After retirement, many people ask themselves: okay so...what’s next? Retirement provides a sense of freedom and opportunity, but also a sense of anxiety and unease. Switching from a full time career to a retirement life is a tremendous adjustment, as Roger Sheldon (2019-20 UMAC fellow) found when he left a rewarding career as a neonatal physician moving from Oklahoma to Minnesota. Roger was excited about his new life in Minnesota, but also he recognized that he needed to proactively recreate his daily life, to find the fulfillment that he got from his career.
For Roger, the UMAC program offered him time and space to reflect, and structure and support to transition his life’s work into a new passion. Roger reexamined his life and priorities, and identified a “portfolio” of meaningful work and volunteering that balances different interests, projects and tasks.
During his time as a fellow, Roger volunteered in the classroom, serving as a resource for undergraduate students in a Grand Challenge course in global health challenges. Roger spent his career helping children, and he realized that he gets energized by opportunities to help others, particularly younger generations. Roger says of the experience, “I collaborated with a team of 5 very capable and creative young people who strengthened my belief in the next generation. This encore generation (us) is still in the fray and are able to contribute in a unique and valuable way, even throughout our ‘later years’.” Roger was inspired by these young adults: their passions to make a difference and their talents to turn their ideas into real solutions.
From this experience, Roger focused attention on his priorities for a portfolio of encore work. His core priorities revolve around family, self-renewal, personal health, and caring for others. Using these core priorities as his foundation, Roger then added volunteering to his portfolio: tutoring grade schoolers in reading, singing with dementia patients and their caregivers in the Giving Voice Chorus at MacPhail, reading books aloud for the Radio Talking Books program of the Minnesota State Services for the Blind, and reconnecting with those in his medical specialty (neonatal intensive care) at the UMN and Children's Hospitals. Finally, he is excited to add a new project: helping to start and build an encore program at the Bakken Medical Devices Center (B-MDC) at the University of Minnesota (UMN), an innovation center in the design of new medical devices.
Working with B-MDC is a great fit for Roger, With his background as a physician, Roger knows first hand that medical device design is key to saving lives. Because he worked with tiny babies, many devices designed for adults needed to be adapted. This background helps him understand the B-MDC’s role in patients, marketed devices, and hands-on coursework for students.
UMAC connected Roger with contacts at B-MDC where his interests in solving problems at the bedside by creativity and innovation flourished. Roger was given the opportunity to aid in the development of their Encore Fellowship program, planned to begin this summer. This fellowship brings senior and retired professionals, along with the knowledge they have gathered over their careers, into the B-MDC to mentor, teach and assist students. Much like the UMAC program, the Encore Fellowship will bridge an intergenerational gap between these talented groups of people.
By creating a portfolio of meaningful work, Roger was able to leverage his individual strengths and abilities, while supporting a balanced and sustainable lifestyle. He described the process as “reliving our young adult assessment of who we are, where we would best fit and what we could likely contribute to others and to our communities and world.” Roger highly recommends for everyone to have their own “gap year” - a period of self examination and reflection. He says, “ I really think everybody should do this sort of inventory, maybe several times, during life.”