My Mom, My Colleague

By Steve Blanchard - May 09, 2019

Chief Nursing Officer Jane Fusilero and Cardio-Oncologist Dr. Michael Fradley have worked together at Moffitt Cancer Center for more than six years. Their daily interactions appear like most others who call themselves colleagues. But the relationship between these two medical professionals is much more personal.

Jane is Mike’s mother – and only a handful of people at the cancer center are even aware of that relationship. Both say that they rarely mention their family connection at work, mostly because it’s not relevant to the job at hand. But they don’t shy away from that relationship either. After all, they were mother and son long before they were colleagues.

So what is it like working with your mother or your child?

In honor of Mother’s Day, Dr. Fradley and Fusilero talk about juggling their personal and professional lives and offered some insight into what it’s like working with your child or parent.

portrait of blockquote author

"“You get to know your parent in a whole different way. She’s not just mom. She’s a colleague and you get to learn from her and you get to understand your parents’ lives in a different way.”"

- Dr. Michael Fradley

Obviously, Dr. Fradley, you were raised by someone in the medical field. Did that influence your decision to go into medicine?

Mike: I always wanted to go into medical field but I think it’s fair to say that I was influenced by my mom. Being around medicine for my whole life, it’s hard not to be influenced by that. It was what I saw and what I was exposed to.  
Jane: As the mom, I wasn’t sure what he was going to become. Mike might have always wanted to go into medicine, but at some point, when he was younger, he had two passions. One was to be a rock star. But you have no voice. (Laughs.)
Mike: That’s very true.
Jane: So, clearly, that shut that one down. But you tried very hard. And I also remember that you had a passion for astronomy, the planets and all of that. Those were the two things that stood out early in your young years that you kept talking about. But somehow, you flipped to medicine.

Did either of you ever imagine that you would be working for the same organization at the same time? How did this happen?

Mike: It just sort of happened. It was something I ever expected.
Jane: When Mike moved here to work with the University of South Florida, never did I think that he would come into Moffitt. But then that evolved in terms of his vision and cardio-oncology. Six years ago, when he came to Florida, did I think he’d cross the doors of Moffitt? Never. It was nothing I expected.

How hard is it to balance your personal and professional relationship, or is that something you even worry about?

Mike: One-hundred percent yes, you worry about it. You have it in the forefront of your mind all of the time because we do work together. We have to separate our mother/son relationship and view each other as colleagues and interact as if we had no familial relationship. You have to be that much more aware of it so there is no perceived influence to our personal relationship.

Jane: And that’s tough to do. Sometimes I think that if it were anyone but Mike, I would involve myself or step into a situation sooner, but I can’t and I don’t. Then I tell myself, “But you should, Jane. Not because he’s your son, but because it’s the right thing to do.” I struggle with that sometimes.

To add to things, it’s important to point out that Jane has a powerful role here at Moffitt. Is that an extra challenge?

Mike: Only insofar as she pointed out, I also may be less inclined to involve her in situations…. I don’t want everyone to think I am running to my mother rather than the chief nursing officer of this organization. (Laughs)
Jane: (Laughing) No, we don’t want that.
Mike: So I sometimes try to handle things or talk to other individuals instead of going directly to her. I let other individuals work in that intermediary.
Jane: And others would just come directly to me. I think that has set up the challenges. You want to advocate on behalf of the program, but you are cautious in advocating because you don’t want people to see me doing it because it’s Mike. You want people to see you doing it because it’s what’s best for the patients. There’s a level of paranoia there but I always make sure I’m doing what’s right for the patients.

When you aren’t here at Moffitt, say enjoying a Sunday together like Mother’s Day or just dropping off the granddaughter, are you able to disconnect from discussions of work?

Mike: Whenever two people work together in the same organization or even in the same field, you naturally talk about where you work and what you do. That happens with everyone in every environment. If your partner is in the medical field, you’ll talk about medicine at weddings and dinners. We joke that we’re not going to talk about work, but it always comes back to that when two people work together. Is Moffitt or medicine a dominator? Of course not. When we’re away from here we’re talking about the million other things mothers and sons talk about.

How do other family members react when you talk work?

Mike: My husband zones out.
Jane: That’s a good description. He totally zones.
Mike: But he’s used to that. In medicine, we tend to get very invested and involved. He’s used to being around a bunch of doctors and we go into our world. If you aren’t in medicine, you just navigate it or ignore it.

Jane Fusilero, vice president and chief nursing officer.

Do you share with your colleagues that you’re related?

Jane: I was just talking to a doctor recently and said something in passing about Mike being my son, and he was surprised. He said, “Mike’s your son? I never knew that.” And I just said, “Yeah, he is.” Probably 50 percent or more of the people who work here don’t know we’re related. We never talk about it.
Mike: Some find out and we don’t hide, it. We’re not in the closet about it.
Jane: (Laughs) That’s kind of cute. A little pun.

What advice do you have for a mother/son or father/daughter who may be working together, whether medical or any other field?

Jane: I think they have to be aware that those relationships as the father/daughter or mother/son need to be left behind and you approach this from a more objective working relationship. That doesn’t mean that if I hear Mike’s name mentioned in a meeting that I don’t cringe and think, “Please don’t tell me he’s doing something bad.” But you have to learn to be objective and separate yourself from that relationship. That’s not an easy thing to do but you have to psych yourself for that.
Mike: Not that we’ve had to deal with that, but that’s an interesting conversation. That’s where not only do you have to be objective when you communicate with your kid, but you can be somewhat parental and do the coaching and say, “you’re an adult, you make your own bed and you have to lie in it, but here’s some advice and how to become better at what you’re doing.” From a parental standpoint, you can be a bit more invested. But you can’t defend bad behavior or actions because they’re your kid.
Jane: And the same rule applies for when you do something great. I can share accolades but not like a mother really wants to. (Laughs)
Mike: From the child’s standpoint, you have to be cognizant of the different roles between child and parent. Be willing to take criticism in a different way. You have to not take it personally when a parent criticizes you or coaches you at work. It’s the same way they would interact with any other colleague. That can be hard to hear or think about as a child working with a parent.

Mike, you and your husband are raising an adorable two year old girl. Do you think you’ll talk to your daughter about you and grandma working together?

Jane: I’ve dragged her in here to the office a few times. It might come up. I think it would be a pretty positive experience.
Mike: I think so too.

Obviously, it’s challenging working with a parent or child. But there have to be plenty of benefits as well.

Mike: It’s actually rewarding to see a situation where your parent, who is very successful in an area you’re a part of, doing their job. You can learn from it and become better in your own craft by watching them. At home you’re never going to see that. You might get a sense of it, but you don’t see directly how they operate in the professional sense. It’s a growth opportunity for me watching her in this administrative capacity because I can learn from that and take that and apply it in my own career.

You get to know your parent in a whole different way. She’s not just mom. She’s a colleague and you get to learn from her and you get to understand your parents’ lives in a different way.

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