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Joel Schlessinger, MD: Priorities and Passion

By: Cathy Christensen
Posted: January 29, 2010, from the January 2010 issue of
Dr. Schlessinger holds a chart in the hallway of his practice

Physician's assistant Jacqueline Clegg is Schlessinger's right-hand woman, offering her energy and intelligence to staff and patients alike. Photography by Ophir Palmon, Artistic Visions

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Fitness also is a passion for Schlessinger, who works out daily at 5:30 am, often with staff members and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter Houston Alexander, at a local Omaha gym. “Believe me, he takes it easy on me,” laughs Schlessinger. This passion has also been passed down to his son Daniel, with whom he climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania when Daniel was 14-years-old.

And Tanzania isn’t the only travel experience Schlessinger has had with his family. In fact, his son has visited six continents, and his daughter has traveled to five. “We hope to get to the seventh continent before Daniel graduates high school,” says Schlessinger. “I think the fact that they both have a keen interest in the outside world and are politically activated and motivated has been in part due to their travels.”

Family vacations serve as a time for Schlessinger to relax and write, and of course, spend time with his loved ones. On his MP3 player, Schlessinger listens to his favorite music, ranging from Steely Dan and other classic rock artists, to Broadway sound tracks from musicals such as Wicked, to country artists such as Shania Twain. Preferring to read fiction, Schlessinger recently finished Life of Pi (Harvest Books, 2003) by Yann Martel and is currently reading the nonfiction Outliers: The Story of Success (Little, Brown and Company, 2008) by Malcolm Gladwell. Never one to shy away from technology, Schlessinger also is currently in the market for an Internet reader, such as an Amazon Kindle. “I’ve always enjoyed technology, and one of the things that has driven me to improve my practice is technology. That is the reason I started my Web site and integrated the Internet as early as I did,” he says.

A support system

In the future, Schlessinger would like to go into practice with his son and continue writing to sum up some of his experiences in order to help younger people going into the profession. He also plans to continue to balance his priorities. “I see some of my colleagues giving up their practices for professional stardom, leaving their families to fend for themselves. I’m extremely lucky to have a wonderful wife and family who have been incredibly supportive of me. That, along with my long-standing staff, many of whom have been with me since the beginning of my practice, is truly the secret of my success,” says Schlessinger. “After all, once the meetings and hoopla of living an examined and reported professional life are over, what is left? Your family, friends and practice. All too often, they take a backseat, and I have tried hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.” With Schlessinger’s eye on priorities and efficiency, his practice—and the people involved in it—promises to thrive for years to come.