GENERAL, GERIATRIC, PALLIATIVE MEDICINE STAFF PROFILE – Michelle Pottala

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’ve worked at UVA for a total of ten years, spending the last two in the SOM-Division of General Medicine and the previous eight in the MC-Finance Department. My husband, Trevor and I built a home 15 years ago near Fork Union on 11 acres of land that no one can find because it doesn’t appear on GPS and people are scared to drive into the woods. We live there with our three cats, who love us unconditionally on their own terms.

Why Healthcare?
I hadn’t planned on a career in healthcare. After I received my bachelor’s degree, I went for an interview at UVA that led to another interview with someone I had met while working my way through college at a local bank.

What brought you to Charlottesville?
I have lived near Charlottesville my entire life. I’m definitely a small-town girl!

What excites you about your work?
I enjoy working with numbers, and I’m somewhat addicted to spreadsheets! My finance job in General Medicine offers me plenty of opportunities to work with both. Also, I value the many friendships I’ve made while working at UVA.

Proudest/greatest achievement outside the professional realm?
My proudest achievement is being the first person on my father’s side of the family to earn a college degree. A modest upbringing meant a long term plan for earning the degree, so I was about 26 years old when I received my bachelor’s. Unfortunately, my father passed when I was 21, but I used that adversity to drive me forward.

Next life?
I think a job studying and researching wild cats would be cool! I often find myself envying the researchers in the big cat documentaries.

What are you usually doing on the weekend?
I like to spend time at home on the weekends because it’s like fancy camping! There’s so much wildlife to observe, and the sounds of nature are deafening. I love going for runs on my long driveway and having encounters with all of the different animals.

How did you meet your partner?
My brother’s interaction with Trevor played a part in us, ultimately getting together. While chatting, it came up that Trevor and I were both attending the same college, and Trevor realized that he knew of me. Trevor asked him for my phone number, and my brother gave it to him. (I was not happy with my brother!) Several months later Trevor asked me out. I accepted, and when I asked if he wanted my number, he said “I already have it” and quickly rattled it off to me! That was 24 years ago.

Favorite vacation/activity spot?
I don’t have a favorite spot but have enjoyed everywhere I’ve vacationed. I’ve especially enjoyed my trips to Saratoga to watch the horse races and my trips to Indianapolis to attend the Formula One races.

Most admired person, and why?
I admire my husband, and I’m reminded on a daily basis of the strength of his character. Trevor medically retired from the U.S. Navy 27 years ago after suffering a traumatic spinal cord injury that resulted in paraplegia. His medical knowledge and experience as a Navy Corpsman allowed him to adapt better than some folks. Living with a physical disability has its many challenges, and one challenge that Trevor (and I) have been slow to respond to differently is the human curiosity component. When most folks meet someone with a visible physical disability for the first time, they are curious as to how it happened. They don’t realize when they make the inquiry, it forces the person to relive a very tragic experience over and over. We’ve answered the questions, and we’ve had the conversations only because we didn’t want to be rude or have the person feel bad for asking it. However, we’ve grown tired of this “broken record” experience. We realize that we need to respond differently so that meeting new people can be a more enjoyable, positive experience for him (and me.) We decided the response could be as simple as “Let’s not ruin a good time by recounting a sad story.”

Best advice anyone ever gave you?
“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast” and “Work smarter, not harder.” I don’t know who to credit with these quotes, but they can be applied to almost anything in everyday life.

What about you would surprise us?
I raised laying hens for about five years and loved it! Raising baby chicks proved to be a somewhat lonely time for Trevor. He would often find me in the garage, sitting next to the brooder with a sleeping baby chick perched on my hand. I had very spoiled chickens!

 

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