By Meredith Taylor, MD
One of the most difficult aspects of surgical training is taking critical feedback, synthesizing it, improving from it, and—most importantly—not taking it personally. In my second week as co-senior in the surgical intensive care unit, I have been challenged immensely by the patient care, acuity of problems, and rapid decision making it takes to keep everyone safe. With COVID-19 cases on the rise amongst our faculty, staff, and residents, our teams are a little smaller, and my team is currently a group of all female residents and fellows of mixed disciplines. My co-senior is a brilliant cardiothoracic surgery resident who can probably get central access in someone without blood vessels, and the first year is an orthopedic surgeon who is already adept at spotting fractures in any plain film, at any angle. Our fellow can operate and make clinical decisions without hesitation, and her compassion for patients is unrelenting even when she’s inundated with responsibility. Sounds like the people you want taking care of you when you’re critically ill, right? They’re great teammates, even better people, and I’m embarrassed to admit, they intimidate me. Regardless of how kind or understanding they are when I make a mistake or ask for help, I always feel like I have something to prove, or that I need to work harder to earn their respect. It occurred to me I almost never feel this way amidst my male peers and colleagues.
While it is likely my personal insecurity fueling my need to measure up and make my worth apparent, I imagine other female surgeons may feel similarly when contemplating the skills and accomplishments of their colleagues. It is important to remember all of us are exceptional, talented, and we are on the same team. Those before us have fought through blatant and institutional discrimination, lack of role models, and countless, “No’s,” so we can exist in a medical community that now boasts all-female surgical teams. We are not each other’s competition, rather, we are the inspiration and strength the other needs to continue improving personally and professionally.
Admiring the talent of my teammates and focusing on how they’ve helped me grow in two short weeks has eased my ego burden and allowed me to embrace the awesome nature of our team. While I still cuss when I strike out with an art line or need something pointed out to me on a CT scan, I no longer have paralyzing embarrassment or feel like I need to hide my deficits to prove I’m worthy of their respect. To quote Brene Brown, “I am not here to be right. I am here to get it right.” It is a new year, and it is time to pause and appreciate the female leaders that surround us, work with us, and inspire us to take care of our patients by being the best surgeons possible.
Dr. Meredith Taylor is originally from Medina, OH. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Dayton and her medical degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. She is currently a second year general surgery resident at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
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.