I didn’t want to see Dr Pinkel the last time I went home. It was October, and I was four months into my residency, struggling with this troublesome truth:
I wished I hadnt become a doctor.
Honest to God, if I could’ve taken back my four years, thousands of notecards, and literal house of debt, I would have. It was so hard, and so unrewarding, and I was so unhappy. I remember hiking around the time of my graduation, looking at the green hills and flowers, excited about the new growth in my own life, the direction it had taken. I hiked the same trail again in October, and all the grass was brown and dead, the flowers were gone, and I was staring at the hills, resentful of how the flora reflected my life once again. I wondered why I had done this, why I had thought it was such a good idea and the only direction my life should go. Because it didn’t seem now like it was such a good idea anymore.
And I didn’t want to see Dr. Pinkel, disappoint him with this news that he had been wrong. He had seen a good doctor in me at twenty-one years old, had written a glowing letter of recommendation for me, and happily gave me a graduation gift of more money than I’d ever received at one time. I respected him more than just about anyone I had ever met- this elderly man that had a career including finding a virtual cure for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and being the founding medical director for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. And now I was in town, and avoiding him. I’m really sorry, I thought, and went back to work a few days later.
I just got back from visiting again, now in May, now eleven months into my training. I called him up the minute I got into town, and visited him the next day. We had a nice lunch that turned into a three-hour chat. I told him about my patients, my surgeries, all the things I can do now that I couldn’t do the last time I saw him. He told me about how in his time, GYN surgery was a fellowship from general surgery, and obstetrics was a very separate specialty. Interesting. He also told me about some pearls from his own training, like this story:
In the 1950s and prior, it was hospital policy that parents were only allowed to visit their children for a few hours each month. It was thought that the families had made children sick, so they were limited in seeing them while inpatient. In his medical school training, he watched families wave to their children through a window, standing outside. As a resident, he let in parents and grandparents as much as they wanted, and paid hell for it, but eventually changed the hospital’s policy. He tells me about his graduating class, how there was not one woman at commencement. They started out with six, he tells me, and five had a child and dropped out in their first year. One made it to the senior year, and the professors/attendings/other students teased her for it. But, she got pregnant too and left school before graduating. How very different from today, where my class was split 45/55, and we intentionally have to look for men to join our OB/GYN program.
He also tells me about the inception of St. Jude Children’s Hospital (this was so special, I thought it deserved it’s own post. More on this to come).
I am amazed by his history, realizing how he has indeed changed history.
And he tells me my life is important too. That he is glad I became a physician, because we need more doctors like me. What a compliment.
I go hiking again after I leave his house. The spring growth is back on the hillside. I am glad I became a doctor too.
Medelita Guest Blogger: Dr. Anne Kennard. Anne is an OB/GYN resident in Phoenix. She has kept a collection of writings about medicine/becoming a doctor since her second year of medical school, and we’re honored to welcome her as a guest blogger for Medelita.