The award is given based on overcoming personal difficulties and hardship, contributions to the community and achieving success.
The award wasn't given to DeRoin; she earned it. A Watkins Health Center physician, DeRoin has been practicing medicine since 1982. Before that she worked in public health, earning a master's degree at the University of California at Berkeley.
But to fully understand, one has to go back to DeRoin's first year of life. She was born in Wymore, Neb., the youngest of five children. Her father died before she reached her first birthday, leaving her mother to raise the family.
"She had a ninth-grade education," DeRoin said. "She told me many times she didn't want to have happen to me what happened to her."
Still, DeRoin did not immediately appreciate her mother's advice. She was an underachiever in high school, until she took a Strong Interest Inventory test. When the results came back the occupation she was best suited for was "physician."
"It didn't surprise me," DeRoin said. "I was really interested in science and I was really interested in people."
Still, it would be eight years after her high school graduation before DeRoin entered medical school.
"Getting my master's at Berkeley I got to relate to nurses, lab technicians and really got to know the dynamics of the health-care team," she said. Knowing what other people thought of their jobs helped DeRoin alleviate potentially competitive feelings among the health-care workers on her team.
She used those same people skills in other areas of her life. She helped formed the Native American Student Assn. at the UC Berkeley. She now serves as president of the Haskell Foundation board of trustees and is the coordinator of the PEP/PTO (Parent Empowerment Program /Parent Teacher Organization) at Central Junior High School.
The reward of work
A member of the Ioway tribe, DeRoin came back to the Midwest from the west coast in 1981 and began work as a full-time physician at Haskell Junior College in 1982. She was the clinical director at Haskell until 1990.
She left the clinic at Haskell in 1990 and signed on at Watkins.
"At KU you have a large group of highly educated individuals who talk as colleagues in care," DeRoin said.
It's that inclusive attitude that stands out to Watkins registered nurse, Mary Jo King. King has been at Watkins for 17 years and has worked with DeRoin since her arrival.
"She has a good rapport with students," King said. "She's very personable and very caring."
Dr. Randall Rock, Watkins chief of staff, agreed.
"I met her at work but I meet her in the community repeatedly," he said. "She's not only involved in her place of employment and the university, but in the community at large.
"We're blessed with a very professional and dedicated staff, and she definitely has a willingness to consider options that make her an asset to this institution."
And DeRoin plans to be at Watkins for some time.
"For me, the most rewarding part of practicing medicine is the personal relationships," she said. "The emotional aspect of illness is really significant and often an individual will come for care because they have a physical problem but they may have an emotional or family problem that they wouldn't otherwise seek care for. If you ask gently, it's their first opportunity to express it. Practicing family medicine is a daily lesson in humility. Some things we can fix and some things we have to refer. We're all in this together."
--JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.