Friday, June 24, 2011

The MiM curriculum

One morning last week, I was standing at the mirror in the gym locker room getting ready for the day. In the corner of my eye I saw a person scurry past. I recognized her immediately. I was excited to see a familiar face, yet she disappeared before I could say hello. When I peered around the corner and she was nowhere to be found, I realized that she was likely avoiding me. Not really a good practice to stalk someone in a locker room, so I turned away. Then as I blow dried my hair the conversation that did not happen played out in my head.

She is a cardiology fellow. Mother of two. I know this because her children are the same age as mine. She breast fed both babies. I know this because her co-fellows teased her about it at the end of the year roast one year ago.

She was hiding from me because I am an Attending. She did not want to be seen at the gym at 8AM on a work day. She fears that she would seem lazy, less dedicated or selfish.

What she needs to know is that I am so proud of her. One tough mama taking all of her call, doubling up while gravid to trade days to allow a maternity leave. Finding a way to be an equal to the guys without being one of the guys.

I would like to tell her that making time to exercise squeezed between early morning mommy duties and full time fellow work is an enviable feat. That what you have done, is perhaps one of the most important tasks you can do to ultimately ensure your success. Yes, I know it is not in the cardiology fellowship curriculum. This lesson really should be Chapter One of the MiM curriculum. Stepping out of the role of mother and physician to see yourself is crucial. By recognizing your need and fulfilling it. Because it means more than just finding time in a busy schedule. It means making time, trading off that early morning conference or sneaking in a little late to read echos. Whatever. Over ruling what is expected of you, to recognize what is actually best for you. A brave move that will make you stronger at the core.

And of course, I would never utter to another soul that I spotted her at the gym. Dear, your secret is safe with me.


  1. Wow - what a touching post, and a great tribute to all the moms out there kickin' it in medicine. Thanks for that, and

    Cheers to you!

  2. Awesome! But what a missed opportunity not to tell HER that you saw her there...followed by all the nice things you just wrote. Those are the moments as a young trainee (and as a mentor) that transform you and that you never forget.

  3. I love this post and hope she reads it....she would probably love to hear this kind of advice.

  4. This is an amazing post. I think that just by noticing how difficult it is for other MiM, we start making a difference.

  5. Where do I sign up to be *your* resident? Because I constantly feel as if the balance goes unrecognized and you seem to see it all. I may actually cry it's so refreshing.
    Exhausted Mama Resident who really needs to hit a treadmill!

  6. I'm more impressed a full time working mother of two can motivate herself to go to the gym, actually.

    I'm finding it difficult as a single ED resident to do laundry sometimes, let alone gym.

  7. Splendid post.

    Katherine, well said.

  8. THANK YOU JC! I want to be like you some day!

  9. Gosh, I don't even have kids and I want a consultant (attending) like that as well!!

  10. Wonderful post. I hope you get the chance to share the message with her.

  11. This may be a good example of "Physican Heal Thyself".

    Katherine I agree that noticing the struggle in other MiM's is the way that we will make a difference. Personally, graduating to the role of Attending has given me the opportunity to see my own struggle in a different light. I suppose growing through supporting those behind me is a very "mother" thing to do.

    I think perhaps one obstacle for Women in Medicine is a feeling of inadequacy toward helping others, as we do not "have it all figured out".

    Personally I am not sure balance is possible. I like GCS15's comment to me once- to paraphrase- forget about balance it is about integration of your work, family and personal life.

    For now I have 180 minutes a week. Of personal life. I spend it at the gym. So far it is keeping me from throwing in the towel:)

  12. I too use gym treamill to maintain sanity. Didn't discover until after nursing son - would have saved me a lot of hardship in residency, I think. I also hope she read this post - would have liked a mentor like you in a senior place. All my mommy mentors were upper level residents going through same struggles as me.


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