Growing up in Mitchell, South Dakota, Dr. Breanne Mueller was used to running into her father’s patients around town.
“Many people in my life, like teachers and coaches and people I would see at the store, would come up to me and say, ‘Your dad delivered my kid,’” Dr. Mueller said. “Or it would be, ‘I love your dad, he’s my doctor and he’s the greatest.’”
“It’s pretty special,” Dr. Anderson said. “We probably talk two or three times a week. We’re always bringing up interesting cases we’re dealing with and bouncing opinions off each other. There is a lot of talk about medicine — right along with grandchildren, camping and fishing and everything else.”
Daughter and a career at the zoo
Dr. Anderson knew his young daughter to be a good student who was always happy and involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities. Initially, she did not hint at her future career. Not exactly, anyway.
In fact, Dr. Mueller originally wanted to be a veterinarian. But not just any veterinarian. She wanted to work with big, exotic animals at a zoo. She would tell her father about her plans and Dad, while not dousing them, would explain the challenges involved in following that career path.
“He’d say things like, ‘You realize there are about three jobs in the whole country for that,’” Dr. Mueller said. “And then he’d say, ‘You’re going to have to scoop a lot of poop to get to that level.’”
Ultimately, after completing her degree at the University of St. Thomas, she went to medical school at the University of South Dakota. She wanted to be a pathologist or radiologist at first, but found that delivering babies into the world was her calling.
“When I was growing up, my dad always said he loved his job because it was the only happy reason that people came to the hospital,” Dr. Mueller said. “That really resonated with me once I was exposed to it in medical school. I realized I wanted to help and support women during one of the happiest times in their lives.”
The father-daughter relationship has obviously evolved since the beloved doctor was explaining to his youngster that taking care of elephants and giraffes would come with its own set of challenges.
Dr. Anderson has three children. Breanne and Erik’s mother, Nancy, died at age 42 of breast cancer. Breanne was a freshman in college and Erik, now a mental health therapist in Sioux Falls, was just starting high school. After remarrying, Dr. Anderson and his wife adopted another child, Iris.
“Breanne and Erik had a lot to deal with,” Dr. Anderson said. “There was a lot of adversity. They worked through it, though, and did really, really well. Their mother was a mental health therapist, like Erik. He went into helping people, too, just a different route. My wife and I adopted our youngest from China when she was 11 months old. She’s 16 now and a real joy. She’s already thinking about going into medicine. She’s way brighter than anyone I’ve ever met before.”
Father, daughter talk about work
Not surprisingly, when Dr. Anderson and Dr. Mueller get together, the conversation often involves their line of work. They’ve made a conscious effort, when in the company of those close to them, to dial it back a little.
“We try to curb it for everyone’s sake,” Dr. Mueller said, with a laugh. “I’d say we try to decrease it to about 50% of the conversation out of consideration for my husband and my step-mom who might not appreciate hearing about delivering babies all the time.”
The words Dr. Mueller heard from her father’s patients while growing up, now looked at from a professional perspective, have definitely left a mark.
“My dad has a great bedside manner,” she said. “He’s calm and very reassuring. Now that I’ve had kids of my own I realize I’ve picked up a lot of things from him, and I’m definitely proud to be a physician like my father. It’s one of the biggest joys of my life that I can share this with him and that we can talk and I can ask him questions about what we do.”
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