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  • Writer's pictureValerie Brooke, MD

The Last Frontier

I grew up in the Green Mountain State (Vermont), lived for a short time as an adolescent in the Granite State (New Hampshire), and for my first two years of college, resided in the Bay State (Massachusetts). These three states got their nicknames from their natural surroundings. Vermont is not the only state with green mountains, but it comes from the French words “vert mont,” so it seized the nickname before other New England states had the chance. Even though New Hampshire doesn’t have the most granite in its bedrock compared to other states, it earned its nickname from its large granite quarry industry. Massachusetts has five bays on its eastern edge, the most famous Cape Cod Bay where I spent time in the summers when growing up in Vermont. So my childhood was filled with mountains, granites, and bays.


At twenty years of age, I moved all the way across country to the Beaver State (Oregon), nicknamed so due to the fur trappers that moved west for beaver pelts. Sadly, my Oregon-born-and-raised husband is a duck, as he attended the University of Oregon (duck mascot), rather than Oregon State University (beaver mascot). After twenty years in the Beaver State, I dragged my husband across the country to the Keystone State (Pennsylvania), to attend my physical medicine and rehabilitation residency. The Keystone State got its nickname as it was the arch or “capstone” of the original thirteen colonies. Similarly, for me, living there was the final piece of my educational journey of becoming a physician, locking my future into place just as a keystone does in an archway.


Heading back west, my next stop was the Evergreen State (Washington), a nickname not officially recognized by the legislature, but an accurate description of the lush greenery afforded by all the rain of the Pacific Northwest. I thought this would be my landing place until retirement, yet circumstances beyond my control (a financially collapsing hospital) pushed me again to move to yet another state. I’ve been in the Battleborn State (Nevada) for eight years now, and like the Evergreen State, also thought this would be the last stop on my career wagon. The Battleborn State earned its nickname because it became a state in 1864, during the Civil War. Unfortunately, the last year at my job has felt like I’ve been fighting a battle. A struggle for autonomy, collaboration, flexibility, and integrity. I’ve given up the fight, deciding to walk away from what I know does not work for me any longer.


So where to next? I’ve taken on some part time work in the next six months, while I consider my options. First stop is the Bluegrass State (Kentucky), named for the tall grass that takes on a blue tinge in the spring, where I’ll work in Lexington in November and December. Then I’ll be off to the Badger State (Wisconsin), not named for a large population of badgers, but rather due to its history of miners building tunnels and caves like badgers while looking for ore. I'm looking forward to what I can learn from each of these hospitals and the states they reside in. I'll even get to visit some friends and family that live not too far away. Bonus!


I just returned from an amazing trip to the Last Frontier (Alaska), a place that has always been on my bucket list for traveling, but even better, a place I went for a job interview. I loved Alaska. The views. The cold. The space all around us. The tide. The remoteness. The ice skaters. The cross-country ski opportunities. The slow speed of life. The kindness of people. I didn't see any bear, moose, or Beluga whales, but I know there are there. And, most importantly, I really liked the hospital I interviewed at, full of people I know I could work with every day. A culture that appears to be in line with my values. Who knows, maybe the Last Frontier will end up being my Last Stop, my Home. Stay tuned!

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shawnprobertson
Nov 01, 2023

Good luck with the job opportunity in the Last Frontier! They will be very lucky to get you. I also hope the temporary posts in the Bluegrass and Badger States are rewarding. Fun to think of states that way instead of using their more prosaic names. In a couple of weeks we'll be heading to the the Big Easy in the Pelican State to see my extended family for Thanksgiving and then off to the Tar Heel State to visit our old friends.

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Cristina Negrut
Cristina Negrut
Oct 30, 2023

Thank you, really enjoyed reading this. And cherry on top is that you are coming to Wisconsin! I would love to meet. I am in Madison. I believe we have each others the contact info, if not DM on FB. Safe travels.

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