Forest Park resident Dr. Eva Bading, recently named one of the "top doctors for women" by Chicago Magazine, has never worried about conventional wisdom. She is a woman who follows her heart.
A native of Bremen, Germany, she applied and was accepted to medical school in 1972, when few women were being admitted. Medical tuition in Germany is funded by tax dollars and enrollment is limited.
"You would be told all the time that you just took the place away from a man," Bading said. "They would always tell us, 'Why are you here? Just marry your doctor.' We just rolled our eyes."
As a young student, she did not plan to study medicine. But, a job as a nurse's aid sparked her interest in the field.
The clinic where she worked was private and allowed her a lot of freedom.
"I could go into the operating room and they would show me things and I was really interested and they would say, 'You should study medicine.'" she explained. "And I said, no, no, I'm not for medicine. But then I worked there for another two vacations and I was hooked."
She finished her surgical residency; then, on a break before moving to another hospital, she travelled to Alaska to spend time with her father. "My parents had been divorced for a long time so I thought I'd visit my Dad," she said.
She planned to stay only a few months, but remained there for nearly two years.
"I did all sorts of things that I never dreamed I would do," she said. "I was a big city girl, not particularly skilled in the wild. And I did a lot of outdoor things. I went fishing, I trekked mountains."
When the Loyola medical students Bading teaches ask her now what she is most proud of, she says, laughing "working on a commercial fishing boat fishing for king salmon."
Although enamored with Alaska, Bading eventually became worried that she would begin to forget her medical training if she stayed there, so she sought out a training hospital.
Once she interviewed at MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn she knew where she wanted to work.
She explained: "They just had a very holistic approach to patient care. The program director had a wonderful philosophy about how to educate young doctors. It was very important to him that we would all read literature and other things. It seemed to be a very humanistic training program."
Bading said she specializes in family medicine because of the variety.
"What I like the most is to have a long-time relationship with the patient," she said. "I like to talk to patients, find out where they are in life. I like surgery because I was always good with my hands. I love delivering babies, I love peds [pediatrics], I love talking to people, and I love psychiatry. So basically all of this stuff together is what you can do
Today, Bading works as chairperson of Loyola's family practice department and continues to see patients.
"When I became chair I was very intimidated because I wasn't even trained in the American system," she said. Also, she was one of only two women chairs at the time. "I thought, all these men, they're going to eat me alive, but I had the totally wrong idea about it. I was incredibly impressed with how mentoring they were."
As for teaching and her students: "It's really impossible not to totally fall in love with them. Loyola has amazing students. I mean they want to save the world. They're very intelligent and then they have this idealism."
Bading shares that idealism. She accompanied students on aid trips to Haiti several times in the last two years.
The clinic is where her heart is, though.
"Saturday is my favorite clinic day because there's nobody else around," Badin said. "I think it's very important to do as much clinic [work] as possible because the clinic is a place where you teach. It's also the place where you often lick your wounds from the administrative challenges. The clinic is where you feel at home; see your patients, and it fills you up."
Bading believes that outstanding doctors are those view medicine as a service.
"I'm here to help patients understand their health, motivate them to do their best so that they can stay healthy and also be there as a source of support, of knowledge," she said. "When you do this, I think that is very extraordinary for your patients."
She said that, while she appreciates the honor of being a top doctor, she feels a little self-conscious about it.
"I know that all my colleagues in the clinic would deserve the same thing," she said.