By Dr. Brittany Johnson
I started my journey in medicine boldly confessing to my mother at the age of five that I was “going to be a doctor.” My trademark of setting a goal and never giving up established itself early. Today, I have fulfilled that promise, but this story has a twist. Halfway through my pediatrics residency, I decided to pursue pediatric surgery. There was great gravity in this decision. This would mean an additional nine years of training minimum, in addition to four for medical school and three for pediatrics residency I was already committed to.
I attempted everything to run from this path. I negotiated the possibility of committing to less training; compensating by “enjoying more of my life”. Maybe what everyone said about surgical training was correct and by making this decision, especially late in training, I was doomed to always put career first and family second. Pediatric surgery fellowship is competitive. Was I willing to leave an all but guaranteed fellowship match and budding career as an academic neonatologist to chase a nearly “impossible” (so I was being told) goal of academic pediatric surgery?
This decision was one of the most difficult I’ve made in my life. It required a deep dive into who I was as a person and physician. This too was my introduction to those I have fondly named “The Noise”. “This is crazy”, “Surgery is hard”, “You won’t match into pediatric surgery”. The Noise was loud, deafening actually, and almost stopped me. The Noise seems more powerful because it is the loudest voice in the room; the one that is constantly talking. It will always be there. The key for me…and you…is to ignore it. The encouragers are more plentiful than you realize, they just aren’t talking as much or as loud as The Noise. The real lesson I want to share is the only voice that truly matters is yours. What will make you happy? What is your heart telling you to do? What decision will lead to a passionate, joy filled professional life for you? Have the courage to ignore The Noise and redefine your life in any way you please – regardless of the current phase of your career. Pursuing a career in surgery is one of the best decisions I’ve made. Through the discomfort of changing paths, I unexpectedly unlocked my confidence and ability to be who I was always created to be. I have faced challenges for sure, but overcoming them awakened the skills I needed for the journey that, without this decision, would have forever remained dormant. Let’s be honest. The Noise sees in you what you may not see in yourself. It is trying to stop you. Are you going to let it? If your gut instinct is pushing for a change; DO IT. The desire is there because your inner being is trying to ignite the person you are truly meant to be. Ignore The Noise and let Her out.
Dr. Brittany Johnson is a native of Atlanta, GA where she completed her undergraduate and medical training at Spelman College and Morehouse School of Medicine respectively. Having completed her first residency in general pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital, she entered a general surgery residency and is currently a third year general surgery resident at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Dr. Johnson is an avid researcher publishing work in the areas of pediatric firearm injury, pediatric trauma, and general pediatric surgical care. Additionally, Dr. Johnson has a strong interest in global health with trips to Gaborone, Botswana and Mombasa, Kenya with a focus on HIV care and general pediatric surgery. She will continue her dedication to children’s health with plans to pursue pediatric surgery fellowship and a career as an academic surgeon. You can follow her on Twitter at @brittljohn.
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