CLINTON — Growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mary Shook knew she wanted to work in the medical field and help people.
Mary remembers her grandmother living with her family while struggling with cancer. Seeing her grandmother face this condition put her on the path to becoming a doctor.
“She would be in the family room and she would be moaning and groaning because she was in so much pain,” Mary said. “And she used to say, ‘They shoot horses who are in this much pain.’”
Seeing her grandmother’s doctor — Mary’s godfather — unable to help, she felt she could do a better job. Mary still uses his doctor’s bag, given to her by his wife.
While attending medical school at Georgetown University, she met her husband, James, who was studying to be a lawyer. When she graduated with her medical degree in 1980, she was pregnant with their second child. For the next 15 years, she worked part time so she could raise their six children
After 20 years, she received her master’s in public health degree and was recruited by Trinity Health in Iowa in 2000. She started working full time in 2005 and started at Clinton Occupational Health, a satellite of the Davenport facility, four years ago.
“I really like practicing medicine,” Mary said. “I like taking care of patients.
Working in occupational health, Mary handles workmen’s compensation claims and exams. She sees a mixture of injury claims, physical examinations and drug screening. Almost a quarter of her week is spent filling out the legal paper work.
“It’s a delicate balance between taking care of a patient but also being fair in not counting something that is personal (injury) as business,” Mary said. She enjoys that constant search for truth.
Before leaving the East Coast, Mary worked at a post office that dealt with anthrax. She also consulted with the postal employees suffering from mental issues. As an occupational and environmental medical professional, Mary has been trained to work with bio-hazards. She worked in a bio-safety level three lab.
Mary’s least favorite part of her job is telling a person they cannot go back to work. If she recommends testing or treatment first, employees cannot go back.
“But everybody’s bigger than me and it’s always scary to tell a big man he can’t go back to work,” Mary said.
Of all her duties, Mary’s favorite thing to do is give a patient stitches. In her spare time, she enjoys quilting but rarely gets to do it.
“My quilting is less perfect than my sutures,” Mary said.