Hiking the Alaskan Wilderness Induced a Moment of Cognitive Clarity

I recently had the good fortune to check-off one item on my bucket list; a visit to the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park as a participant in an 8 day REI guided trip which included 4 days in the very remote backcountry of the Chugach Mountains.

When we reached the summit of our longest hike, an unnamed mountain pass I christened Mannah Pass (a contraction of the names of our guides Mike and Hannah) but the others called REI Pass, I had a moment of cognitive clarity during which the stresses arising from my career as a physician ceased to exist and the grandeur of my surroundings enveloped me.

In that moment, I decided it was time to retire from my 3.5 decade career as a physician (a career I have and still enjoy immensely) and move on to the next phase of my life.

In my 1-person tent that evening I wrote a letter to my employer informing them that we needed to create an exit plan which would allow me to retire in a timely manner while also ensuring that my patients would continue to receive the care they needed.

And so my retirement will begin in 5 months.

Here is a link to 13 minute video of my REI trip to Alaska’s Wrangell – St Elias National Park on July 17-25, 2022. https://youtu.be/2Q-1OR3xKQA

At an appropriate time in the future I will address the issue as to why I, and many other physicians, are leaving clinical medicine sooner than they had originally planned.

Hayward Zwerling

6 August 2022

Mannah Pass or REI Pass from the air