Every month, we feature a physician as an opportunity for the community to learn more about the great doctors on staff at Little Company of Mary Hospital. This month we had the chance to talk with Dr. Michael Hurtuk, a Colorectal Surgeon at Little Company of Mary Hospital (2850 W. 95th Street, Suite 306). Read on to get to know Dr. Hurtuk, including his ideas on patient and family communication, his decision to become a colorectal surgeon and his love of fixing things and Dirty Jobs.
Dr. Michael Hurtuk
Medical School: Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine
Residency: Loyola University Medical Center
Fellowship: John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital
Why did you decide to become a physician?
It is hard to list all the reasons why I became a physician. I wanted to be the person who would be able to help someone at their most vulnerable time. I felt and feel that my personality, sense of humor and talents can help those who need it the most. I also came to the realization that a physician not only treats the patient but is important to the patient’s family and friends. While growing up, my father became very sick, and my family and I depended on his doctor to help us through what our family was going through. I admired this surgeon and thought, “One day, I want to be the guy who comes out to a worried family to tell them it all went well and everything will be fine.”
How did you choose your specialty?
I chose to become a surgeon because I’m a hands on kind of person. I’m one of those people who gains a sense of pride when I’m able to change the brakes on a car, paint a room, build a deck on my own, or even do something as small as mowing my lawn. I enjoy fixing things around the house, and naturally that spread to my choice as a career. I get a sense of satisfaction when someone comes into my office complaining of abdominal pain, and then after a few tests, a small procedure and a short recovery, they’re back to living a normal life.
My choice to become a colorectal surgeon stemmed from my early experiences during my general surgical training. Among all the surgical subspecialties, I always got along with colorectal surgeons. They all had a great sense of humor and were able to explain the most complicated things in the simplest ways, usually using a plumbing analogy or a joke pertaining to a bodily function. Outside of being influenced by my mentors, during my general surgical residency, I realized how important colorectal health is in the lives of patients. When asked by my family and friends, “Why colorectal surgery?”, I simply reply, “Everyone poops, and everyone takes this for granted until they can’t poop normally.”
On a serious note, I’ve witnessed many changes in colorectal surgery from the time I was a medical student through my residency, and it’s an exciting field to be in. From the management of complex diseases to the evolution of technology to treat these diseases, it’s an evolving and exciting field.
What do you enjoy most about being a physician?
Telling the family of a patient I just operated on that everything went well, and the satisfaction I get when fixing a problem or disease process.
What is your philosophy of care?
I believe the treatment of any illness involves a partnership with your patient, the patient’s family and caregivers. I believe in being open and honest, as well as on the same level of my patients. The worst thing you could do as a surgeon is to be aloof and not understanding of your patient’s feelings and concerns. The decision to pursue a surgical option is a serious decision, and I feel my patients should be comfortable with not only this decision, but with me as their surgeon.
What is the number one advice/tip you give your patients for healthy living?
Through my experience and education, I’ve learned that three things will lead to a healthy life:
1) Keep yourself active.
2) Eat healthy.
3) Don’t smoke.
Often the evening news features a study on how to have a healthy heart, how to live longer or how to be happy. Many of these studies come out of prestigious institutions, and the answer involves one of these three points.
What is the best thing Little Company of Mary has to offer patients?
I grew up in the Southwest Suburbs of Chicago, and I know of Little Company of Mary’s reputation as a “hidden gem.” I believe this is for four main reasons:
1) It’s a small hospital with a big heart.
2) The people who work in Little Company of Mary from the top down are genuinely good people who care about patients and the institution.
3) Little Company of Mary is open to new ideas and innovations.
4) Last but not least, Little Company of Mary has a rich tradition of Catholic healthcare. Even if you are not Catholic, the guiding values Little Company of Mary embraces are evident everywhere in the hospital from the building to the people working there. Little Company of Mary doesn’t just put their values on a mission statement—it practices them.
If you hadn’t become a physician, what would you be doing?
I would be a plumber or mechanic and would probably do some gardening and odd jobs here and there like charter fishing. During the fall and winter months, I would probably be on The Discovery Channel’s “The Deadliest Catch” crab fishing in Alaska or doing a job worthy of a feature on the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs.”
What are your hobbies and interests outside of the office?
I enjoy spending time with my wife and children. It is amazing to watch my children grow up from barely being able to open their eyes to giving you a high five when you come home. Outside of my family, I enjoy home improvement projects. I have a large collection of power tools and various other things only a carpenter, electrician or plumber would ever have. I enjoy hunting, fishing, working on cars, and war history. Finally, I’m an avid Sox, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks fan. (I intentionally left the Cubs off this list.)
Learn more about colon health from Dr. Hurtuk.
Dr. Hurtuk is currently accepting new patients. If you’d like to make an appointment to visit Dr. Hurtuk, call (708) 422-8500.