A thank you letter to the surgeon who believed in me

25 Nov 2021

by Sarah Adkins-Jablonsky

Dr. P,
I learned how a gallbladder is removed before I learned to drive. To think I had these opportunities because of you, while my mom rationed food stamps, is a privilege I still can’t quite fathom. Shadowing you at 15 changed the trajectory of my life. Not that I couldn’t be what I wanted to be, but I didn’t know what I could be. I wasn’t sure what a university was or what medical school was, but 10 years later I am finally here in my first year of medical school, on a full ride scholarship, destined to be a doctor not like you, but a doctor like me.
Because I saw myself in you, you believed in me, and that belief feels more powerful than any surgical tool. From recommendation letters, to taking my frustrated calls about getting Cs in organic chemistry, to snail mail about the need for women in surgery, to paying for my MCAT classes, I have never doubted your complete faith in my ability to continue the path. Though I have my parents’ full support and admiration, it has been something else to have someone rooting for me who had gone through university, medical school, and became a doctor.
Changing a patient’s present reality makes you a great doctor; changing someone’s future makes you a great mentor.
I am still deciding what kind of doctor I want to be, but I know what kind of mentor I want to be — one who is there, every step of the way, overcoming obstacles with mentees. In part because of what you have invested in me, I have likewise become a mentor to many women, many of whom want to go into medicine through programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Underdocs, and American Physician Scientists Association. To be there for these women is a way to tell you thank you for being there for me.
Last week, my colleagues could not find the gallbladder for one of our “first patient” donors. I smiled and thought of the surgeon who removed it. I wondered if beside the doctor there a 15-year-old was, staring in awe, destined to be a physician, too.

Sarah Adkins-Jablonsky

Sarah Adkins-Jablonsky is a first-year student at the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine and an Ensign in the United States Navy through the Health Professions Scholarship Program. She earned her PhD in Biology, BS in Biology, and BA in Studio Art at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @admiraladkins.

Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.