The story of how Dr. Michael G. Scheidler, the son of a mailman and the youngest of eight children, became one of the nation’s top pediatric surgeons is one of perseverance.
Though the chief of pediatric surgery at the UNLV School of Medicine couldn’t see himself becoming anything other than a physician, that vision wasn’t always shared by educators.
“I wasn’t always a top student,” says the surgeon celebrated today for the intricate robotic surgery he performs on even tiny infants . “My high school teachers told me to be realistic, to forget about being a doctor.”
But a general practitioner in Scheidler’s Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, neighborhood was inspiring. In high school, Scheidler shadowed Dr. Homer Wallace, who worked from his modest home and doled out common sense advice — “Cut back on the potatoes and gravy and you’re less likely to drop dead from a heart attack” — along with medical care.
“He was definitely old school,” said Scheidler. “I think he was 80 or 90 and loved by his patients. I loved the way he helped everyone in the neighborhood. I wanted to be like him.”
Though a love for technology in the surgical arena eventually lured Scheidler away from a career in primary care, Wallace’s empathy for his patients has always stuck with him. “His respect for his patients, I’ll never forget that.”
He also won’t forget how teachers at his high school didn’t feel he had what it took to even pass a physics class. “They wouldn’t let me take it so I talked my dad into letting me take it during the summer at a community college. The way they taught science made more sense to me than the way it was taught in high school.”
Scheidler earned an A and eventually got into a premed program at the University of Pittsburgh while he worked part time in the Post Office. By his own admission, his grades weren’t outstanding and his initial medical school applications were rejected. He worked on a masters degree in neuroscience at Pitt to boost his medical school application. A professor changed his life. “He fine-tuned my analytical skills, taught me really how to think.”
Once accepted at the Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Scheidler blossomed. He began a general surgery residency in his native Pittsburgh with plans to become a heart surgeon. “I liked the technicality of it all, the high stress, pressure, the really precise movements you must do.’
During his residency, he worked with Dr. John Adkins, a pediatric surgeon. Scheidler was so impressed with Adkins, with what modern medicine could do for children, that he decided to go into pediatric surgery, one of the most difficult career paths to pursue in medicine. It took him 13 years of medical school, residency, and fellowships to become licensed in the discipline.
The field is so specialized that there are only about 400 pediatric surgeons practicing in the entire country.
After finishing a fellowship in Arkansas, Scheidler was invited back to Pittsburgh. “But I saw that there was more of a need in Las Vegas.”
Scheidler has now been in Southern Nevada for 15 years, until recently only one of three pediatric surgeons in the area.
“I was on call for almost all of those 15 years, weekends, holidays, you name it. It really was getting to me. I almost got out,” the father of two children said. “It was hard not to have time off. It got to be overwhelming. But I couldn’t see how I could leave so many kids without care in Las Vegas.”
“It’s really taken a load off. Sara and Stephanie are fine pediatric surgeons and we’re doing robotic surgery on places like the belly, esophagus, and colon that you can only find at three or four other centers in the United States. Now I can enjoy what I love to do.”