I am a cardiac anesthesiologist. I meet most patients I care for minutes before I take them to the operating room and render them unconscious. I breathe for them, administer pain medicine and drugs to give them amnesia, and I keep their hearts, lungs, kidneys, and brains working. Pretty important stuff. I want to speak on behalf of physicians. I want all patients to know something: We need you to talk to us. We ...

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You cannot work in medicine today without being inundated with burnout statistics and commentary on your feed, coming to your inbox, or spoken from stages about the state of medicine we are in. The data is dire: we are disengaged, we are making mistakes, we are not heard, and we are not empowered to make decisions. There’s passionate debate on whether it’s individual versus institutional changes that will save medicine from ...

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After my second child was born, I realized a harsh truth: I could not be everything to everyone. It took me almost 30 years to understand this. I was working as a full-time physician with unpredictable hours. I was trying desperately to make it all work; juggling hospital burdens with the ever-demanding job of being a mother. I grew up with a mom who was everyone’s mother. As one of the few ...

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I am a cardiac anesthesiologist. I want to explain what anesthesiologists do, who we are, and why it is important for the public to know. Anesthesiologists are physicians. Anesthesiologists are the guardians of the operating room. Anesthesiologists are leaders. If you get in a car accident, we are there. If you develop an infection and can’t breathe, we are there. If you are having a heart attack, we are there. If you need a new knee or ...

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As a woman in medicine, where the odds for pay, promotion, and leadership are stacked against me, I feel obligated to light the path for younger women who come behind me.  It has taken me a while to be comfortable with my style of leadership, own my own voice, be able to regroup after rejection, and tolerate feeling on display and yet often invisible. I wish someone would have told me the following ...

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My heart broke a little this week. When you want to grow a muscle, you have to damage it first. You have to lift something heavy and overextend it. It’s sore for a few days -- and then it grows stronger. That is what happened to my heart. My oldest son started high school. I got up early to exercise and was running back to the house to have a quick cup of ...

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I am writing this from the perspective of a woman physician in academic medicine. I am a mid-career cardiac anesthesiologist who works in several national organizations and serve on various committees and boards. I have learned a lot from serving in national medical societies, made great friends this way, and been able to feel a sense of accomplishment in being a part of change within my specialty. That is why I ...

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There are moments as an anesthesiologist you can’t erase. No matter how long you go home and sleep, or how many days pass, you won’t forget it. All of these moments involve saying goodbye; while the scenarios change, the message is the same. It is sacred, like watching the exchanging of vows. They are precious, real, moments, where you want to freeze time, let the embraces, the hugs, go on and on, but the ability to say hello again ...

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I looked at my life through the lens of an outsider: It looked pretty good. Funding. Presentations. Publications. Great job, and a great family. Check, check, check. I looked at my life through my own lens, an insider: a mess. Exhaustion. Absent from my closest relationships. Chronically feeling like I was dropping the ball, because I was. Unhealthy. Not enough sleep, or exercise, or joy. Apathy. This was me, four years ago, ...

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Recently I was saying goodnight to my oldest son, who is now 14 and about to enter high school. I was standing in his bedroom looking at his midnight blue walls, which are covered in each of the planets. He looked up at me from his Pottery Barn bunk bed and said, “Mom, I need a new bed … and new walls.” I stared at him, realizing my son was no ...

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“Yes, you are like that,” said my husband one night as I was lamenting criticism I had heard about myself that day. “I am?” I asked, shocked, a little hurt, and angry. “You are, “ he replied. “Everyone who knows you knows this.” Gulp. No one likes to hear criticism. Our lives are so busy, so over-extended, that stopping to hear that something we said or did upset or annoyed someone is ...

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I was recently interviewed by someone on the topic of clinician burnout. The interviewee asked me how I respond to those who say that burnout does not exist, is being overstated, or is the result of a weaker generation of practicing physicians. I find this difference in opinion interesting. Most of the time, when a physician complains to me about the focus on clinical burnout, they are 1) of an older ...

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I lost a friend this month. She was a surgeon; she was one of us. We lost her. So did her patients. All the ones she helped. The ones she saved. So did her hospital, her nurses, her techs. So did her family. All the love, coming to a screeching halt. Another friend lost. Another brilliant healer in medicine -- gone. Another one I will now refer to as “she was …” when I talk ...

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How do I balance my home life with physician life? I really want to do a research study. How do I start? How do I get involved in my specialties society? I am overwhelmed with clinical duties. How do I negotiate for nonclinical time? My manuscript was rejected. What should I do next? I had a bad clinical outcome, and I can’t seem to recover. How do I move forward? Joining this committee will be a ...

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Those who follow my blog know I write about science and medicine and their complexities and challenges. Sometimes, I write about anesthesiology and what it’s like to be in the operating room. I write about gender issues and things I’ve noticed as a woman leader in medicine. I write about my children, being a mother, and all that it takes to have the best job in the world and feel ...

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Recently someone asked me how I started my blog, Brave Enough. The person, a physician, wondered how I made the jump from safe, traditional academia into the world of social media and blogging about women empowerment. “Did you have one moment? Did something happen? What was it?” The conversation made me reflect, as I have been, for several weeks. Like most things, my introspection ended up as words in my journal. Then, words in a ...

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I often speak on stages at conferences. I am often the only woman and sit on what some have called “manels.” I love to teach large groups, and I enjoy medical and leadership conferences. I used to take pride being “the only woman” on stage. Not anymore. For years I would be on panels, and I would be the only woman. Many times I was given the “case presentation.” The more serious panel ...

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This month my institution lost a vibrant, talented member of our team to suicide. Most likely, if you are in health care, you probably are thinking of a coworker you know who also took his or her own life. Sadly, it is not uncommon. I can’t stop thinking of his wife. His parents. All of the patients who will miss his excellent care and expertise. Suicide is prevalent in health care workers, and physician ...

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Dear Boys, I am so blessed to be your mom. You each have amazing personalities, unique talents, and special characteristics. I know someday you will grow up and be strong men. Kind men. Respectful men. Successful men. Men like your grandfathers. Men like your father. Someday when you go out into the world, you will find yourself working with all different kinds of women. You will work for women, beside women, and ...

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Recently I had the privilege of an attending a leadership course at a very prestigious institution. I spent a week immersed in self-evaluation and heard great lectures on team building, leadership strategy, economics, conflict resolution, and communication. I met 60+ health care leaders from all over the world. It was a great week, and I came home inspired and full of ideas. The class was full of physicians, health care executives, ...

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