Flexibility as a Female Physician

Seems [oxy-]moronic, but whether you’re into jet setting or maybe something quaint, oh, say like having a family, you should meet a few of the new friends I’ve made this summer:

Miss Mix-It-Up

This pediatrician grew up and attended medical school in Kenya. After residency and a mandatory year in something akin to the Peace Corps, Michigan seemed like the place to be. Her clinical work became so boring that she went for an MPH and ended up researching pediatric obesity. Currently, two days are spent running a healthy weight clinic at a major hospital while the other three days with data analysis, papers, lectures.

Miss E.R.

She chooses to work 3 twelve hour shifts. At night. Supposedly, never misses a bit of her children’s lives.

Miss Job Share

1 opening, 2 applicants. 1 patient, 2 doctors. It’s like when you signed up to bring snacks after your high school volleyball game. Everybody wants cookies so badly that they won’t turn you away if you can only bake one weekend in October. The same team gets fed. Different girls sign up. Think about it. (At least that’s the line I’m going to feed future employers.)

Miss Part Time

Anesthesiologist, internist, plastic surgeon, gynecologist all come to mind. They’ve not bought the 70-hour-work-week-lie to repay the investment that is medical education. (Oh yeah, lenders forget that we go hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt just to earn the little “m” and “d”.) For a pay cut, one can work mornings or three days or evenings etc. Endless possibilities.

Miss Consult

Turns out that you don’t have to enter residency after medical school (think teaching or medical admin–desperately needed as hospitals buildings rise higher than skyscrapers in our economy.) You don’t even have to practice after residency (think insurance claim consultation or research or nursing home management or really anything.)

Mixed messages from Mattel… should I be a mommy? A doctor? A mommies’ doctor!?

Whether guy or girl doc, these are all wonderful options to love what you do. But if there’s one common theme between those I shadowed, it was the presence of an awesome, supportive partner in crime!

Yesteryears of Medicine

Hi. My name’s Cassie and I’m here to take you back… At least that’s my spiel as a part-time transporter / surgical orderly. But I’d rather transport you to the 1960’s. 1963 to be exact. That was the year the Gonzaga family immigrated from the Philippines so Lolo could meet Frederick and Philip Smith. They would hire my great-grandfather at the same exact hospital that now employs me!

That was when men smoked in the OR. At the scrub in sink. There is one doctor remaining, an anesthesiologist, who can recount my great-grandfather’s hand-washing ritual. Dr. D told the story again today:

He would come at the same time every morning. And we’d say,”Dr. Gonzaga, you don’t have patients until after Dr. So and So finishes!” But he would wash his hands anyways, then sit there. In the room. Both arms up like this [as a referee announcing a fieldgoal]. All clean until the other doctor finished.

–here? [referring to the rooms behind the nurses’ station]

[Nod.]

And I asked about the story of the fruit once more.

Oh, you know, for Grand Rounds, they would give us big baskets of fruit. And so we would see Dr. Gonzaga with a banana in one pocket here and apples in his side pockets there and oranges in his back pocket. And we would wonder what he was doing, but he was giving the fruit away to the nursing staff at his clinic!

As pictured his accounts with family stories of Lolo’s temper, Dr. D continued,

It used to be like that. We were all a family. Dr. Gonzaga lived right across from Dr. S and a couple doors down was Dr. C and, closer to the main road, was Dr. H. We would go in and out of each others’ houses all the time.

That was when we were still doing research on dogs too. We used to do a lot of that at Smith Clinic. It was here that Dr. Uddin discovered the Uddin umbrella. Do you know what the Uddin umbrella is? President Nixon got one and they are still using that procedure today. Uddin was a cardiologist, here, at Smith Clinic.

In fact, Frederic [Smith] once brought in his dog for surgery. He removed a kidney stone in the lab.

wait, how’d he know that?!?!

He found the blood in the urine and diagnosed it with a kidney stone. So I did the anesthesia. I did the anesthesia for the research lab in the afternoons… And when your great-grandfather had that ruptured aneurysm, I remember doing anesthesia for him…

here??

[Nod.]

I got along very well with Dr. Gonzaga. He was kind of quiet. And he wouldn’t agree that you should place a lens after removal of the cataract [what is now opthamology standard] But we got along. He was a good man. He would go every year to the Philippines, take our old equipment over, and deliver babies, do breast surgery, stomach surgery. Everything. He practiced in the mountains. He was a freedom fighter. Did you know he fought for the resistance?

I glanced at the clock and had to fetch the next patient. But my thoughts remained with my great-Lolo, who never learned to drive a car but served American soldiers in WWII. Who gave my dad terrible spankings but let his five children and their families live in his basement and sent countless nieces and nephews through college. Who left me an inheritance of family, freedom, and faith.

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I can’t help but wonder, who are the practitioners in your life that left a legacy of service?

We Are Family (Feelin’ Some Sister Sledge)

My dad has this little photography gig on the side. Which means that my mom has this little wedding coordinator job on weekends. And a great looking couple with extra cameras needs help capturing all those special moments. So my sixteen year old brother and I tag along.

I used to enjoy talking about their adventures at a camo-themed wedding or with a rising country star or, my personal favorite, alongside baby animals. (If you hope for exotic animals at your reception, I’d go get hired at a zoo then marry another zoo employee.) But this summer, my mom was on call one weekend, my brother at a tennis camp another weekend. Pretty soon I found myself chasing down Aunt Tillie for the family formals and snapping pics in some bridal suite downtown. A lot more than just talking.

Though I didn’t ask to be a wedding photographer’s daughter, I’m not complaining. To dress up for the day and dance away the night is anything but dull. It’s a race against everyone’s imaginary checklist. But grandma doesn’t do too well in the heat. Vows and candle lighting turn into a three-part mini series of how-to-put-everyone-in-the-audience-to-sleep. That’s when mom’s smile saves the day. Her occasional pow-wows with the couple keeps us from holding up dinner, ticking off the DJ, or forgetting Aunt Tillie.

When the cake’s been cut and bouquet tossed, my foot starts to twitch. Within me is this this innate, constant love for flailing my arms and legs. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the radio or movie credits, life’s a beat, per Reebok, and I’ma dance to it. So last night was all about partying in the USA and shouting, and yeahyeahyeah! 

Photo Booth 2002

Hyped up on cake.

I definitely felt my feet upon waking up for church. My legs were just as cranky this afternoon at my baby cousin’s birthday party… Pastor did say that Jesus was into spending time with people, making their day better (Mary/Martha dealio.) So I don’t regret anything. It’s all fun and games when you have the right attitude about being stuck in an air conditioned room with educated people that offer free food and merriment.

I don’t know what you and your families do for fun, but I would caution that life’s a party–and everyone’s invited.

Cousin turns four, sneaks little swipes of icing, and steals a cookie. All under 2.5 seconds.

Turning four, sneaking little swipes of icing, and stealing a cookie. All under 2.5 seconds.