Is Surgery for Me?

16 Mar 2022

By Ariana Naaseh, MD

I was one of the medical students who always swore there was absolutely no way I’d become a surgeon. I’d heard too many stories about surgeon personalities and the terrible attempt at work/life “balance” the career afforded. Rumors consisted of surgeons yelling at staff and trainees, throwing instruments in the operating room, or belittling or ignoring medical students. Surgeons were rumored to have no continuity of care and operate solely as technicians.  

On my first day of my surgery rotation, I walked in with low expectations. Much like most medical students, I expected to wake up too early, stay too late, eat no food, never use the restroom, and be yelled at or made to feel silly at some point in the day. Throughout the course of my 8-week rotation, I was pleasantly surprised and absolutely enamored. I encountered surgeons who asked me my name, ensured I was participating and learning throughout cases, and engaged with me both inpatient and outpatient to create plans and take ownership over patient care. I learned that surgeons see their patients pre-op, post-op, and often follow patients for years and years. I learned that patients saw their surgeons as leaders in their care and often felt the most trust in them. I learned that it took a great deal of time and effort to build a strong connection so that your patient would be comfortable with and allow you to operate on them during their most vulnerable times, especially in the most emergent of settings. I was hooked. 

I observed caring, compassionate, and humble role models. I observed surgeons collaborate effectively on multi-disciplinary teams. I saw the need to communicate with case managers, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, and so many more hospital team members to effectively provide care. I noticed those surgeons who thanked their residents, offered frequent praise to their medical students, and inspired those who were in their presence. I knew then that surgery was for me.  

I could not deny that I would likely encounter surgeons in my career who were exactly as the rumors painted them. I knew, though, that by choosing to become a surgeon I was joining a group of hard-working, committed, and incredibly gifted people. A group of people who could simultaneously assert themselves in the operating room but remain respectful of those around them. A group of people who could both expect a great deal of their trainees and medical students, but prioritize teaching and learning. A group of people who make time to check in with their patients after a long day of cases. A group of people who sacrifice so much time and energy during transformative years of an adult’s life to become the best surgeon they can be and provide the most optimal patient care. I could not be prouder to be a part of this amazing profession and look forward to the countless medical students that become entirely surprised during their rotations and choose to join us. With enough incredible people within the field, soon we will look towards a future in which we are not fighting these long-standing stereotypes. Congratulations to all of the newly matched surgeons!  

Ariana Naaseh, MD is a first year general surgery resident at Washington University in St. Louis. A life-long Californian, she received her undergraduate degree in Cognitive Science from University of California Berkeley and her M.D. at University of California, Irvine School of Medicine. She is passionate about not only surgery but mentorship, education, and health care disparities. While she remains undecided on her future sub-specialty, she knows it will involve medical student education and public health. In her free time, Ariana loves traveling, exploring new restaurants and bars, being outside or in a body of water, and running her heart out at her local Orangetheory. You can follow her on twitter at @ariananaaseh.

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.

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