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My 21st Birthday Gift

This photo was given to me as a gift for my 21st birthday. It was taken only a few weeks beforehand. We were a group of young women just beginning our third year clinical rotations, and Trauma Surgery was our introduction to hospital life.

Up until that point, we had been in the classroom listening to lectures, proficient at note taking, highlighting, memorization, and test taking.

And suddenly we were thrown into the Reality of medicine… Wearing white coats… Living what we had watched on the TV show ER for many seasons before. I remember like it was yesterday going up to the roof of Jackson Memorial Hospital… gowning up, hearing the helicopter chopper, bringing the patient down to the trauma bay, and drawing blood from his femoral artery. Looking back now, we were so young… and so brave. These were just the beginnings… of so much more Learning. So much more hands on training. It was more than the books. Those first few weeks taught me about dedication and sacrifice, as we woke up in the dark, walked together across the street to the hospital, rounded and reported back to our Chief. I learned how to maneuver the maze-like halls of the hospital to find the cafeteria and bathroom. I learned that one can help with the simple act of holding a patient’s hand. I learned you can do everything possible, and still must let go to the Natural inevitability of Death.

There have been many times that I have wondered what is our Purpose as Physicians. I worked and worked, passed medical school, went on to be a Surgery Intern, Anesthesia Resident, and Fellow in Pain Management. I saw so much struggle, not only in the care we tried to provide, but in our own daily grind to learn. I myself have gone through physician burn-out, dissatisfied and constantly racing through the days on high stress speed.

I have come to a place now where I am proud of Who I Am. Grateful for the Education. All the Experiments with Experiences. This is an exciting time we live in now, for with the knowledge is in the palms of our hands, we can now focus on the art of Healing.

When I look at this photo, I am also proud of being a woman in medicine. I remember when I started medical school, our class had the most women up to that point. Here in this photo, all of the men are our Seniors, the Intern, Residents, and Chief. And the women were training to be the Future. P.S. Yes, I was only 21! I was in an accelerated six year medical program, being accepted to 2 years college and medical school out of high school. I will admit that I used to cringe at the thought of telling others this, bracing myself for the tease of “Baby Doc” and “Doogie Howser” commentary. Now I can look back at that young lady with admiration for being Wicked Smart.

P.P.S. Happy National Physician's Week!

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