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Susan Hage, DO
How does a professional modern dancer become a physician? What inspires a person to relocate to Midcoast Maine during their very first visit here? And how has physiatry accumulated so many hip monikers? These are the questions Susan Hage, DO, has faced for much of her career.
Raised in Detroit and a graduate of Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Hage joined Waldo County General Hospital in 2015 and now sees patients at both WCGH and Pen Bay Medical Center. For more information about Dr. Hage, call 207-548-2475.
What inspired you to practice medicine?
SH: I have many family members who are physicians, so the idea was instilled early on. I know it sounds hokey, but I was about 4 years old when I said I wanted to be a doctor. In college, my first choice was to be a clinical child psychologist. Then I changed my major to physical therapy and then to pre-med. In the end, I earned two bachelor’s degrees, one in psychology and one in dance.
SH: I’ve danced since I was 13 years old. When I was in medical school, I was in a professional modern dance company. During my residency, I was an on-call physician for the Atlanta Ballet and took classes there. When I was a physician working in a Michigan hospital, a PR person for the hospital came by and said, ‘Hey, I hear you have a background in dance.’ He was also the director of a local community theater, and he asked if I would choreograph a musical for them. So I choreographed musicals while I was a practicing physician.
Was there an internal debate about what path you would take, dance or medicine?
SH: A huge debate! In my last year of college, my professors were really pushing for me to pursue a career as a professional dancer. Then the acceptance letter for medical school came in. There was about a month of going back and forth. In the end, even though I believe both make the world a better place, I thought I could make a bigger impact in medicine.
Does dance inform your medical practice?
SH: I think I understand anatomy and biomechanics on a deeper level because of my dancing. Having been an athlete and an artist who uses her body as an instrument, I’ve had my share of sports injuries. So when my patients tell me what’s bothering them, I understand what they’re feeling.
How do you approach new patients?
SH: I try to understand them, from their activity level to their psychosocial well-being to their nutrition. Self-care is the baseline – taking care of your body as a physical structure through posture, biomechanics, stretching and strength training. In many cases, medications and injections provide relief for three hours or three months, but they’re not cures. The thing that makes a lasting difference is when you’re working with the mind and the body, with injections layered in as necessary. By the time folks come to see me, they’ve been living with something chronically. So there is often an emotional component. We talk about relaxation, meditation, positive perceptions, affirmation, journaling, and prayer, whatever resonates for the patient.
Does the term ‘holistic practitioner’ apply to what you do?
SH: I would say so. I treat the whole person. And I think that’s really the physiatrist’s approach. I think what physiatrists have always done is now being given hip names, like lifestyle medicine, like integrative medicine, like holistic medicine, like self-care, but these are things we’ve always focused on.
SH: I grew up in Detroit and did my residency in Atlanta. I wanted to try a different way of life. I had a friend in my residency who said, ‘Why don’t you think about coming up to Maine?’ So my husband and I came up to take a look over Easter. I saw the Camden Hills. I saw the ocean. When I saw the Camden Opera House, as a dancer I just said, ‘I think I’m home.’ We bought a house the very next day! When we went back to Michigan for a year after my first child was born, I just couldn’t shake how much I missed Maine – its natural beauty, the quality of life, the sense of community.
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