Gainesville is home to many interesting families. Join us as we get to know the Collins family through matriarch Shelley.
Fast Facts about the Collins Family
Parents: Shelley Wells Collins and William O. Collins
Children: Robbie, 11; Cooper, 8; and Jackson, 5.
Occupations: Shelley, Chief of the division of pediatric hospital medicine and assistant professor, Shands Children’s Hospital; William, chief, division of pediatric Otolaryngology; residency program director, associate professor, Shands Children’s Hospital
Pets: Two dogs, both rescue animals and lab mixes, named Bailey and Bella.
1. What brought you and your husband to Gainesville? We are both originally from Florida. Bill was born in Ft. Lauderdale and I was born in Orlando, grew up in Windermere. Our families are close, and so when the University of Florida needed a pediatric otolaryngologist (ENT), they recruited him. We were living just outside of Washington D.C. working at the Children’s National Medical Center. Bill liked the opportunity in Gainesville, and since our families were in Florida and we’d wanted to return to Florida, he accepted the position.
2. How do you mesh your intense and time-consuming medical careers with your family life? How do you make sure you have a family life?
It’s a balance. Bill and I share our home and parenting responsibilities pretty equally. We are both very committed to family, and we make it a point to be involved with everything our children do. Certainly, at times, our patients and careers have to take priority over what’s going on at home, but our children have grown up with this and understand that while we love them more than anything, sometimes our patients need us more in a given moment. We have to be very well organized. I keep a dry erase board that has the month on it, and we write down all the meetings, school activities, practices, etc. that are happening that week. If someone asked me what we were doing a particular weekend three months ahead of time, I could probably tell them, even if the answer is, “we’re doing nothing that weekend but staying home!” When Bill and I are home we try very hard to be present and in the moment there. Our jobs can be very intense and can consume a lot of emotional and physical energy. It makes it that much more important that we can truly be with each other and our children when we’re not on call and at home. For us, making a family life is simply a priority. It’s not easy, but the concept is simple. We make choices to spend our free time doing things together as a family.
3. This is particular to you and your husband. What got you both interested in your pediatric careers? Why the health focuses on children?
For me, being a pediatrician was something I needed to do. Right now, I serve as the inpatient medical director for UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. I take care of children when they’re sick. When someone’s child is sick there is nothing scarier for a family. I have the privilege of caring for these children and helping them get better. Children are sincere and honest about how they feel—when they are sick, they act sick. When they are well, they play and act well. It’s difficult to explain why I love my work. Recently, I was caring for a child who had come into the hospital very ill. Her family was, naturally, very worried about her. We had talked many hours about her care and about her prognosis. We began a treatment regimen and when I came in to round on her the following morning she looked up at me with a huge grin, held out her arms to me, and told me she needed a hug. She felt better. I had worried and thought endlessly about this child while I was caring for her and for a long time after she was discharged. My point in sharing this story is that, to be a pediatrician means I get to hug my patients when they ask for a hug. I cry with my patients and their families when the news isn’t good. Each patient I take care of becomes a part of me. That is a gift. I believe it is a privilege to take care of children and be part of – even a small part of – who they’ll become.
I was attracted to a pediatric subspecialty for many of the same reasons as Shelley. I also love to “fix things,” and growing up I took great pleasure in fixing things with my hands. Naturally then I was attracted to a surgical field. Pediatric Otolaryngology (ENT) has allowed me to perform a great variety of surgeries in kids, some of which are life saving but many of which are just aimed to improve quality of life. In either circumstance, it is very rewarding to be able to use my hands as well as my mind to help “fix” kids.
4. How would you describe your family?
We are a close family. We asked our kids to describe our family and these are the words they used…helpful, loving, playful, funny, encouraging and kind. Our youngest, Jackson, who is 5, added that we are “cool.” I don’t know how “cool” we are, but we are committed to each other. As a family we are active and enjoy doing things outside. We laugh a lot and play. We are comfortable in our skin. We are united and support one another.
5. How does your family show its character? What do you and your husband do to create and maintain your family of character?
We asked our kids this question, too. Our oldest, Robbie, and our middle, Cooper, said that we show our character by helping others. They said that they try to help other kids they know who don’t understand their schoolwork or who don’t play baseball as well as they do. When I watch our children interact with people, children and adults, I see them being open, accepting and respectful of others. They are kind, sweet and generous. Bill and I believe and teach our children that being open, honest and respectful to others is the only way to behave. We do our very best to model these behaviors for our children every day. We’re not perfect, but we also talk to each other and to our children about how we may have handled a situation differently or better.
We also show our children that being a part of a community means participating in that community and giving back to it. I hope that when people look at our family they see a generous family. We talk to our kids about what it means to give of yourself. We tell them that generosity isn’t just about giving financially, but also about giving time, energy and knowledge. I hope that we show our character in how we live our daily lives. It’s in our actions and how we speak to one another and to the people we come into contact with. My father once told me that to be truly successful in life, whether professionally or personally, you have to appreciate the gifts that you’ve been given, the people around you and those who came before you. I hope that we are showing our children this by how we live. For our family, there is no alternative but to live a life that shows kindness, respect and integrity.
6. What is your favorite family activity?
Our boys had a hard time picking just one thing. Their answers were—going to baseball games, family movie night, cooking out, going on vacations together and going to Grandma and Pop Pops house. I think Bill and I would agree. We especially like going to the beach, as all of us love to go fishing.
Because of our often hectic schedules and lives, getting away, even for a few days, is very important to allow us to focus on each other as a family without the distractions of our jobs. And often it is the simplest vacations that are the best: New Smyrna Beach, North Carolina mountains, etc.
7. What do you like most about the community and neighborhood where you live?
The answer from our kids was clear: they like the park- Specifically Hampstead Park. We also love all of the trails around our home and our very close friends both in our own neighborhood and in and around Gainesville. We are very lucky to have wonderful neighbors who love our kids and don’t mind the occasional baseball that flies into their yard. In fact, our neighbor Herb goes out and plays with the kids often. We also love the fact that we can go out of our house and see a fox, a rabbit, opossum, and, sometimes, deer, wandering through our neighborhood. It’s also quiet (except for when our children are outside), and at night you can see millions of stars. It’s hard to find a more beautiful place to live.
8. What foods can ALWAYS be found in your refrigerator?
Milk (three kinds—chocolate, whole and skim), yogurt and apples.
9. If you and your family were stranded on a desert island, what are the three things you would definitely want to have with you?
Fire, pocketknife and water. (My personal answer was toilet paper, but that’s what happens when you live with four boys—I am including my husband—the toilet paper gets nixed for the pocket knife.)
10. What do you like best about being in Gainesville and do you consider that you are here to stay?
No question that we love Gainesville because of our friends, our families are close and the community itself is amazing. We are at home here and have put down roots. I can’t imagine finding a place we would love more than living here. I suppose you never know what the future holds, but as far as we can tell, we are here to stay.