Surgeon’s Career Makes Her a Rebel in the Family
One in an ongoing series
Catherine Schermer seemed to have her future cut out for her.
She knew she wanted to get a professional degree. Her father was a lawyer. Her uncles were lawyers. Her cousins were lawyers.
“My father had his own law firm and wanted to be able to hand it down to one of his daughters,” says Schermer, who has two sisters. Her father’s law practice specialized in medical malpractice; doctors were his adversaries.
So, Catherine Schermer became. . . a doctor.
“It’s ironic, isn’t it?” says Schermer, MD, a general surgeon at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, now a part of Jefferson Health, who specializes in robotic, minimally invasive hernia surgery.
“I didn’t like law. I think because most of the professionals in my family were attorneys, I wanted to go a whole different route.”
If Dr. Shermer’s path to surgery wasn’t pre-ordained, neither was it direct. First, she decided to become a psychiatrist, until a day in the company of a profoundly psychotic patient during medical school changed her mind.
Then she decided to become a family practitioner – until she did her surgery rotation.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’” she says. “Surgery is the kind of specialty where you have a sick person, you go in and fix something or remove something and then they’re all better.”
That resonated with Dr. Schermer’s lifelong goal to “help people” From the time she was a hospital candy striper in seventh grade, “I just always had a thing for helping people.”
Her surgery patients can attest to that; Dr. Schermer is accessible to all of them around the clock. And yes, sometimes they call in the middle of the night.
“All of my patients have my contact information and can reach me 24/7,” Dr. Schermer says. “They have my cell phone and email address to get in touch with me.”
“These patients are putting all their trust in me to come in and fix a problem and surgery is always scary, pre-operatively and post-operatively,” she says. “I always want to be available for patients to have any questions answered.”
That sense of compassion and commitment may explain why Dr. Schermer has been nominated twice for the Korman Family prize, the hospital’s most prestigious honor, which was inaugurated two years ago.
The prize is given to two staff members a year who “best represent the qualities found in Einstein Montgomery’s five pillars: Quality, Service, Academics, Diversity and Inclusion, and People.”
Dr. Schermer is a former skier and a former runner whose current hobbies are “my kids,” she says of her daughter, aged 7, and a son who’s 9. “Making sure I get to all of their activities and school functions is important. If I’m not at work, then I’m with my kids and my very supportive husband.”
“I think one of the most challenging things in surgery in a male-dominated field is being able to show that you have the amazing ability to balance both being a full-time surgeon and being a full-time mom,” she says.
Speaking of being a parent, Dr. Schermer says she and her father never clashed over her decision to become a doctor.
“He was upset that I wasn’t going into law,” she says, “but he was excited for me to want to be a professional and he encouraged me.
“I must say the day he watched me graduate from medical school was one of the happiest days of his life.”