Physicians need to remember to keep their life in balance by not only stepping back from work once in a while, but also by having important hobbies to do outside of the office.
Most people don’t think of their surgeons outside of the operating room. But for William Leone, MD, FACS, a Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based orthopedic surgeon, his life outside the operating room is almost as important as the time he spends in surgery.
“I think you have to constantly strive for that balance,” Leone says. “And with all of our lives, it’s always looking for the balance that’s right for us, so that — yes, you’re working very hard, but you have something you look forward to. Something else other than work that allows you to recharge your batteries.”
For Leone, that recharging comes in many forms.
Mother of inventions
For the past 20 years Leone has helped thousands of patients from around the world, and today his practice focuses exclusively on solving complex hip and knee problems, including hip and knee replacement surgery. That focus was what led to his inventing the Pelvic Alignment Level — a device that provides hip replacement surgeons with a simple and intuitive instrument for measuring and eliminating many of the assumptions they previously had to make.
“I’m a super specialist with a certain type of surgery — it just means that I do an awful lot of it,” Leone explains. “If you do an awful lot of anything, then you really begin to tweak it and see nuances that you couldn’t see otherwise. And you begin to try to recognize where the points are that everyone struggles with. Where you have to make assumptions versus being able to just quantitatively measure it and produce it over and over. And if you can kind of break that down and begin to eliminate those assumptions, then there’s a lot less stress and your results are much more accurate.”
The Pelvic Alignment Level allows Leone to do just that. The device, which was created over the course of 15 years, is now patented and is being distributed nationally by an orthopedics equipment distributor. Among other things, it enables surgeons to know where a patient’s pelvis is before they are ready to put the cup into the pelvis as part of the total hip, and to measure the person’s length and hip offset before and after the procedure, rather than simply eyeballing it.
“We all know that if we’re really accurate we can do our jobs better,” Leone says. “This device enables us to do that.”
It would be easy to stereotype physicians as having their feet firmly planted on the ground, but Leone can often be found with his head in the clouds — literally. He’s a pilot with a commercial license and admits that he wanted to fly a plane ever since high school. Costs were prohibitive back then, but the first thing he did when he finished his residency was purchase a small airplane.
“I put in about a hundred hours punching holes in the sky,” Leone recalls. “And then I bought a bigger airplane that I could actually go someplace in. I flew that for about 14 years, and now I have even a slightly bigger airplane with two engines. So, it’s a progression. It’s a hobby. It’s just something I enjoy doing. It’s not for everyone. But for me, it’s something different and it relaxes me.”
Why the fascination with flying? Leone says he gets a certain feeling when he lands an airplane, especially at an airport that he has never been to before. He plans the trip, executes it, and once the plane is parked and tied down, he experiences a unique feeling of pride and of accomplishment.
“It’s that same feeling you get when you’re flying and you see these absolutely outrageous sunsets,” Leone says. “Or when there’s [bad] weather, and you’re kind of navigating between weather and communicating and things are happening and you’re actively engaged in this process. It just makes you feel alive.”
Leone grew up in south Florida where he was an avid swimmer and diver. When he turned 13, he was given a diving course and equipment as a gift. He passed the diving course, quickly became certified, and has been doing advanced scuba diving — including open water night diving — ever since.
“It has always been a wonderful thing to do,” Leone explains. “You go to these exotic places, be it Fiji or Tahiti, and all of a sudden, you’re not just at these great places, but you get to go diving as well. It just adds another dimension.”
Dimension is important to Leone. It’s the way he likes to keep his life — three-dimensional.
“It’s the X-, Y- and the Z-axis,” he says. “You feel special because you’re feeling water, you’re feeling the air, and you’re feeling the weather. It recharges me, and makes me feel different. And for me, it’s okay to be a little different.”
Leone says that everything he does, from hip replacement surgery to scuba diving to flying a plane, is geared to keeping his life in balance. It’s also a message he tries to communicate to patients as well as other physicians.
“I see many of my colleagues become so wound up in their profession,” Leone says. “And that’s just physicians. It can also be attorneys, or any sort of businessperson. I think you just have to be careful, that there is a balance. You are staying healthy. You’re not just feeding the professional part of you, but also the other equally important parts.”
ork hard, play hardBelow the surfaceMaintaining balance
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