Faculty Focus: Ericka Lawler, MD

Date: Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Ericka Lawler portraitWhat is your hometown? 

Woodhaven, Michigan.

How/when did you become interested in science and/or medicine?

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a doctor. My goals became more serious in high school as I really enjoyed the sciences, especially biology, and felt that medicine would be a great way to pursue science and help others.

When did you join the University of Iowa faculty?

I came to Iowa for the Hand Surgery Fellowship from 2005 to 2006. After considering a number of practices, I elected to stay on as faculty. My husband is from the Iowa City area, so we enjoy having family around as well.

How or why did you choose to join the faculty at the University of Iowa?

I was impressed by the opportunities here as a faculty member. Each faculty member in the Department of Orthopedics is allowed to pursue their passion—whether it is a focus on clinical care, resident education, or research activities. Being able to spend my time on activities that I enjoy and where I feel I can make the most impact allows me to be a more effective faculty member. 

Iowa also offers many opportunities as a tertiary care center. I am able to treat complex upper extremity problems and provide care to those in need. This position is both rewarding and challenging, which is why I find my job very satisfying.

Is there a teacher or mentor who helped shape your career?

Everyone’s path in medicine is a little different, and we all have mentors throughout the different stages in our lives. I have been blessed with a lot of support over the years—from family, friends, and educators every step of the way.

How do you see your faculty role impacting medicine and/or science?

In addition to patient care, my primary goal is to educate residents. I see my role as providing education not only on specific issues related to hand and upper extremity surgery but also to help trainees learn how to work with challenging patients, a demanding work schedule, and maintain a work-life balance. If I can do that, I will consider myself successful.

What is the biggest change you’ve experienced in your field since you were a student?

Unfortunately computer/paperwork isn’t going away and is a frustration for everyone in medicine today. You have to learn how to balance constant communication with taking a mental break from your work life. It is a huge challenge for all of us.

What one piece of advice would you give to today’s students?

A career in medicine means a lifetime of working with people—people who are hurting and often difficult to help. The path is long and exhausting and you need support from those around you. But the end result is a very rewarding career.

In what ways are you engaged in professional activities outside the University?

For the past five years I have participated in pediatric hand surgery mission work in Honduras. One week a year, I provide care to those who have no access to hand and upper extremity surgery. I have recently become involved in diversity issues related to orthopedics and am working to bring the specialty of orthopedics into the community.

What are some of your outside interests?

My family is my primary interest. I enjoy spending time with my husband, 12 year old daughter Claire and 10 year old son Henry. We live in rural Johnson county so I love being outside in the garden or ice-skating on our pond.

Learn more about Ericka A. Lawler, MD.