Julie Spina, Primary Care Family Medicine Doctor, Sanford Health

Written by: Brady Drake
  • United Way Investor and Advocate

What is one lesson you have learned? How did you learn it?

Perseverance was a lesson instilled in me at an early age. My father had polio as an infant and walked with a limp. At 55, he had a massive stroke. The mental challenges caused by the stroke coupled with polio’s prior physical implications resulted in a diagnosis he would never walk again. His determination to not accept defeat was an inspiring lesson that encouraged me to enroll in college as an older-than-average student and become a physician. My father persevered his entire life and never let what most people would have considered a handicap slow him down. He lived his life to the fullest regardless of the obstacles. Witnessing his triumph to walk again successfully was a motivation for my medical career. It also reminds me to keep going even when life is not always easy, and there are bumps in the road.

What advice do you have for women trying to build their professional careers?

Building a career as a physician is a little different than many other careers. However, I know it is universal to be someone you would want to work with and support your coworkers. As women, we need to project confidence, accept challenges requiring us to be resilient, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and be fearless to start over. Accept all feedback and use it to evolve into a better person, coworker, and leader. Create a personal brand and find your focus. These things may change as your career changes, but always remember you are a strong woman and move forward with confidence and compassion.

From your perspective, how does United Way’s work impact the health care sector and business sector?

United Way impacts health care by decreasing homelessness. Homelessness has a significant impact on a person’s health. Living on the street or in a car can lead to inadequate food therefore inadequate nutrition, causing numerous health issues. This may also mean they are not able to afford critical medications. There is also a higher incidence of mental health and addiction issues for the homeless population. Decreasing homelessness is a foundational step to improve the business sector as well. Most employers require an address to get a job. If a person doesn’t have a home, they cannot get a good night’s sleep or maintain their hygiene. The issue of jobs has an impact on workforce development discussed in our final question.

Being a leader in the health care industry during the pandemic, what is some reflection you want to share with those who aren’t on the front lines?

While working through the pandemic, I found that working as a team was the best way to meet this challenge. Everyone working and supporting each other was the best way to navigate through this new challenge for all of us. None of us had been through anything like this before. Staying calm and informed by medical experts was the best way I could support my team. Using the leaders at Sanford and the CDC as my source of information and avoiding extraneous information. Using the leaders at Sanford and the CDC as my source of information, I was able to meet my patients’ needs as best I could during this time, all while making it a priority to keep them, myself, and my staff safe and healthy.

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.