By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
Catherine Petzinger, a general surgeon at Cleveland Surgical Clinic, has spent the last several months in Cleveland after moving around much of her life.
“I spent most of my childhood in Dallas,” Petzinger said. “My dad was in the military. He was a captain in the Navy and so we moved around a lot. I went to three different high schools, not because I was in trouble or anything, but just for my dad’s job.”
She graduated from high school in Arkansas and spent two years of her undergraduate studies in Spain before attending St. Louis University.
Once she graduated, she moved to Chicago to work as a nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
“My mom is a nurse and that’s kind of where it started,” Petzinger said. “Starting with nursing I loved the diagnostic side of it, the hands-on side of it. I worked in the ER for about six years in Chicago and it really started my love for medicine and getting my hands down and dirty.”
Deciding to commit, Petzinger attended the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Midwestern University in Chicago.
She then spent five years in residency in Detroit.
Her family is now based out of Memphis, which made coming to Cleveland appealing.
“My mom is originally from Memphis, and my folks had moved back there I think in 2010, so I wanted to be close to them but not too close and I didn’t want to be in a big city anymore,” Petzinger said. “I wanted to try out living in a small town with a little bit slower pace and get to actually spend time with my patients.”
Petzinger credits her partner at Cleveland Surgical Clinic, Dr. Bennie Wright, with helping her get adjusted.
“He’s been a great friend and mentor to me. He’s really helped me get to know the Delta and helped me out with difficult cases and I’m able to talk with him on a regular basis.”
Petzinger’s work as a general surgeon is highly specialized and difficult, but she said it’s where she does her best work.
“I’m at my most comfortable when I’m in the operating room and when I’m talking with patients. That’s when I feel most at home.”
Petzinger credits her skill partly to a high level of training and partly from having an intangible quality all surgeons have.
“I’ve had good training where my trainers were very hard on me and put a lot of constructive criticism. I think now that I’ve been able to get out from under their wings and I’ve finished their training it’s more of a blossoming.
“I think it’s just a God-given thing that people who are surgeons, it’s just in your blood. If you’re comfortable in the (operating room), it’s from training, but also because it was just meant to be.”
Petzinger said telling patients bad news is the most difficult aspect of her job.
“I love my patients,” Petzinger said. “Once they’re my patients they’re my patients for life. I take fierce ownership of my patients and having to give them bad news is probably the worst part of my job.
“I cry with my patients. I talk with my patients. I like to sit with them and explain things and make sure that they understand things because medicine is scary and when people come to a surgeon, it’s a scary thing.
“People don’t like to see me because that usually means they have to have some kind of surgery. Helping them walk through that is my joy but also having to give them bad news is probably the worst part of my job but I’m happy to do it if that means, hopefully, they’ll be healthy in the future.”
She said she has had a wonderful experience living in the Delta thus far.
“The people are the best, hands down,” Petzinger said. “The people are just so friendly and so nice. Everyone has offered to take me out, help me meet people. Just wonderful, wonderful people that actually sit down and talk with you and really are interested in investing in your life. That is so unique to this area. I’ve not encountered that in the many places that I’ve lived with such veracity here. People are fiercely friendly here which I really like.
“And then the food is wonderful, so great. Everything is wonderfully fried and delicious. It’s a curse and a wonderful thing.”
After a life filled with travels, Petzinger said she is eager for the opportunity to settle down somewhere long-term and said Cleveland could be the spot.
“I have moved a lot in my life. I would love to put down roots. That is my goal in life is to find a place and put down roots. I’ve only been here for (several) months but I can definitely see long-term staying here. I really like it. I love the people. The only thing I don’t like are bugs, but I can get used to that.”
In her spare time, Petzinger enjoys spending time with her two dogs Molly and Maggie, doing Pilates and gardening in her backyard.