I am so excited to be a new voice in this community which has been such a haven for myself and countless others.
A little about me... I'm a "military brat" (specifically a Marine Corps brat!) from a very non-medical family, and grew up moving around all over the place every couple of years. I'm one of those annoying people who just KNEW that I was destined to be a doctor- specifically a surgeon- since elementary school. My early inspiration? I am embarrassed to say it was Dr. Nancy Snyderman... yes, I was inspired by Dr. Snyderman on Good Morning America as a small child. She was so smart! And I was told by my parents that she was a surgeon! I had to be one too. And a medical correspondent, at that.
My 7th grade careers project? How to remove a brain tumor, complete with step by step instructions in how to perform a craniotomy. Gray's Anatomy was my middle school bedtime reading (a birthday present when I was 12). For Christmas one year, I received The Visible Woman model kit (even with a special insert for pregnancy!!), perhaps the most beloved gift I have ever received.
You get the picture. I shadowed surgeons in high school. In college I had the enormous fortune of being mentored by one of the most accomplished pediatric plastic surgeons in the country, and spent many early Saturday mornings in the OR. I also happened to fall in love with the world of academia, basic science research, and PhDs, all completely foreign to me.
Fast forward to medical school (after working abroad for a couple years with my now-husband). The pre-clinical years were tough for me. Why couldn't I get credit for narrowing the correct answer choice down two answers? Is it really my fault I always picked the wrong one?? Standardized tests were not my friend. I prevailed, however, but began having doubts about surgery. Was there something else for me? I am a major self-help book addict and found this book:
Hmm... general surgery was actually not really sounding like a good fit for me. Maybe ENT? Or derm? The one chapter that piqued my interest, however, was pathology. Pathology?? Wasn't that just a course in medical school? Had I ever even met a pathologist?
I mentioned I love research. I received a wonderful fellowship that allowed me to take time away to work on a project. One year turned into two, and at last I returned to my clinical years. Surgery was my first rotation and I was in absolute heaven in the OR. However, I happened to have strange circumstances with the surgical specialties to which I was assigned- no overnights and even two months without rounding (no residents on-service)- not exactly a reflection of reality. I continued to plan for applying to surgical residencies (met with the program director, started getting letters, etc) but as my third year went on and I gained more clinical experience, little voices started popping up in my mind. Taking care of patients was not as gratifying as I always imagined. When specimens were removed for surgery, I wanted to follow them and slice into them and feel them. I wanted to diagnose disease, think about mechanisms of disease, find causes of disease. And as selfish as it sounds, I also plain and simple just wanted to sleep in the same bed as my husband! And I finally remembered pathology. I remember I was hiking alone one day after being post-call for psych, and said to myself, that's it. I have to pursue this... and I took the plunge.
As I've alluded to, I have a husband- we met when I was only 19 and here we are a decade later! He has a PhD and has his own lab (academia). And yes, there is a little person in our lives too... a daughter. She is perfect in every way of course :) Her 2nd birthday is coming up right around the corner. She was born at the beginning of my 4th year... lots of stories surrounding that experience and the interview process!
I think my family is still in mourning that I am not a surgeon- I am convinced they believe I changed my mind because of my pregnancy. I know in my heart that is not true. I did take a leap of faith though and trusted my instincts- now that I am at the end of my first year of residency, I know I made the right choice, though I initially had doubts. We all have to find our little niches in medicine- I am convinced more than ever that there is a place for all of us.
Over the weekend, we took our daughter to a big science museum, where there was an exhibit on the marvels of the human body. We watched videos of bronchoscopy, held models of brains, looked at disease aortas, and pieced together a skeleton. It took me back to my teenage self and my obsession with the Visible Woman model kit... I felt proud and happy that now, decades later, I am doing professionally what I loved so much all those years ago. I may have never dreamed of being a pathologist, but that's only because I didn't know what a pathologist was :)
Looking forward to sharing stories!