Tag Archives: medicine

Singlism

Throughout medical school, I felt that I had to work harder than my male counterparts. I was constantly trying to prove myself in a field dominated by men and that often meant sacrificing my personal life to stay ahead. It was difficult and I always felt like an outsider, constantly trying to earn the respect of the cool kids. In the end, my struggling only served to sweeten my #2 class rank and my graduating with honors. I felt that I had earned my place among the men and overcome the hurdle of sexism.

After I graduated, I once again dealt with discrimination. Though this time it wasn’t just because of my gender. My clinicals came and went without much incident, as I could tell the physicians I shadowed felt I was more an annoyance than anything else. The first time I really felt a tinge of discrimination was during my internship, when I was constantly called “girl” or “young’in.” I tried to brush the comments and nicknames off, but after earning the right to work alongside these physicians I wanted to demand respect. I didn’t, though. I just took the abuse and kept my head down.

Then came my residency. On a daily basis, I was subjected to verbal abuse at the hands of my attending, who held no respect for me. I was the lowest of the low to him, a young resident and a woman. This was by far the worst discrimination I had ever encountered. I was miserable throughout most of my residency (which, as a neurosurgical resident, was a long time) and it took its toll on me. I became more withdrawn, abrasive and I was constantly stressed out. The day my neurosurgical residency ended was one of the happiest days of my life. I assumed that the discrimination was over. I had made it so far. Medical school, clinicals, internship, residency. Now I would have the respect of my colleagues, or so I thought.

So he’s a dentist, but you get the picture.

A few weeks ago I scheduled some time off. I like to try to take a few days off each month to reorganize myself and try to focus on a few projects. The time was initially approved, consults were moved around and I was looking at plane tickets. Today, I just happened to look at my schedule for the weekend of the 25th and noticed that I was scheduled to work all the days I had requested off. I was fairly upset, but assumed it was just an error in scheduling. I went to talk to the woman in charge of setting appointments and creating our basic schedules.

The conversation that we had, blew me away…

Me: “I noticed that I was scheduled for days I originally had off. I have the documentation that shows I won’t be here.”

Scheduler: “Another surgeon with family issues asked for the same time off. So he is prioritized ahead of you.”

Me: “I don’t understand. When did he ask off? Those days were originally fine.”

Scheduler: “He asked off yesterday, but he is taking time off for family…”

Me: “Why does taking time off for family make his time more valuable than mine?”

Scheduler: “You’re single, you don’t have family to worry about and so he is prioritized above you. When you aren’t married or don’t have children, you are kind of at the bottom of the totem pole.”

At this point, I didn’t know what to say. I just turned around, walked back to my office and slammed the door. I felt like this was some sort of new discrimination. At what point did my being single become something to be discriminated against? In the U.S., family systems have seen such incredibly vast changes that I was appalled her thinking was still so backward. If I was married with children, my needs would be “prioritized” over the needs of my single colleagues. This isn’t fair, nor is it right. Only 51 percent of Americans are married and even though that means I am in the minority, it doesn’t mean that my time is any less valuable than the married couple next door. I looked up a few articles on “Singlism,” and while some of the issues are just down right silly, a few are well-presented observations about singles discrimination.

They look thrilled to be in the majority!

 

Is this sort of discriminatory behavior something most people ignore, or do the majority of people not even realize this goes on? I feel like I have worked hard for what I have. Taking time off is a way for me to enjoy what I have earned, meet new people and strengthen my relationships. How am I suppose to move to the majority, if I never have time to actually have a real relationship?

 

I’m really not sure where to go from here. I have put in a second request for the same time off and I drafted an email to possibly be sent at a later date. Even though I don’t feel like I have any ground to stand on at work, I am obviously taken aback by the level of thinking that is going on at such a progressive facility.

Questions: Have you ever been discriminated against because you are single? How did you handle it?

 

 

Advertisements

Onward and Upward

A few days ago I was discussing with a friend our futures. Would we ever get married? Be parents? Where would we be living in 10 years? It was a little disconcerting, considering my preference for planning my life in advance, that I didn’t exactly know what my future had in store for me.

I asked my much more laid-back friend, “Would you want to know exactly how your future is going to unfold?”

“Nahhh, I kind of like surprises,” was his response.

This threw me for a loop, because I would want to have a detailed itinerary emailed  to me every week. Knowing the minute details of my daily life would be something of a thrill for me. Being able to plan well in advance for situations would be a life saver! The orange juice commercials, where the consumer is sitting at the table with all of their “problems” for the day, is an obsessive compulsive planners fantasy.

I wondered if my friend was in the majority. Do most people want to keep an element of surprise in their day-to-day routine? How many people would choose to gaze into their future, if they found out the exact circumstances of their death? Perhaps that is the kicker, death. If you know when and how you’re going to die, you might live your life differently. I would assume that being privy to that sort of information might drastically change your personality and the way you interacted with people. This sort of information could be the reason that certain people would choose not to have their future unfolded before them.

As a planner, worrier and obsessive compulsive, however, I am practically frothing at the mouth for a chance to look into tea leaves and divine my future. I would ultimately hope the tea leaves showed something positive and in-line with how I anticipate my future will be. If everything goes according to plan, I would end up divining a future like:

2-3 years: married to the love of my life, work towards a 4 day work week, discussing adoption
4 years: completion of contracted work in California, quick sell of my current home, purchase a vacation home on Catalina Island, move back to NYC or Toronto,  begin renovation on the West Village building in NYC, begin the adoption process
5-6 years:  adopt a child/children (hopefully male twins), work towards a 2-3 day work week
7-8 years: complete the renovation on the West Village building, spend a year living abroad with my family, begin the transition to open my bakery (test recipes, research supply companies etc..)
9-10 years: begin consulting for hospitals 1-2 days a week, finally open my bakery, enjoy being a mother/wife/small business owner

An idyllic plan that will hopefully be put into action within the coming years!

Question(s): What about you? Would you choose to view your entire future if given the chance? Is there anything you wouldn’t want to know?

Dear Me: A Letter to Myself 10 Years Ago

Originally taken from “Dear Me” adapted by “Adventures on the Road

Dear RO,

I know you’re stressed, but I promise you it will get better. The holidays are coming up and you’re dealing with a lot. It will be your first major holiday without him and it will be a tough one. Everyone will ask about you two and everyone will do it awkwardly, it will be painful. You will want to hide in the guest house, but I promise it will get better. Life does go on and you will find the love of your life.

School is intense. This year will be your most difficult. You will want to quit. Baking will keep you sane and it will also make you a lot of friends. Don’t make those chocolate cake cookies, though. No one will like them and they are pretty disgusting (it’s not you, it’s the recipe). Try to get out more and don’t isolate yourself in your apartment. Don’t take on more than you can handle (though you will regardless) and learn to take time for yourself. Even though grades are important now, they aren’t everything. Allow yourself time away from the books, enjoy your college years.

Don’t worry so much about your appearance. For the next 10 years you will obsess over everything you eat, wear and you will work out way more than you need to. Don’t waste your time worrying over this small stuff, you will miss out on so much because of a few people. Don’t let your life revolve around issues of vanity.

As far as medicine is concerned, it may not be your passion now, but it will become the thing you love most. You will move across the country to practice it, you will neglect your friends and family and you will fall in love with healing your patients. This is ok. You will cry and complain. It will be the most difficult thing you will ever do, but it will be the one constant in your life and it will allow you to do so much. Fall in love with medicine, because it will give back to you beyond anything you can imagine.

Love always,

Future RO

Baking my way through medical school

Medical School: Learn to Live Like a Zombie

Medical school is stressful. Not the “busy schedule,” kind of stressful either. It’s the “life-consuming, soul-destroying, completely overwhelming,” kind of stressful. There were days when I just didn’t want to deal with life in general. In the mornings, my alarm would go off and I would plan my run. Part way through my run, I would consider not going back to my apartment and contemplate skipping my classes for the day. This happened every day for almost six years.

I had always attributed my lack of interest in medical school to my

My room was much less depressing....

parents. They had forced me to go to medical school, even though I told them I would be miserable. Of course I had been right, I disliked medicine intensely. It was easy enough, I found that I was good at it and I continued to drag myself to class everyday. By third year, I was so depressed that I had (what I would now classify as) a nervous breakdown. I stopped running, eating and only left the apartment for class. I spent an entire break from school in bed, leaving only to use the restroom or shower (sometimes). It was awful. I kept visualizing my life and in my head it was the most depressing future I could ever imagine. I pictured myself going to work everyday, dealing with patients and never being happy. It was too much to bear, so I just shut down.

At the end of several weeks, I finally decided enough was enough. I drove to see my parents, I was going to tell them I was done with

My grandmother is so much cuter

medical school once and for all. When I arrived home my grandmother was there. She was in the process of baking babka wielkanocna for the holiday so I asked if I could help while I waited for my parents to return. Perhaps it was speaking Polish with my grandmother or maybe it was licking delicious gooey batter off my fingers, but by the time my parents arrived home I had completely forgotten that I was there to tell them my life-changing news. Baking has always been an important aspect of my life, but at that moment I realized that I could take out my frustrations on cupcakes. It was a game changer.

I spent the weekend at my parents, planning my baking shopping list. My mind was finally off of medical school and instead it was thinking about how many Meyer lemon’s I needed for tarts. When I got back to the city I headed straight to the store, I bought over $300 worth of

The best kind of mess.

random ingredients and then stopped by a kitchen supply store for extra accessories. Back at my apartment, I baked for hours. My counters that had once been covered in nothing but medicine, were now covered in flour. I kneaded dough until my fingers cramped and rolled it until my arms were sore. It was wonderful. After I took the last cake out of the oven, exhaustion took hold and I slept for twelve hours straight. I woke up feeling oddly refreshed, went for a long run and then delivered the baked goods to my classmates.

For the rest of my time in medical school, I took plenty of time out to work in the kitchen. My friends and classmates loved it, so much so that they began to request certain recipes more than others. The favourite ended up being my Black Forest Cupcakes, which were requested on a weekly basis. It quite literally got me through medical school and made me realize that I would ultimately survive the experience.

It seems like a silly thing, to think that baking cupcakes could really have such a profound impact on a person. To me, it has always been the act of baking more than the finished product. Even though I enjoy tasting my creations, it is ultimately the pleasure they bring others that makes me so content. Once I found that I enjoyed baking, it became an outlet for my anxiety which helped me through medical school.

So, would I have still been a physician if I had not discovered my love of baking? Probably. My parents would have forced me to finish school and if I had decided to drop out, they would have pushed me toward engineering. Baking didn’t save medical school for me, but it did help me find some sort of balance in my hectic life. To this day I continue to bake for my family and friends. I think they are glad I had a nervous breakdown, because without it they never would have been able to taste what they consider “the most amazing cupcakes ever.”

Tasting Words

I wonder how many people have had a moment in their life where they realize their reality is different from the reality of others. A moment where you realize that your perspective on the world is unique and different from those around you.

I had that moment.

It occurred during a summer course in high school. I was prepping to take the MCAT and my parents had decided I should take college classes over the summer to help me prepare for the test. During the course, we were discussing the somatosensory system when the teacher began to describe synesthesia. In her lecture, she described what someone with synesthesia experienced when their cognitive pathway was involuntarily stimulated. The further she delved into the neurological condition, the more I realized it was what I had been experiencing my entire life. After the lecture was finished, I stayed after to ask her if there was a medical test for synesthesia. Much to my dismay, she said that most doctors weren’t well-versed in synesthesia detection and that I would be better off contacting someone who was conducting synesthesia research. After much searching, I found that there was a group of people at the University of Missouri- Columbia who were involved in synesthesia research and I contacted them.

A few months later, I was contacted by a researcher in California who wanted to know if I would be willing to be tested. I was very enthusiastic and I wanted to know all about the procedures for testing. A couple of weeks later I ventured to the UM-Columbia campus and went through a battery of tests. The tests showed that I experienced several different forms of synesthesia.

Test designed by Ramachandran and Hubbard

What do YOU see?

It was exciting and life-altering. I had been having synesthetic experiences as long as I could remember, but I had always assumed it was “normal.” When I would tell someone that a certain word sounded “blue and thick like oil,” they would just shrug it off as a child with an over active imagination. It got to the point that I stopped describing my experiences to other people because I didn’t want them to think I was odd.

After the tests were finished, I felt validated and complete. I finally understood that I was lucky enough to experience something that very few people would ever get the chance to understand. I began to research synesthesia extensively and even conducted some of my own experiments to see if I could identify other types of synesthetic experiences I may be having.

All in all I was able to identify quite a few unique types of synesthesia:

Emotions –> colours, temperature
Sounds (general, lexical, phoneme) –> colours, movement, units of time, flavours (gustatory)
Graphemes –> colours
Musical sounds –> colours, movements, units of time
Pain –> colours
Personalities –> colours
Orgasm –> colours, movement
Touch –> colours
Temperatures –> colours, pressure

This really opened my eyes to how I had been perceiving the world around me for so many years. It is something that I continue to grapple with to this day.

The one thing synesthesia has helped me accomplish was in narrowing down my field of study in medicine. After learning more about the neurological condition, I realized I wanted to study neurology and ultimately neuroendocrinolgy.

It is also something I would never give up and I wish that I could let others experience it, so that they could see the world the way I have.

June does not need to be abbreviated.

I have seen “Jun 1, 2011” everywhere today and even though I know it is the proper abbreviation for June, it seems so wrong. Why can’t we just write out “June”? Jun feels like some sort of illiterate lolspeak or part of a thirteen year old’s text message to her best friend, “OMG, Jun iz my fav month, yo!”

On another note, I have purchased enough furniture to outfit my new master bedroom! That means I only have 5-6 more rooms to go and since the house has that ridiculous elevator, I have to figure out some way to utilize that. Why would anyone put an elevator in a 3 story house? It makes me feel lazy just thinking about it. I have yet to find the appropriate couch for the “great room,” which I am considering calling the “incredible room.” Every single couch I have looked at seems to have some glaring flaw (mostly that I don’t like them) and I’m becoming frustrated with my search. I haven’t lived in Los Angeles long enough to know where to go for custom furniture and I don’t have the time to really meet with designers to figure out what I want. Dilemma.

Monday was also the first day of my cleanse. I have been trying to stay away from this massive plate of cookies I baked for my cousin. I wish she would just come and pick them up so that the temptation would be out of the house. After going to Von’s, Whole Food’s and Oliovera I feel ready to begin what my body will ultimately decide is me punishing it for not properly fitting into an Alberta Ferretti dress a few weeks ago. I say this even though I wore the dress anyway. The slight bit of snugness around my middle caused me to panic and I immediately searched my computer for the detox rules.

Work was incredibly hectic today and I relished the 15 minutes I had to myself in my office. After P came back with my lunch I locked out the world and tried to focus on enjoying what little break I was given. It was definitely one of those days when I wondered why I decided not to pursue my passion and instead chose to appease everyone else. These days it seems like I have begun to question not only my commitment to the hospital, but also my commitment to medicine. Why did I spend so many years pouring over texts in medical school, only to be dissatisfied with the end result?

Finally, I am considering purchasing an eReader. I have been told to buy a Kindle, a Nook and an iPad which has left me all the more confused. I have ruled out the Kindle (I think) and it seems to be down to a Nook Color, a ‘Next Gen’ Nook or an iPad. I can not see myself using all of the features of an iPad and keep leaning towards the Nook Color, but I wonder if I wouldn’t use the iPad more once I discovered how useful it really is. This all came about after I finished A Game of Thrones and did not have A Clash of Kings on hand to read afterward. I have been forced to wait by the Hermosa Beach Public Library and so I am currently reading Embassytown and The Tragedy of Arthur, though they both seem to be fairly interesting.