Saturday, November 13, 2010

When I grow up.....

My grandmother believed in many things, and one of them was the basic fact that there was a recipe for everything. Yet, this did not only pertain to food, she had recipes for success, life, and love. When she passed away a little over a year ago, I couldn’t help but smile when presented with her recipe box, brimming full of all her recipes we had shared over the skillet. However not all her recipes needed a card, she had a way of making decisions about life that were so easy; no directions were needed. So as I am faced with the overwhelming task of selecting a residency, I feel like my grandmother would look at me with her radiant smile and suggest we just sit down, talk, and make a recipe. Therefore, I started from scratch and set out to discover my own recipe for residency.

Prep time. I feel that my life experiences and my medical school training have equipped me to be a successful and compassionate intern. I will never forget as I watched the droplets run into the endless rivers of IV tubing and flow into the small bump on my father’s chest. The man who could make any cut better with a kiss or a warm embrace did not resemble the man I remembered. His once vibrant eyes seemed tired and the face of assurance was scarred with the burns from chemotherapy. It was in this moment that I began to understand the feeling of helplessness. I had no control over the cancer that populated his body nor did I have the answers to his concerns. It was through this experience that I truly realized the responsibility that comes with being a physician. Being a doctor is more than prescribing medicine; it requires empathy, inner strength, and the ability to convey hope in times of hopelessness. It calls for a passion to serve and determination tofight for others when they cannot fight for themselves.

Ingredients. Ingredients are the foundation to any recipe, just as residents are the vital components of a successful surgical program. Thus, I feel it is important to share the attributes I would bring to your surgical program. Vivacious and gregarious by nature, communication is an area of strength for me. Through my many years of schooling and marathon running, I have gained tenacity, stamina, and perseverance that will be useful during my surgical residency. My passion to serve and genuine concern for others is evident in my daily interactions with patients and peers. I bring enthusiasm and effervescence to my work, thus I am rarely seen without a smile. My Midwestern upbringing based on the principles of hard work and determination is a continual motivator in my daily life.

Cut. I remember as a child watching my grandmother chop onions. I remember the fluidity of her movements and the precision of each cut. The truth is I might not handle a kitchen knife all that well, but I believe my grandmother would be proud of my abilities with a 10 blade. Surgery is everything I search forin a profession. It is fast-paced and ever changing. It truly embodies the “art” of medicine allowing my right brain and creativity to be put to good use. I love the feel of adrenaline pulsing through my veins and its spur of the moment mentality. Yet,I also appreciate the restoring quality of the field. The way we can give the body
a tune-up, just like an old car, and with good attention to detail we can locate the problem, take care of it, and send people on their way.

Stirred not Beaten. So in reference to residency, it is true. I would prefer to be stirred, not beaten. Do not misunderstand me, I am looking for a rigorous program where I leave well trained and confident, but I do not want my zest for life to be lost in the process. Yet, more importantly I feel that a program is only as good as the people who make it up. I am searching for an institution that produces residents that are not only skilled surgeons, but also wonderful teachers, patient advocates, and well-balanced individuals. I value a program that prides itself as an environment and fosters learning and a hands onapproach.

Bake for 30 mins at 375 degrees F. Once you’ve shut the oven door, you have been left with a few minutes of free time. I realize that free time might be a rarity in residency, but I believe that what you do inside the hospital is just as important as what you do outside. I personally believe in the mind, body, soul connection thus I spend much of my free time running and finding my inner zen with yoga. I run marathons for fun. I delight in fine food, wine, and long dinners with friends. In short, I believe that a balanced life outside the hospital can result in more productive and happier residents inside the hospital.

Cut the cake. Like every great cooking endeavor the best part is finally taking a bite of your edible creation, and thus I can only believe that finishing residency and starting your own career tastes just as sweet. While I have no idea where I will bein 10 yrs, I do know that I want the life I always dreamed of as a little girl. I want to have a family, a successful surgical career, and happiness. Inside the halls of my institution, I want to teach and create an environment that fosters learning and encourages students to explore the field of surgery. More than anything I want to lead by example. I want to be a catalyst for change, a breath of fresh air, and a damn good surgeon.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pillars of strength

I have vivid memories of myself as a little curly haired girl with black patent leather shoes running around my mother's favorite department store. I would weave in and out of the racks of clothing as if they were a giant fort I had built at home out of blankets and pillows. I would peer out of the merry-go-round of clothes occasionally to keep track of my mom. Then there was the time I would peek my head out of my nest of cotton and polyester blend and realize my mother was nowhere to be found. Terrified and panic stricken, I can feel the fear that came down on me like a nightshade. I feel my heart beating under my chest and the chaotic clicking of my heels as I run down the aisles screaming for my mom.

This is the exact same feeling I had when my dad told me his cancer is back. I had this chaotic feeling within my soul. I felt like I have been hit by a tornado only to be left with disorder and destruction to be cleaned up. You would think I would be good at this since we experienced this just 5 years ago. Yet, I don't know if your ever get good at something like this. I feel like the last time I went through this I just was paralyzed to the whole situation. It truly was one of the lowest points of my life. I remember crying myself to sleep, feeling so alone, and most of all scared.

You see my entire life I have wanted to be a pillar of strength. One of those people who lift others up and make their day better; a person who is strong in body, mind, and soul capable of helping others through hard times. Yet, what I have found over the years is that most of the time my pillars of strength remind me more of the ancient Roman ruins, piles of crumbling rock.

Where do you find your strength? I read an article this past week that looked at people who had suffered adversity in their life and found that they were actually happier. As I read the article I just kept thinking really....really, but in the end I think they are right. If we have never known hardship or disappointment how can we appreciate the good times. The truth is I am a person who believes each experience shapes and equips us, makes us stronger, and able to handle the life we have been given. I have no idea how my parents have survived all they have been through together, but they have and in the end they are some of the happiest and kindest people you will meet.

Bad things happen to good people. I see it everyday at the hospital and I live it at home. While my family lives on optimism, I can't deny that I am scared. I love my father, he is my hero. I want him to be around to share not only in the joys of his life, but also the milestones of my life. Thus while my life is a cyclone of anticipation about residency and 4th year requirements, life has so humbly shown me that there are more important things like my family to worry about. I have asked several times "why me?," yet I am reminded that life is a battleground constantly training and equiping you for the road ahead. Thus I approach the weeks ahead, with determination, hope, and a heart open to experience. Nothing is perfect, not even my crumbling pillars of strength.