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Physician Cultivates his Indiana Roots with Cider Making

Man with apples

Cider-Making Day

Brandon Brown, MD, leaned into his homemade cider press—the full weight of his body crushing the apple juice into a basin below. Colleagues and family members eagerly stood around the press at Brown’s Indianapolis home. They were waiting for fresh Indiana cider on the brisk autumn day.

Brown and his son pouring apple pomace to be strained into cider.

Brown and his son preparing apple pomace for cider straining.

Cider-making day: What might seem like a scene out of an agrarian tale is an annual team-building event for Brown and his Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Radiology colleagues. Brown, a native Hoosier and pediatric radiologist, has planted more than 100 apple trees in the past 10 years. For Brown, making cider isn’t just a way to enjoy a homemade Indiana staple. Instead, it’s also a way to connect with his community and the local environment.

“I’ve always felt a little bit of loyalty to a sense of place,” Brown said. “I feel a commitment to our state and to our community here at IU School of Medicine. I really like the idea that we have a team of people who are committed to ensuring our community has the very best care. Caring for a local orchard and making cider with my colleagues is a great way to build that commitment to community and place.”

The Problem with Work-Life Balance

How does Brown have the time to make cider (and the occasional maple syrup) while balancing his time as a physician, educator and father of seven? The key for Brown is finding ways to enjoy how he spends all of his time, instead of worrying that he is achieving balance.

“I think we need to pursue the things we’re passionate about and throw ourselves into them completely,” Brown said. “One thing that the industrialized world has given to us is this weekday-weekend split. This is very practical and useful from a certain point of view. However, it also creates this danger that we can spend the majority of our week wishing for the minority of our week.”

Growing Wellness through Stories

With burnout a global problem in the profession, finding passion in everyday life can sometimes be a challenge for physicians. As a leader in the Teacher Learner Advocacy Committee (TLAC), Brown seeks ways to cultivate a workplace that nurtures wellness. Through these efforts he strives to share the generosity and kindness he sees in his colleagues every day.

“I’m very focused on the ways in which we can rediscover what inspired us about medicine in the first place, the ways that we can find joy in our work every day,” Brown said. “Through TLAC, we work to identify and give proper attention to challenges. But that’s not the whole story. There are people going out of their way to help one another, not just because it’s their job or because it’s going to bring some benefit to themselves, but because they believe it’s the right thing to do. But I wonder if those stories don’t get told quite as much. So, I want to tell them.”

During the past year, he has sought to tell those stories with a podcast series, MedStories, which will launch in 2019. The podcast focuses on stories from small acts of kindness to serendipitous life-saving interventions. Brown said he hopes each episode reminds its listeners of the good that happens every day within the school.

Listen to the first episode of the MedStories podcast >>

Putting Down Roots

About to enter his sixteenth year with the school, Brown said he is humbled by where his path has taken him. Unexpected experiences across the world and back home in Indiana have shaped his calling to medicine over the years. Studying literature in Italy helped him learn to holistically heal a whole person. And a first-of-its-kind bioethics master’s program in Indianapolis, with the guidance of mentors Richard Gunderman, MD, PhD, and Margaret Gaffney, MD, fostered a continued exploration of his passion for ethics.

“I would say that my life hasn’t gone according to plan,” Brown said. “And I’m so grateful because my plan was OK, but it wasn’t nearly as wonderful as my life has turned out to be.”

Eager to pay it forward to a community that has served him throughout his entire life, Brown said he is happy to continue to grow his roots in Indiana.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

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