I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Dr. Gerda Maissel

Bringing it all back home

Dr. Gerda Maissel just returned to the Hudson Valley after decades away and is busy getting reacquainted with some of its more striking features.

"It's gorgeous here!" she says. "It's so nice to see the mountains and sunsets and the trees."

But the landscapes and lightscapes of the valley aren't what she missed the most during the years she was away. It's the people - her family and friends - that drew her back home.

Maissel was born at the Vassar hospital, lived in Lagrangeville until she was 3 years old, then moved to Wappingers Falls. She graduated from Ketcham High School and after college went on to medical school at SUNY Health Science Center in Syracuse, followed by a residency in Philadelphia at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

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She then started her career and her family the next river valley over from this one, in the Massachusetts section of the Connecticut River Valley. But after more than 20 years in Massachusetts, she and her husband decided it was time for something different.

"The kids were launched," she says, referring to her two sons, now in their mid 20s. Her parents, still living in Wappingers at the time, were in good health. "So we decided it was time for a new adventure, get out of New England, and go somewhere warmer," Maissel says.

After looking all over the country, Maissel found a practice in northern Kentucky that felt like the perfect fit.
"Northern Kentucky is basically a southern suburb of Cincinnati," she says. "And there was this wonderful, progressive, cool practice there, and I really liked the guy who had put in so much work to make it such a cool practice, Glenn Loomis."

So the couple moved down to Kentucky and settled in. But not long after, things changed again, opening up another path that would lead Maissel back to her roots.

The road home
First, shortly after Maissel arrived, Dr. Loomis left the practice to, himself, return to the Hudson Valley. Then Maissel's father, Leon, passed away, leaving her mother alone.

"It just felt like all roads were leading to us returning to the Hudson Valley," she said.

Maissel is now back in Lagrangeville, working as chief medical officer and chief transformation officer for HealthQuest Medical Practices, and again working with Dr. Loomis.

With her mom still in Wappingers, one son up in Troy, the other in Massachusetts, and her brother in New York City, Maissel jokes that she's currently the center of the universe.

"I can get to everybody in under two hours," she says.

With her children grown, Maissel is working out how her relationship with them has evolved now that they are adults.

"When you have sons in their 20s, many times it's like dealing with these lovely adults that you've gotten to know, who you can laugh with and share good times with," she says. "And then every once in a while, you see that little kid come back out. And you think 'Oh, I remember that side of you.'"

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Some aspects of parenting remain the same, even now that her kids are adults. Most notably, the doctor says, fighting the urge to tell them what to do.

"As a parent, you can't drive the train," she says. "Everyone has to be their own engine, and you've got to be the caboose. When you're a parent, you encounter situations where you see where their choices are leading them. You might think those choices are short-sighted, and you think that they could save themselves some pain if they only did things your way instead. It's hard to keep your mouth shut during those times. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I don't!"

Putting down roots
An avid gardener, Maissel spoke to us on an unseasonably warm February day, about a month after she moved into her new house in Pleasant Valley.

After a winter of tending her collection of succulents indoors, she was looking forward to the snow melting so that she could finally get a look at her yard and figure out what to plant in the spring.

The snow may have kept her from getting a good look at the soil, but it did give her one important clue as to what to plan for in terms of her new garden.

"I've been Googling 'deer proof gardens,'" she says. "I've already seen a lot of their tracks in the snow all over the yard, so I know I'm going to have a lot of visitors to my garden."

The professional announcement of her return, really, says it all as to why she's delighted to be back home.

"I feel lucky to be able to accept an incredible job that is closer to my family and friends," it read.

Brian PJ Cronin is a freelance writer whose work appears throughout the Hudson Valley.

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