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In the Fall of 2017, I knew it was time to take a right hand turn in my life. I was in the autumn of two storied careers—one as an academic Head and Neck Cancer Surgeon and as a medical correspondent for ABC and NBC News. Something was calling me.

I needed another challenge.... another path forward. Something to nurture the third-third of my life. That path led me to the town of Big Timber, MT and a small ranch that is now home. I found a neglected piece of property where the wells had run dry and the grass was five feet tall. It was a matchstick waiting for the right spark. But I could also see the potential. I could do this.

We got the wells going, mowed the grass, responsibly grazed the rest with a neighbor’s cattle, and Thistle Creek Ranch was born. Its name comes from a coulee that was in full bloom with thistles that first summer. And while I know that cowboys consider thistle a terrible plant to have on a good piece of cattle land, it reminded me of the beauty, harshness, and potential of the land and for my new life.

As I learn more about sustainable agriculture through a rancher’s eyes and dig deeper (literally) to assess the quality of topsoil as we intensively graze and then move cattle on, the long term goal is to try and return the glorious high plains topsoil to what it was decades ago. The goals and the dreams never end. Next spring.... chickens and a new garden. This ranch is now a metaphor for my life—a time of discovery, learning, and challenging myself.

I needed something new in my life. I needed another challenge.... another path forward. Something to nurture the third-third of my life.