Featured, Journeys in Education, Words from the Wards
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For the Love of a 6½

“Never take your eyes off the table.

She is learning habits from you — teach them well! 

Medical students are usually curious, what questions do you have? 

In medicine, you learn by doing. 

Do not look at me, look at what you are doing.

Surgeons are not born, they are trained.

No two cases are the same.  

You learn by being in the OR. 

Trust your instruments. 

When do you ask for help? When you need it. 

Can you stop playing around and pay attention? 

Stand straight.

Do not put force when it is not necessary.  

You can not think like that, you need to do what is best for you.

You have to have esteem in yourself. 

Medicine is easy, people make it hard. 

You have to think outside the box. That is what the practice of medicine is all about.

Follow your dream.

There is a sense of disappointment (after the failure of a surgery), but you try again.  

So be a surgeon. 

Is she going to be a surgeon?”

Dr. Matthews, the attending anesthesiologist and Greco-Roman history fanatic, asked me on what I thought would be my last time in the OR. 

“When are you coming back here?” 

“I think this might be it,” I answered softly. 

The last surgery of my surgery rotation was one that left me in a daze, sitting in the hallway chair outside the window of the blood bank in front of the door of our call-room. 

I faintly see Tamika with her new hairstyle walking towards me. I turn my head and see Gabriel wearing his new superhero scrub cap emerging from the door.

Somehow, I manage to make my way to the medical student room. The door is closed and inside, a classmate is studying. She asks me to close the door for quiet. Standing and facing the bunk bed, I go through the motions of putting my things away. An unexpected and involuntary wave of sadness crashes within me and my face contorts into the start of a wail. Soundlessly, I cry at the thought of never returning to the OR.  

For the following forty-eight hours, I ruminate. I am at a critical point in my third year of medical school, where I must begin to make important decisions. Decisions that are not easy. 

Clerkship year is a transformative year with each rotation teaching something special. I was floating in the novelty of third-year. But with the impending planning of fourth-year, the reality of life after medical school started to enter and triggered this cascade of conflict.

Why were my actions at odds with my words? 

It has been one month since I completed my surgery rotation. Deciding to be a doctor was easy. Knowing what to go into required extensive consideration. It was a month of acknowledging fears, soliciting advice and opinions, dismantling hypothetical concerns, learning more about the residency, reflecting continuously and getting non-clinical perspectives on surgery. 

Every day, from the moment of awakening and right before drifting into the land of sleep, the question pulsated in my mind, 

“What is my path?” 

At the beginning of my surgery rotation, I confess I was unimpressed by hernias. I couldn’t fathom doing hernia repairs for the rest of my life. Recently, I was chatting with my friend Alicia who is on the cusp of her graduation. Earlier, the emergency department attending was emphasizing the importance of inspection of the actual skin, hence, the disrobing. There was a patient with an abdominal complaint who appeared to have a ventral hernia that was missed on physical exam. I was curious to know what type of ventral hernia because there are multiple types such as the parastomal/stomal, incisional, epigastric, spigelian and umbilical. 

The moment I realized that I cared about hernias, was the moment that my subconscious came out triumphant against the resistance that I was creating for myself due to fear. 

What seems like eons ago, I was in the OR with Alejandro and Gabriel. I was amused at their awe, reverence and lively exchange about what was currently in front of them. 

“You guys look like two kids in a candy store,” I offered quietly to Alejandro. 

He affirms, “What is not to love?” 

One day, I was explaining to Dr. Bereza why female surgeons should have a place in the OR. 

“If it is her passion, her vocation, she will succeed because she loves it.” Love is the common denominator among all surgeons. 

With a reflexive happy jump, in the most literal sense, I hope to be that new kid in the candy store. 

Image credit: Doctor’s hands by Jernej Furman is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Ana Jimenez (2 Posts)

Medical Student Contributing Writer

City University of New York School of Medicine

Ana is an MS4 at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Medicine. Her other interests include art, nature, and wildlife.