On Their Way – Lacey McIntosh

Now batting: Number 12, Lacey McIntosh, shortstop. — Photo courtesy of Lacey MacIntosh

On Their Way profiles young Islanders who have moved on to establish themselves in careers — on the Vineyard or around the world. We are looking for people who have distinguished themselves by their accomplishments in business, in social services, in the military, in academics, in fact in any meaningful way you might imagine. Your suggestions will be welcomed by Nelson Sigelman.

When next you’re killing time in an examining room at the doctor’s without anything interesting to read, imagine the doctor you’re about to see as a ten-year old. What was the focus of that child’s life then? Was she over the ballet dancer fantasy yet? Was he past the firefighter phase?

If you happen to be in the UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, that doctor might be Lacey McIntosh, 29, who some day down the road hopes to be attending to patients at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, where she was born in 1982. But while it might turn out that she’ll come full circle one day, her career trajectory was hardly pre-ordained.

“When I was 10, I wanted to be a professional baseball player,” Ms. McIntosh said in a recent telephone interview. “I really thought when I was a kid that I was going to be the first woman in the major leagues.”

Ms. McIntosh grew up in the same place along the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road where her dad, Bruce McIntosh, continues to run McIntosh Motors. Her mother, Cindy, commutes from Falmouth daily to her job as executive assistant to Tim Walsh, president and CEO of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Ms. McIntosh has two sisters, Katie, who is a social worker on the Cape, and Amanda, who is getting a master’s degree in public health at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

“I spent a lot of time doing sports — baseball, softball, field hockey, and basketball — through elementary school [Edgartown] and high school [Martha’s Vineyard Regional].” After graduating from the latter in 2001, she went on to The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester.

“I majored in pre-medical studies and history,” Ms. McIntosh said. “I always really liked science and I like people, but I never identified that medicine was going to be for me. Holy Cross has a very strong pre-medical program, and I kind of just got into the routine of it. They get you through all the classes and teach you how to apply for medical school.”

By the time she graduated from Holy Cross in 2005, Ms. McIntosh had known for a decade that playing for the Red Sox was a pipe dream, but she hadn’t given up on baseball altogether. When she heard about a team in Lynn that was in the New England Division of the North American Women’s Baseball League, her curiosity got the better of her.

“I actually spent a year playing professional baseball,” Ms. McIntosh said, still sounding a bit amazed six years later. “I went to a series of tryouts, and I ended up getting drafted. They pay you to play, and I thought, how can this be a job? It was awesome. I had the best time, met some really amazing people, and I got to play baseball.”

When baseball season ended, Ms. McIntosh started work in a research lab at Massachusetts General Hospital/Shriner’s Burn Hospital for Children in Boston. But she still wasn’t completely convinced that medicine was for her, even when she entered medical school a year later at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine. “After my first semester, when we started seeing patients and learning the kind of science that applied to medicine, I said, thank God this is the field I’m in because I really love it,” she said. “I really blossomed, and I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.”

As Ms. McIntosh explains it, osteopathy shares many aspects of traditional medicine. “There’s no difference in the credentialing, and we have the same standards, board testing, licensure by the state,” she said. “We do every kind of surgery, prescribe every kind of medication.”

But the overall approach, the philosophy, is different. Osteopaths are trained to look at the patient as a whole, not just a series of systems and body parts. “When one component is disrupted by disease or injury, the effects are felt in varying degrees throughout the body, in all systems,” Ms. McIntosh said. “By addressing the patient as a whole, the entire body can be mobilized to help combat illness by promoting wellness throughout all systems. In addition to using the standard medical approach of medication, we practice adjunctive methods like osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), which is a hands on technique used to diagnose dysfunction, relieve pain, restore range of motion and balance tissues, nerves, and muscles in order to promote the body’s own natural, healthy state.”

Just as Ms. McIntosh had found her footing after a semester’s sample of medical school, she found a natural bond with osteopathy. “It really spoke to me — this approach to patient care,” she said. “Coming from Martha’s Vineyard, where we have that special feeling about each other, it felt like a really good fit. This is the way I want to care for people, and I think it’s what patients are looking for.”

On the way to completing her Doctor Of Osteopathy in 2010, Ms. McIntosh also earned a master’s degree in public health from New England University. Today, she is about one third of the way through a five-year residency in radiology at UMass Medical Center in Worcester, a Level 1 Trauma Center. “The training here is amazing,” she said. “It’s awesome to be at such a big academic center, and to be able to offer almost any kind of treatment.”

For now, Ms. McIntosh plans to specialize in interventional oncology, which she described as “working with cancer patients, doing cancer imaging, and also doing non-invasive procedures using imaging to help guide you in a minimally invasive approach.” She’ll finish all training in 2015.

And then where? Wherever she can find a job, is Ms. McIntosh’s short answer — as long as it’s in a relatively large hospital. “I still have so much to learn, and my training has to be at a teaching hospital,” she said.

Some day, however, Ms. McIntosh looks forward to ending up where she started out. “It’s such an accepting and giving community,” she said about the Island. “I feel a deep and strong connection to the people that I grew up with, and the people that raised me gave me inspiration and motivation.”

Ms. McIntosh credits her parents with getting her intrigued at doctoring in the first place. From an early age she’s been impressed by the relationships that her father has with his clients at McIntosh Motors, and the loyalty both ways in those relationships. “My dad has been a big inspiration for me. Whenever I bumped into people whose cars he worked on, they told me how much they trusted him.

“My mother, Cindy, has worked at the hospital since I was a teenager, and she connected me with all sorts of people, shadowing opportunities, and with unparalleled support. She taught me about limits and balances; that the rest of the world didn’t stop just because I was in medical school, and how it was just as important to maintain my relationships and self health in order to properly take care of others.”

With that kind of support, along with the strong friendships that she’s maintained since she was a toddler, it’s no wonder Ms. McIntosh dreams of coming back to the Island as a doctor at some point in the future.

“The Vineyard’s my home and it will always be home, and I really hope to get back there some day,” she said. “I feel very, very strongly about being in a career of service, and I think that is directly shaped by growing up on the Vineyard. It just wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t come back and return some of it.”