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Spotlight: Pediatric Pulmonologist Bill Gershan loves having a positive impact on patients’ lives

Bill Gershan, MD, has 25 years of experience in pediatric pulmonology, including cystic fibrosis treatment.
Bill Gershan, who was recently hired as director of the division of pediatric pulmonology, says the national reputation of the University of Minnesota Health cystic fibrosis program drew him to Minnesota.

Pediatric Pulmonologist Bill Gershan, MD, loves having a long-term, positive impact on his patients’ lives.

Gershan was drawn to University of Minnesota Health because of the national reputation of our Cystic Fibrosis Center. Gershan has more than 25 years of experience as a pulmonologist, and joined University of Minnesota Health earlier this summer. He now serves as the director of pediatric pulmonology.

We caught up with him this week to discuss his motivation for becoming a doctor, his drive to improve preventive pediatric care and his love of travel.

What motivated you to become a doctor? Why are you passionate about your position?
My brother is a physician, and he’s nine years older than I am. I think that’s what motivated me initially. He graduated from medical school the same time I graduated from high school. He took me into the medical school and showed me around, and that’s when it caught my eye. It was seeing what he was doing and what he was studying that got me interested. In terms of pediatrics, I realized whenever I saw adult patients, I took more of a shine to the kids that were with them than the adult patients. That was a good clue. An allergist and pulmonologist at the University of Michigan during my residency got me interested in pulmonology, and that’s why I decided to go into that area of medicine.

What is one of your favorite memories from your work as a pulmonologist?
When I was in Milwaukee, I took care of a boy with muscular dystrophy for many years. I watched him grow as a teenager to someone in his late 20s. I had a special bond with him and we’ve kept in contact. I helped him through his disease and found new treatments for him. I also put him on a special ventilation treatment that really worked for him. He is now 33. I also took care of a lot of kids with cystic fibrosis in Milwaukee, and I’ve periodically gotten letters back from them, which has been moving. Having an impact on lives over a long term basis is important to me.

Learn more about the University of Minnesota Health Cystic Fibrosis Center.

What do you love about the University of Minnesota Health community?
I knew the cystic fibrosis program here had a fantastic reputation around the country as being one of the top programs in the United States. That’s really what brought me here. A lot of these larger programs around the country have ties to the national CF foundation, including the one here. Every year the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation comes out with national statistics, and they compare all the programs. The two things they always look at are pulmonary function tests within the groups of patients in the program, as well as nutritional data. The University of Minnesota routinely has some of the best patient outcomes for cystic fibrosis in both of those categories.

What is your unique philosophy for patient care? What distinguishes you from others in your field?
I’m really passionate about medical care for children. I want them to do well and grow up and be productive adults. But I think I’ve also made a point in my career to treat everyone equally, regardless of social status or background. My other hope in my practice is to encourage preventive care among children so they don’t get involved in risky behavior, so they don’t smoke and take care of themselves.

Tell us one surprising or interesting fact about yourself.
I really, really like to travel with my family. That’s always been something fun that we do together. We’ve been to Israel and Hawaii and a cruise to Alaska.

Anything else you want to share?
I would like to restart a pulmonary fellowship program. I was a fellowship director in Milwaukee and started and directed the program there for 15 years before I left. That’s something I hope to restart here.