Home | Member Spotlight: Tim Zager, MD, FAAP

Member Spotlight: Tim Zager, MD, FAAP

December 2, 2020

I understand you recently retired from practicing medicine, but you are still finding ways to stay connected to advocacy for children. Can you tell me about some of your recent activities?

I have managed to find some paths to stay connected to advocacy for children by serving on the board for First Witness Child Advocacy Center in Duluth. I also partnered as a pediatric resource with MN Head Start as they re-started their programming across the state over the summer. MN Head Start leadership demonstrated admirable sensitivity and effectiveness in re-engaging with their vulnerable communities over the summer when the basic science around COVID-19 was evolving rapidly and best practices for re-opening required novel design and periodic review.

You serve on the board of First Witness Child Advocacy Center. How long have you been involved with the center and what drew you to this organization?

My initial involvement with First Witness was back in 1990’s when the organization formed and built their building across the street from the former Duluth Community Health Center (now Lake Superior Community Health Center) where I was a physician volunteer and board member. I became re-engaged a few years ago when First Witness approached the Duluth Family Medicine Residency (where I was on faculty) to form a partnership to assist in forensic clinical evaluations as part of their comprehensive programming for children and families suffering from abuse. The Duluth Family Medicine Residency carries on this partnership under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Jones. I am retired and have served on the First Witness board for 18 months.

What are your interests or hobbies?

My interests are local history of the Twin Ports (especially railroading and Great Lakes shipping), serving on the board of the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. Active outdoor pursuits are a special interest including kayaking Lake Superior, canoeing, bicycling, snow shoeing, and cross country skiing. My fly rod and other fishing tackle receives occasional use. Four growing grandchildren from 2-7 years of age receive increasing shares of my time, especially since my wife and I are doing the online schooling for our 7-year-old grandson during this pandemic interval.

What’s the funniest thing a patient has ever said to you?

The funniest thing a (young) patient ever said to me was: “My Daddy works as a (insert job here), what kind of work do you do?”

If you could share one lesson from your years in practice, what would it be?

One lesson to share from years of practice: learn and record in each patient’s chart the names of everyone in the family, where they live, and some vital themes around their family life. Review this info briefly before every encounter. Nothing emphasizes that you truly care for the family than being able to greet each child in the room by name and ask some pertinent question updating family life. It’s not just good patient relations; it turns a crowded schedule of ‘encounters’ into a rich series of ‘engagements.’ I found this to be the best means to avoid the dreaded ‘burnout’ that can come with the inevitable busyness of outpatient medicine. Going the extra mile for kids that feel like family does not seem to consume as much effort as it might if the day were just a list of tasks.

2020 has been an unpredictable year. If you could look into a crystal ball for the future, what would you hope to see?

My hope for the future after the pandemic year of 2020 is that all who work in healthcare through this crisis are drawn together into a bond of caring and service to each other and the people who seek care. As the pandemic deepens, the heroic service of all healthcare workers may be able to inspire the next generation to heed the call to choose a career in the health fields.

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