Lisa Newsome, M.D.

Lisa NewsomeLisa Testa Newsome ’83 had plans: She was going to be an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

Newsome entered Immaculata at the urging of her parents, who insisted that the school’s smaller classes, more individualized attention to students, and 100 percent acceptance rate to medical schools at large would make it a good fit.

“It was a little foreign to me,” admitted Newsome, “coming from public school. Being taught by and living with nuns was very foreign to me. But the Sisters were all so smart. I had real Ph.D.s teaching me, and that was huge. I had a great education. You could go to them at any time if you didn’t understand something, and they would sit with you until you got it. That’s priceless. These women were phenomenal.”

Newsome earned a B.A. in biology/chemistry and, after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in 1987, left for Nashville, TN to embark on what she referred to as “a slightly psychotic life for five years” in Vanderbilt University’s dual degree program.

“You were a med student and an oral surgery resident,” said Newsome. “At that time oral surgeons needed four months of an anesthesia rotation, so I did two months of anesthesia and, to make a long story short, I fell in love with it.”

Newsome took this surprising discovery to the dean of the medical students where she confessed, “I’m supposed to become an oral surgeon, but I really fell in love with anesthesia this summer.” The dean advised Newsome to go through all of her student rotations, because she might find something she liked even better.

By the end of the third year, she hadn’t found anything else she preferred as much. In the summer of 1989 she did anesthesia again, and “it confirmed that’s what I really liked.”

Newsome broke the news of her “defection to anesthesia” to her (ex-military) program chairman and graduated med school in 1990, after which she did an internship at Vanderbilt before switching her residency to Bowman Gray in Winston-Salem, NC (now Wake Forest), where she completed a fellowship in cardiac anesthesia.

Newsome remembers having to call her parents to tell them about her switch from surgeon to anesthesiologist. “I was trying to explain that I loved it because, for me, it was like being in a lab and seeing physiology in ‘real time,’ where you can manipulate it or fix it.”

Newsome compared it to being an airline pilot where there are stretches of monotony interspersed with bursts of activity. “Things happen to patients,” said Newsome, “and you have to be really alert and really honest. I finally said, ‘Dad, it’s just like cooking—there’s a science and there’s also an art.’

“Each patient is different and you have to figure out that individual patient,” said Newsome. “They may have diabetes or high blood pressure, but they still have to be put to sleep, and the challenge becomes—this patient is really sick, and there are all these other things to think about. That’s what really interested me. The diversity of cases, it’s always a little different.”

Newsome spent years in private practice doing cardiac anesthesia, but now she works at Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina and freelances in a plastic surgeon’s office. “I try to work no more than three days a week. I have a nine-year-old daughter, and I’m happy that I have a practice where I have a little bit of flexibility.

“This works for my family,” said Newsome. “I can still practice medicine and, though it might not be the ideal situation for most people, I can still raise my daughter, still be a part of her life.

“There’s so much pressure, and female physicians can never say ‘I have to go be a room mother.’ But I understand that you can’t do it all; you have to make choices, and there’s a certain peace to that. I get to do a little bit of everything, and it makes my life more interesting.”

Newsome is involved in her community now through work with the American Heart Association, supporting the arts, and giving time to her daughter’s school. “I love volunteering at my daughter’s school because I know it makes an immediate difference. My real passion in life is to cook, so right now I’m chairing the cookbook committee.”

Her husband Bert’s passion, however, is Carolina basketball, having gone to UNC Chapel Hill and then Wake Forest for his M.B.A. But when they took their daughter Emilie and a few of her friends to see the Mighty Macs movie, Newsome’s husband turned to her after the film was over and exclaimed, “That was great!” Back at home he grabbed an issue of the Immaculata Magazine and showed it to Emilie, saying, “This is where women’s basketball started.”

“The Mighty Macs movie meant so much to us,” Newsome said, “especially my husband. And hearing him say that made me feel really proud.”

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