'I've never looked back' How 9/11 transformed a women's journey from TV to health care

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The September 11 terrorist attacks was a moment that changed millions of Americans lives.

For Lisa Arkin, she was a 25-year-old living in New York working in creative development for Showtime.

"I loved the idea that you could transmit a message to thousands if not millions of people at once, but I didn't feel like I was giving back very much during the day," Arkin said.

That was when she decided to start volunteering at St. Vincent Hospital in Manhattan, brining smiles to children's faces who were fighting cystic fibrosis. It was a job she loved and after a few years she starting bring actors and actresses to visit the children.

Then on 9-11-2001, it wasn't a typical day for her going to the office. Instead she had to report for jury duty near the World Trade Center and once she hopped on the subway -- the tracks all of a sudden came to a halt.

"We knew something terrible had happened," said Arkin. "When they finally let us out downtown we saw whatever other New Yorker saw…the tragedy…just complete devastation."

It was after the 9-11 attack Arkin struggled going back to work. On Sept. 12th, Arkin called Showtime and asked for a few days off to help work at the hospital. She answered phones at St. Vincent as volunteer trying to help people missing family or friends and checking names at the hospital.

"That was a tremendously, transformative and difficult experience," said Arkin. "A lot of last conversations, just voices that I could not get out of my head because as you know there were very few survivors."

Even though she had a dream job -- something didn't feel right. That's when she realized creating movies and shows wasn't her calling in life.

So, she called her parents.

"I said, I've good news and I bad news, which do you want to hear first? And they said, good news. And I said, Well, I just got promoted."

"They said, That's great! What's the bad news? And I said, I think I'm going to quit my job and go to medical school.

It wasn't an easy choice, but it was a decision that Arkin doesn't regret one bit. She started classes at Columbia University, then eventually enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine.

"The moral for me is follow your dreams, follow your passion" said Arkin. "I've never looked back -- medicine is the greatest gift and job."

Today, Arkin is the Director of Pediatric Dermatology at UW Health in Madison.

"I'm so grateful to have every day, the power to heal kids. I mean, what could be more remarkable or transformative?"

Her work now since the pandemic hit in 2020 has been studying COVID-19 and battles misinformation with her patients.

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