| Pundit Profile

A Q&A with Colleen M. Fitzgerald

What inspired you to do what you do?

I always wanted to be a doctor ever since I was a little girl. No one in my family was in medicine but even then I felt it was my vocation, my true calling to take care of the sick and suffering. I am the oldest of 4 girls, and my father, the biggest feminist I know, taught me to study hard, believe in myself, and that there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish. My mother taught me how to listen, to be myself, and to nurture those around me. I chose Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&r) as my specialty because I was drawn to the focus on quality of life, functional recovery, and maximizing the strengths of the individual even when faced with injury/illness.

Why did you focus on pain management?

I was drawn to women’s health. By default as the only female provider in our PM&r musculoskeletal pain practice, many female patients landed in my clinic, a great majority of whom had pelvic pain or pregnancy related pain issues. I couldn’t believe so many of them were still suffering despite having seen multiple providers. I felt compelled to build the practice focusing on pelvic pain/pelvic floor issues. I later pursued clinical research to answer the many questions that lacked sound medical evidence in clinical care.

Who were your mentors?

My parents, my teachers at Mother McAuley High School, a girls’ Catholic school on the south side of Chicago. Dr. Joanne Smith at Northwestern PM&r introduced me to the field. She was/is smart, compassionate, strong, a confident definitive leader. Dr. Norm Harden, who taught me most of what I know about pain, and always supported my academic goals. Dr. Joel Press welcomed me into his practice and stood by my quest in women’s health. Urogynecologist Dr. Linda Brubaker taught me efficiency, focus, the value of clinical research, the strength of an interdisciplinary team, and how to keep believing in myself!.

If you weren’t a healthcare provider, what would you be?

Probably a preschool teacher because I adore children. I’m lucky to have 4 of my own, and I find toddlers to be the best medicine in the world!

What is your most marked characteristic?

I think perhaps my compassion. I am drawn to care for all those around me: my patients, my family, my friends.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Having 4 children and being a Doctor Mom. It is possible!

What is your favorite language?

Latin! It’s the basis for much of the language of medicine. My dad made me take Latin in high school and now I don’t regret it. Two of our favorite quotes:

Labor omnia vincit—Hard work conquers all
Nunquam non quit—Never, never quit

If you had to choose one book, one film, and one piece of music to take into space for an undetermined amount of time, what would they be?

Book: Delia Owen’s Where the Crawdads Sing: such a great read.

Film: The Sound of Music: my all time fav. Julie Andrews never gets old.

Music: Probably some girl power music from Tina Turner, Fergie, Taylor Swift, and lately Lizzo!

What would you like your legacy to be?

That I trained outstanding physicians in how to care for women in pain, that I raised wonderful children who have their own vocations, that I made a difference in the lives of women with pelvic pain who deserve not to suffer.

Plans for the future?

I hope to contribute more to the field of pelvic pain with ongoing research in musculo- skeletal causes/myofascial pain. Travel. Stay healthy for my children as much as I can, and never retire!

What is your motto?

Never give up. Hold onto your faith and your calling. Lead by example. Remain humble.

Sign Up

Subscribe to the PAINWeek Newsletter
and get our latest articles and more directly in your inbox.