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For the Love of Patients

It’s the relationships that mean the most to this obstetrician-gynecologist
By Cheryl England

It’s a good thing obstetrician and gynecologist Robert Kelsey, MD, only needs four to six hours of sleep each night. This busy physician wears many hats as president of the Chicago Women’s Health Group, chief of staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at the hospital. That, plus he still manages to see a full slate of patients, including surgical cases, each week.

“It does take an incredible amount of organization to get everything done correctly,” he admits. “Fortunately, I’ve been able to surround myself with great people who can help keep me organized. Also, I’ve gotten pretty good at time management.”

As an example, Dr. Kelsey spends any extra minutes between patients or meetings completing medical records, reviewing lab results or replying to essential emails. Plus he allocates one day a week solely to the administrative parts of his jobs so that he can spend the rest of his week doing what he loves best—seeing patients. “I don’t know where I’d be without my computer and smartphone,” he says. “I’m constantly checking my schedule so I can be prepared for what is coming up.”

Dr. Kelsey, however, didn’t start out knowing that medicine would be his calling. “I got out of college and was kind of fumbling around deciding what to do,” he says. “I ended up working in a hospital in labor organization. I loved working there because the hospital attracted very compassionate people. I realized the only difference between them and me was some education.”

After receiving his medical degree from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1985, Dr. Kelsey did his residency training at Northwestern, where he has stayed. Early on, Dr. Kelsey became quite active at Northwestern, serving on a variety of committees such as peer review and quality management. “It’s a funny thing,” he laughingly says, “the more involved you are, the more people ask you to do!”

It didn’t take long before the medical staff asked Dr. Kelsey to become the secretary and treasurer, then vice chief of staff, and finally, chief of staff. Meanwhile, the Chicago Women’s Health Group began growing from its initial stage where Dr. Kelsey was one of two physicians to its current status with six physicians, four mid-level providers and a total team of 30 people. “My first partner retired, essentially leaving me with the business,” says Dr. Kelsey. “It’s a good thing I’ve come to enjoy administration as well as patient care. Together they let me use my brain in different ways.”

Outside of work, Dr. Kelsey is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys running, camping, hiking, bike riding and a slew of other activities. In addition, Dr. Kelsey goes to Guatemala once a year with the Faith and Practice Group to provide medical services in underserved areas.

But the thing that keeps him going at work is seeing his patients. “More than anything I’m happiest at work when I’m seeing my patients,” he says. “I’ve delivered babies from women who I delivered when they were babies. I get to know the women and their families. Being able to help people start a family is an unbelievably intimate and rewarding experience. No matter what happens in the political landscape, I believe that the special relationship between a physician and patient will stay intact.”

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