An Attitude of Gratitude

08 Nov 2015

By: Beth Shaughnessy

It can be a difficult task to think about gratitude because we may become a little hardened and insensitive in light of the demands on our time.  I can’t help but smirk when I read articles that identify a percentage of physicians who are experiencing burnout, as if this is a fixed, unmoving percentage.  I think we all experience burnout at some point or another, and we do our best to learn from it, rein it in, keep it under wraps, keep it controlled.  Step back with me, then, and take a quiet look at what you have around you.

Dr. Beth Shaughnessy with sisters Kathleen Shaughnessy Maddalone, Suzanne Shaughnessy, Rosemary Shaughnessy Bartosik.
Dr. Beth Shaughnessy with sisters Kathleen Shaughnessy Maddalone, Suzanne Shaughnessy, Rosemary Shaughnessy Bartosik.

I just returned from a much delayed vacation, having arranged my first ever group vacation with only my sisters.  I am fortunate to have them as a dependable source of support.   As Thanksgiving approaches, I am grateful that I live in a country that holds this celebration. While in Ireland, my sisters and I received many questions regarding our rituals, our recipes, and I am reminded of how these rituals allow us to pull together, step back, see the big picture, and be grateful for what we have.  In returning home, I received the warm welcome of my son and my husband; I missed them, but was grateful that they realized how much I needed this renewal.

October also offered the opportunity to renew ties with old friends through the AWS and ACS, to deepen some new bonds, and to meet new people as well.  It amazes me how we continue to learn from each other and nurture women at every level of training and practice.  I am that young woman who began medical school, but different.  I am that fresh young resident, but different.  I am that new surgeon in practice, but different.  The greater depth of understanding people and of surgery, of understanding academics and service, takes time, elicits a price, but has left me a better person.

As Dr. Suzanne Klimberg, the past president of the Society of Surgical Oncology and the American Society of Breast Surgeons, has mentioned, we need to adopt an attitude of gratitude, thank those who have helped us, and then turn to help those with whom we travel, or who follow.  We’re in this together, not alone.

Maybe now, before Thanksgiving, turn your thoughts inward and then redirect them outward as you display your attitude of gratitude.  It might just be reflected back at you.

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