Work-life balance

Linden Ponds the perfect home for this full-time physician

Meghan Streit
December 23, 2019

Desiree Carlson works full time as a physician, and she lives at Linden Ponds, an Erickson Living-managed community in Hingham, Mass. She says people often ask why she lives at a retirement community when she is not yet retired. 

Desiree explains that she has worked long hours for many years in her career as a pathologist. She's also done significant volunteer work for the College of American Pathologists (CAP), serving on committees and traveling frequently to perform inspections on laboratories in the U.S. and internationally.

"This didn't leave any time to have a good social life outside of work," she says. "I saw coming to Linden Ponds as a way to have great people close by, no worries about taking care of a house, and excellent food so I wouldn't have to shop and prepare dinners. For me, living at Linden Ponds is like a combination of being on a cruise ship and living in a sorority house.  People are very interesting and open to forming new friendships. It is very easy to call someone and invite them to eat dinner with me."

Less maintenance, more care

Desiree has lived in the Boston area since 1976, when she came to do her second year of residency at what was called the New England Deaconess Hospital (now Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and soon to be called Beth Israel Lahey Health). Before coming to Linden Ponds, she and her husband were living in a house on ten acres in Dover, Mass.

"Something always needed to be done, and it was very expensive," she recalls.

Desiree's husband was the one who first took an interest in Linden Ponds. He had attended some luncheons at the community and invited Desiree to join him to see what it was all about.

"As soon as I saw Linden Ponds, the beautiful grounds, the friendly residents, and the plans for Willard Square [Linden Ponds' ninth residence building], I was ready to sign up," Desiree says.

Living on one floor and no longer having to maintain a large property appealed to her. She says the continuum of care offered at Linden Ponds was also a selling point.

"As an only child, I didn't want to be a burden on my husband's family as I got older and needed more help. Since my husband was undergoing chemotherapy, he occasionally needed an aide to be with him during the day while I was at work," she says. "Having experienced, really nice aides was such a blessing. I had anticipated that at some point we would be using higher levels of help here. That didn't happen, but it was reassuring knowing that it was here."

No plans to retire soon

Desiree attended Duke University School of Medicine. She is board-certified in three specialties: anatomic pathology and cytopathology, which involves the examination of tissue, fluids, and cells removed from the body; clinical pathology, the examination and testing of body fluids such as blood and urine; and transfusion medicine, which tests donor blood for compatibility with recipients. 

Currently, Desiree owns a company that has a contract to provide pathology and laboratory directorship for Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital, where she has been the chief of pathology and laboratory for 26 years. 

One of the things Desiree enjoys most about her career is mentoring younger pathologists through her volunteer work with CAP. Her contributions to her field have been recognized by her peers: she received the CAP President's Honor Award in 2003 and 2019 and the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.

"I am the go-to person for other pathologists who have questions about how to fulfill regulatory requirements, how to set up a new test, or with daily problems we all face running a pathology department," Desiree says. "I enjoy working with other physicians to get the right diagnosis for their patients."

Desiree has no plans to retire in the near future. "At the end of August, I signed a new contract for another three years," she says. "I feel like I am making a difference, and I enjoy challenges."

Desiree says Linden Ponds is the perfect place for a busy working professional. Amenities such as housekeeping services; on-site restaurants; and grounds staff to take care of tasks like shoveling snow, repairing appliances, and even changing lightbulbs frees up Desiree's time to focus even more on her career.

"Living here allows me to go to work and not even think about what is happening during the day," she says. "When my husband was sick, he could get assistance. I didn't have to shop for food. I could get takeout food at Linden Ponds' Harbor Café when I got home from work, and we could eat in our apartment."

A lot to look forward to

Now that she is a widow, Desiree says she appreciates her neighbors and the social life at Linden Ponds even more.

"Knowing I won't be coming home to an empty house, being alone every night and having to think about what to eat is a big relief," Desiree says. "I know that I have 'dinner dates' planned for at least four or five nights per week, and that is something to look forward to. I am very outgoing and invite many new people to eat with me."

Right now, working full time doesn't leave Desiree a lot of time to get involved in the many resident-run clubs and committees at Linden Ponds. However, she is a member of the veteran's group, having served in the Army Medical Corps as a reserve officer from 1979 to 1987. 

Desiree taught at both Harvard and Boston University Schools of Medicine and is a member of Linden Ponds' retired teachers club. 

When she gets home from work, there's always something interesting going on in the community.

"I enjoy evening activities such as movies, concerts, and the ability to attend church services, which are an outreach of the UCC Church in Norwell," she says.

Desiree also enjoys traveling. She and two longtime friends traveled to Iceland in December to see the Northern Lights, which she says has been on her bucket list. She's even found some new travel buddies among her neighbors at Linden Ponds.

"I am also going on a weeklong cruise on the Saint Lawrence Seaway from Montreal to Boston in July, another adventure on my list," Desiree says. "I'm going with three other residents at Linden Ponds."