As medical trainees, we learn how to be competent in our craft. If we are competent, it is assumed we will be successful and confident in our abilities. However, empowered performance requires a focus on not only competence, but also confidence. We stumble in our endeavors even though we may be highly competent. The study of medicine does not support the attainment of higher levels of confidence; in fact, it actually ...

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"Motherhood has been the biggest gamble of my adult life thus far. How was I going to operate for 12-plus hours while 39-weeks pregnant? Where would I be when I went into labor? How would was I going to return after three weeks? How would I pump during and in between OR ...

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As I embark on my chief year in general surgery, I look forward to most is taking junior residents through operations. I am grateful to have had excellent teachers over the past five years, and I appreciate the opportunity to pay forward this mentorship. But taking what you have learned and teaching someone else turns out to be a very different challenge than learning itself! Suddenly, you realize your attendings ...

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In his novel Buddhism Without Beliefs, Stephen Batchelor observed that “death alone is certain and the time of death is uncertain.” This knowledge should guide us in one of our most important decisions: How should we spend our limited amount of time on earth?

Why do you work so hard?

There are many different reasons why people might work too hard. Often they toil out of necessity. ...

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"I have closed my practice, but I have no plans to retire at the age of 52. I have started the journey to become a high school science teacher. There are frequent internet postings and blogs by physicians with strategies to retire young. I suspect that many of us, not near traditional ...

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If you’ve been diagnosed with a condition and the recommended treatment is surgery, there are proactive steps you can take to lower the risk of post-surgical complications and improve the likelihood of a good outcome. First, before deciding to undergo surgery, which always carries some risk, seek a second opinion from a physician who has experience treating the specific diagnosed condition. In most non-emergency cases, undergoing surgery immediately after diagnosis ...

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Two years into my surgical training, and five days after the murder of George Floyd, someone called attention to my Blackness in a way I had never experienced. One of my patients was an older white lady who appeared to be between 70 to 80 years old. I saw her for a routine postoperative visit when it was time to remove her surgical dressing. As I do with all my patients, ...

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I am in a select crowd.

I have been fortunate enough to help some special people in their time of pain and heartache and bewilderment, facing operation or cancer or other ailments. I was fortunate to even get into medical school when I did; my grades weren’t too good, and no doubt in my mind were I to apply today, I wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance of getting into ...

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Fear of opioid addiction and misuse has been instilled into the American public – in many cases rightfully so. However, we are concerned that new guidelines for opioid prescribing in children and adolescents after surgery recently published in JAMA Surgery do not adequately address the intricacies of pediatric pain management. Generalization of these recommendations may unnecessarily scare families and mislead physicians as they determine an ...

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As an aspiring surgeon, I at times contemplate whether being creative has any effect on my future career. On one hand, if you see surgery as an “art,” then possibly a creative personality is beneficial. On the other hand, surgery often seems objective and clear-cut, qualities often deemed uncreative. Perhaps even my goals of surgery and my interests in artistic creation are independent, noncommunicating personality features that are unrelated and ...

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I was somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, heading to Ukraine “to make a difference,” or so I hoped. I was leading a medical mission to this beautiful yet poor and war-torn country. I was watching the movie First Man about the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon that epic day in July 1969. I was not quite 14 years of age at that time, but I vividly remember the ...

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Quick, think of someone unrelated to you who has had a major impact on your life. I’d wager the vast majority of us pictured a face or two, and that nearly all (I hope) represented a positive influence. In my thirty-plus-year career in medicine, I’ve been blessed with several, and their impact on my life and career is truly inestimable. As a smart kid who went to medical school because it’s ...

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I complain about the state of U.S. health care a lot. It's not driven by quality. It's expensive. It's corporatized. It undervalues and commoditizes clinical workers. It's too controlled by insurance companies. It's riddled with racial, educational, and socio-economic disparities. I could, and often do, go on and on. But the other night, I was called in to do a bilateral lung transplant for an exquisitely ill, but rather young woman. Her OR ...

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Medical specialties, especially within the medical community, are known to be identified as comedic stereotypes of themselves. In addition to (or in conjunction with) being viewed as lazy, anesthesiologists are often stereotyped as being obstructionists to the operating room.  A spot-on joke generated during the "first" COVID-19 surge in March of 2020 was in reference to Jerome Adams: “First Anesthesiologist Surgeon General, recommends canceling all elective cases.” For better or worse, the ...

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I didn’t receive an offer to study medicine after graduating. Despite my best efforts, I’d fallen short. But what happened next made me realize the mistake I’d been making. For a while, I thought I wanted to be a scientist. After graduating from high school, my thirst for knowledge was at an all-time high. And without an offer to study medicine, I enrolled in what I thought was my next passion, science. Studying ...

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A moment in medical school that left a huge impression on me was when we had chairman's rounds with the department of medicine's chair.  He was a renowned breast oncologist and researcher and described a bit of his process when interacting with a patient. The process he had developed over his years of experience was so fine-tuned that there was not a single movement, action, word, or breath that was ...

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The recent controversy and backlash surrounding Kamala Harris’s Vogue cover shows that it is still fashionable to diminish powerful women.  It also is the latest example of the sad fact that no matter how far we have come, women are still held to a different standard—by both men and women. As a female vascular surgeon, I have spent my career pushing back on ideas about what ...

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We all think we know what a bruise looks like. Black and blue, brownish around the edges. But depending on the circumstances, the same bruise can look different from one person to another. To a well-loved child who skinned her knee, a bruise might look like a bad memory of an epic tree-climb attempt. To a patient with diabetes, a similar bruise might look like the onset of a life-threatening emergency. ...

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Like many surgical specialties, the one I was aspiring to is a male-dominated field. As such, all my colleagues were male, and I often felt as though I was trying to be a part of a boy’s club. I shed my intrinsic femininity and instead equipped myself with diplomacy, banter, a light-hearted attitude, and contagious enthusiasm. I knew nothing about the footy, and I hated beer, but I was witty, I ...

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I began pursuing a career in medicine with the fervent desire to become a neurosurgeon one day. When someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered neurosurgeon without missing a beat. I chose neurosurgery in high school after falling in love with the nervous system and watching Gifted Hands. I wanted to be like Dr. Ben Carson before his political debut. At that point, ...

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