Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Quartet

Medicine is a tough and very competitive field and I've seen a lot of women doctors who are trying to one-up each other - not just in their work but also in how they dress, who they date, etc. Is it hard for women doctors to develop close friendships with other women doctors? I wonder about this because I'm a lawyer and all of my closest friends (and bridesmaids) are lawyers who went to the same law school but I don't know that many women doctors who are as close to their medical school or residency classmates.

I love this blog! So interesting.


A lawyer and mother of two in Seattle.

I have a quartet of women in my life who are so close to me they each deserve a blog, hell even a book, all of their own. I collected them over the course of med school and residency.

Lys - my best friend from medical school. I was the maid of honor in her wedding. Even though she ended up in a town two hours away from my own, we still talk frequently, and we are cultivating a friendship between her 3 year old and my 7 year old. She has been one of the singular most influential people in my life (well, there's mom, dad, sis, bro's - but we're talking friends here).

Mel/Mellificent - My first best friend from residency. She was two years ahead of me when I started my training, and we became fast friends. Her quick wit (I always lag behind real time - thinking of something clever to say when it is socially inappropriately late) attracted me and everyone else around her. She took me under her wing from the beginning, teaching me the tricks of autopsy and how to handle the different personalities of our all important planets - the attendings. Then she had her daughter 11 months before I did, and taught me how to pump. Showed me it was all possible: to nurse, mother, and be a resident. I don't know if I would have figured it out so well on my own. For that I am eternally grateful.

Trish-EEE! - When Mellificent left for a job in another state I was crushed. Luckily Trish had recently transplanted from Chicago and took her place. Trisha had a very different family situation from my own - she was a newlywed and I had one kid and another on the way - but we had a blast, those last few years of training. We flew together to take our Anatomic Pathology/Clinical Pathology boards in June of 2006, and had a big spa day planned back in our home town the day before she and her husband moved up MidWest to her new job. Unfortunately, our flight got delayed and we had to scramble for a room in a cheap hotel while our suitcases were stuck in Never Never Land. We begged the hotel staff for plastic Bics to shave our legs the next day and stayed up late talking. Ate a greasy breakfast in the hotel lobby and caught a mid-morning flight home. Even though we missed our spa day, I wouldn't trade that experience for the world.

Dr. Styles - My mentor and big sister. Sure, there was the faculty/trainee angst when I was a resident, most of which was created by me trying to please. I am indebted to her for all the knowledge she imparted to me, and consults she continues to help me with in my current job. I have really enjoyed cultivating our friendship in a different way over the last three years since I left training. I am no longer in a position of trying to please, and it makes us easier with each other. She is there for me now in a bigger way. Teaching me how to become a mature adult emotionally, something I was sorely lacking after a crazy few years of training and having babies. I put everyone else first, and myself last. Now I see her happiness after profound family trauma, and realize that there might be a light at the end of my tunnel.

I have a new quartet of women at my current job - ones I will write about in the future. I have always leaned on the women in my life more for emotional support, and my current practice situation is no exception.

Having said that, I have been on the wrong end of women in my job. One of my research collaborators, a non-doctor, tried to sabotage me once to a favorite faculty member. I was getting weird vibes from the faculty and wasn't sure where they were coming from. Luckily some of my co-workers saw what was happening and cleared the view of the faculty member before everything went too far South. In the end, it was tough for me to be angry with the researcher, because I could see her story, where she was coming from, and why she did it. I felt pity for her - something she probably didn't want from me - but I felt it nonetheless, and went out of my way to be kind to her in social situations. I skipped anger, and went to sympathy. One of my greatest strengths, and worst faults.

Let me digress here, and get on my soap box. There are no bad people. There are only good people who do bad things. It makes me so angry when I see mothers scolding their children for bad behavior, by saying, "That is bad. YOU are bad." Kids internalize this, and make it a part of their view of themselves and their approach to the world. They do not have the capability to isolate the situation from their own ego (I am sure I am screwing up psychological terms here - maybe JuliaInk could clarify).

So in my opinion, yes. Female doctors can cultivate wonderful friendships with their female peers. A former blog contributor who is now taking a break wrote a very different take on being a female doctor and making friends - one that KC (an incredible, laid back, capable and helpful ring-leader that I joke about being a slave driver in complete fun) shared with me at lunch yesterday. Anesthesiobiologist wrote this post, one that I encourage you to read. She is a great writer, and I empathized with her thoughts on some level.

I hope this wasn't too all over the map. I feel a little scattered, these days. Thanks very much for your question - lawyer and mother of two in Seattle - it made me think a lot and this was much harder for me to write than the breast pumping post. It is tough to condense the gratitude I feel toward all of my female colleagues for helping shape who I am as a woman, mother, and doctor.


  1. Glad you have so many friends to lean on.

  2. I include you in that category! Here's to new friendships, too. Can't wait to plan lunch again when my life settles.

  3. I agree - I'm pleased that you have so many good friends. I feel that I'm finally getting to a point in my life that I can maintain friendships; for a long time, I don't feel like I was able to be a very good friend (with those in and out of medicine) due to time constraints.

    Thanks for sharing -

  4. Me too, Artemis. Was only able to cultivate the ones at work. In the last three years, I have renewed many old friendships with my non-medical girl friends, as well.

  5. Also a lawyer, and this is so confusing to me. What is there to disagree about? I'm not close with any female-lawyer friends, but that's mostly because I don't really socialize with other lawyers.

    My sister's a doctor, and she seems really close to her med school friends. Her residency... she hasn't said as much about the ladies.

  6. I don't think anyone is disagreeing with anyone, here. I am just trying to give the questioner a glimpse into a world she does not know - one that you get to see through your sister.

    I'll bet people in all walks of life, not just lawyers and doctors, can relate to having close women friends and getting stung occasionally.

    I personally would imagine that in such an adversarial field as law it would be harder to make close women friends, but I'll bet there are a lot of lawyers out there that could prove me wrong.

  7. I agree with Gizabeth and actually disagree with the lawyer. I am in a residency class with 7 other women and one man. I *adore* them all. And I do not usually find myself voluntarily enjoying the company of people who I have no choice but to hang around. The women in my residency are team players and I would love to be in practice with any one of them in the future.

    It makes me sad that some women find relationships with other professional women difficult - we should be each other's staunchest supporters. I hear that it happens and so I believe it must. However I've been lucky to not have that as my experience.

  8. You are lucky, BossMD! It is great to have and foster women friendships/relationships, no matter what profession you are in. Thanks for chiming in.


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