Welcome to The Sidebar, Dr. Mike! Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi and thank you for inviting me! I’m Michael Natter, a current Endocrinology Fellow in New York City. I identify as an artist, patient, humanist, and doctor. I was born and raised in NYC, which shaped much of who I am today. Growing up, I was an “art kid” who spent most of my free time drawing and painting. I never considered myself much of a math or science person, nor did I excel in those fields.
But then something happened to me when I turned 9 years old that changed the trajectory of my life: I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. This meant I would inherit the full time job of being my very own pancreas, while also trying to navigate childhood and beyond. Yet, what this heavy burden of a diagnosis also did for me, was open a magical window into medical physiology that led me to my calling in life: helping others through the art of healing.
I studied art in undergrad, completed a post-baccalaureate pre-medical program in NYC, and then enrolled in medical school at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. I graduated with my MD degree in 2017, completed my Internal Medicine Residency in 2020 at a major academic hospital in NYC, and then stayed on to do my Endocrinology Fellowship, which I will complete in June 2022.
Throughout these long years of medical training, I have been using my artistic background to guide me — drawing my medical school notes into digestible visuals that helped me learn but then also illustrating difficult-to-understand medical topics for my peers (and my patients) to learn from as well. I believe it is my background as an artist and a Type 1 diabetic that informs my therapeutic bond with my patients and my art of practicing medicine.
How does living with Type 1 Diabetes influence your day-to-day life? Similarly, how has diabetes impacted you during your medical training and/or your career as an Endocrinologist?
Type 1 Diabetes is a full-time job that does not take any days off. It can be mentally, physically, and emotionally draining. That said, as anyone living with a chronic condition knows, you do your best to adapt and attenuate, to where it hopefully becomes an unconscious part of your day. It was once described to me as an annoying pet that is in need of being fed, walked, and groomed and at times will act up for no clear reason, keeping you from sleep or other more pressing activities.