Paula Ferrada, MD, FACS
I truly believe the culture change in surgery and medicine needs to reach deeper, recognizing our humanity as a strength and not a weakness. Being human and complete is what makes us good doctors and what helps us relate to patients and their needs. Why, then,do we attempt to create environments in which being complete is impossible? Discrimination comes in many flavors, and gender is just one of them. Reading the blogs and watching all generations of surgeons come together on this amazing #ILoooklikeasuregon movement is inspiring and empowering.
Let’s not stop now, this is the time to create awareness, not only in surgery but in all of medicine!
Work-life balance is not gender specific. We, women and men, want it all. Happiness at work and happiness at home. This is really difficult to achieve if the system does not allow for flexibility. Denying the male gender involvement in raising children and participation in family dynamics is not realistic.
If you ask anybody to choose between life and work, who will chose work? Work is just a part of life, even when you are passionate about it, and these should not be mutually exclusive. This is one of the reasons why I profoundly disagree with the advice” if you wouldn’t rather be in the operating room (OR) that anywhere else then surgery is not for you”- we have to stop giving this unrealistic advice to our medical students. I’d rather be with my son when he is sick than in the OR and that does not make me less of a surgeon. Furthermore, many surgeons are researchers, writers, bloggers, leaders, and remain excellent at all that they do- they are not less capable because the OR is not their favorite place in the entire world.
Creating environments so we can all reach our full potential is up to all of us. Daycare centers within hospitals, thoughtful scheduling tailored for individual needs and, most importantly, recognizing that wanting to have a balance is not a sign of weakness. These can be the start of revolutionizing how we act and how we are perceived as surgeons.
Discriminating instead of fostering our youth: I have been incredibly lucky to have mentors in my life who truly care about my wellbeing, and have helped me be a better surgeon clinically, cademically, and personally. But I also have been exposed to the other kind of “coach.” Not giving credit for hard work.Taking credit for other’s work not only hinders professional growth, but feeds into the issues that we are facing, resulting in the slow disappearance of the academic surgeon. Mentorship should be about empowerment rather than secondary gain.
Patients may say or think “he or she is too young to be my surgeon,”but that thought goes away as soon as they realize what you can do. There is nothing like saving someone’s life to quickly change perceptions about the relationship between age and capability. Unfortunately the discrimination against being young comes from within our culture. Lack of wrinkles and grey hair does not always equal lack of expertise. Private and public bullying about being young should not be tolerated. We all, young and mature, bring something to the table when treating patients. Our patients know it, why don’t we?
Finally, in full disclosure, I have to say balance is something I still find challenging and is something I have to work on every day. I work 150% clinically with additional administrative responsibilities, my husband has a similar job and we have a five-year-old. My job is busy, my life hectic and imperfect, but I love it!!! True work-life integration requires a supportive professional environment that encourages and fosters human development. Let’s work together to harness the positive energy of #ILookLikeASurgeon and make this ideal a reality!