As a little girl, Adrienne Kuhlengel watched in fascination as her dad, Keith, rehearsed a slide presentation on brain tumors in their dining room.
She was equally awed by the annual flood of holiday cards and gifts from grateful patients that arrived for Keith and her mother, Barbara, a psychiatrist.
Even so, whenever people asked Adrienne if she would follow in her father’s footsteps and become a neurosurgeon, her answer was always the same: “No way, I’m not nuts!”
Years later, Adrienne followed both of her parents into medicine. She chose a slightly different path, becoming a family physician at LG Health Physicians Family Medicine Twin Rose.
“When I was little, I wanted to be a princess or a mermaid,” she says. “My mom encouraged me to have a backup plan. Then I wanted to be a doctor. That stuck.”
When Keith was growing up on a farm in southern Illinois, his parents encouraged him to choose a career that he would enjoy, where he would be challenged and earn a comfortable income. His plan to go into family medicine changed with his first rotation, in surgery.
With his farming background, Keith was comfortable working with tools and equipment. He decided to become a neurosurgeon, even though his classmates told him he was too nice. (“He is,” his daughter confirms.)
Adrienne and her brother, Trevor, were born during their father’s eight-year residency in St. Louis. Keith began his career in Hershey, which resembled a “medical center in a cow pasture” at the time. The family settled in a 150-year-old sandstone farmhouse on a Lebanon County farmette.
Keith, who specializes in head trauma and spine, joined Lancaster NeuroScience & Spine Associates five years later, in 1995. Barbara established her practice in Hershey.
“Medicine is a tough path,” Keith says. “But we always encouraged Adrienne to do what she wanted to do.
“I don’t blame her for not wanting to be a neurosurgeon,” he adds, recalling his 120-hour workweeks as chief resident and postponing dinner until 8 p.m. so the family could eat together.
Adrienne, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, completed the Family Medicine Residency Program at Lancaster General Hospital. She joined Twin Rose shortly after, in 2013.
Keith’s practice joined LG Health Physicians earlier this year. He has served in a number of leadership positions throughout his career, including president of his practice, Division Chief, Neurosurgery, and on the LGH Board of Trustees. He currently serves on the Board of the PA College of Health Sciences.
“Medicine has changed so much since I started my career,” he says. “Now we have 3-D scanners in the operating room. If somebody would have told me that 20 years ago, I never would have believed it.”
Work-life balance is still a challenge for Keith, who stays connected to his farm roots by collecting antique tractors. His rewards come when patients no longer have pain the morning after surgery, and in more dramatic successes, like one teen patient who had no neurological function after a car accident.
“We almost gave up on her,” he recalls. “Then, five years later, she went to college.”
Adrienne enjoys the variety of her practice, including the opportunity to treat entire families. She also appreciates that family medicine is more conducive to her own work-life balance.
“I deliver babies, I do skin procedures and contraceptive consults, and I treat knee injuries,” she says. “I run half-marathons, do yoga and eat whole foods, and I enjoy discussing fitness and nutrition with my patients. I’m very happy being a family doctor.”
Adrienne often treats patients with chronic low back pain and complicated histories. She proudly refers them to Keith, knowing he won’t hesitate to tell them if surgery isn’t the best option.
“He’s the best neurosurgeon around,” she says, smiling at her dad.