Julie Freischlag, M.D.
Chief of Surgery,
Career Choice: Initially, I wanted to be a high school biology teacher but back in the 70’s they closed education as they thought there were going to be too many teachers. I then went in the premed curriculum and got accepted into Rush Medical coverage early decision after my interview. I then did surgery as my first clinical rotation to get it out of the way—but I learned I loved it! I then went to UCLA for my General Surgery and Vascular Surgery training. I loved vascular surgery due to the precise nature of the operations—and that you got to follow your patients over time as vascular disease is a chronic illness.
Challenges: Being a woman in surgery—both training and practicing—has been a challenge. Patients are fine with a women surgeon but other surgeons were a bit skeptical that a woman could work as hard or do as good of a job. The way to resolve those doubts of others is to work hard, be pleasant and never falter. Finding good colleagues along the way—male and female; doctors and non-doctors is essential to one’s success. Maintaining one’s focus and composure is important too.
Accomplishments: Becoming Chief of Vascular Surgery at UCLA—1998 – 2003
Becoming Chair of the Department of Surgery Johns Hopkins—2003 – present
Having a great husband (Phil, it will be 15 years this April), and 2 wonderful stepsons Matt (28) and Paul (27) and having my son Taylor 1995.
Turning Point: Deciding to be a doctor in 1975. Deciding to train at UCLA in Surgery in 1980. Deciding to be a leader in Surgery in 1998 and 2003
Mentors: My maternal grandfather who told me at 6 that I could do anything I wanted to even if some would tell me I could not (I had just skipped 1st grade)—he was a coal miner and he died the next year. He told me then I could do it.
Dr. George Sheldon, previous Chair of Surgery at University of North Carolina, who told me that I should be Chair of Surgery to lead surgery into new directions.
My brother Peter who always told me I was his hero—he was always mine! He is a special education high school teacher, an artist and a ranked tennis player—total talent.
Advice: Go for your passion in life—some days only that passion will see you through—other days your passion will motivate you to make a real difference.#