Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Day To Remember

This is a day that I want to remember.  I sort of want to freeze it into a little snow globe so that I can put it on my bookshelf and take it down when I need a pick-me-up.

I presented at Morbidity and Mortality for the first time this morning.  It's the conference where we present cases that have gone wrong for one reason or another; and the attendings will ask us very challenging questions about why certain decisions were made.  It's a weekly ritual at every surgery residency around the country.  Patients are usually presented by a senior level resident or fellow.  There are has not been an intern to present this whole year.

A few weeks ago, while on thoracic surgery, I was involved in a case which developed a severs postoperative complication and needed to be presented at M&M.  My attending asked if I would present it since I was intimately involved.  Loving  a challenge, I said yes!  Only to be told be every resident that I mentioned it to that interns weren't allowed to present unless approved by the Big Boss.

Now Dr. Big Boss happens to be a tough man to work with, but I have gotten a special place in his heart somehow.  He was attending on my first rotation of intern year.  He usually calls every female resident "Girl" or "Her", and most men get a individualized nickname.  We bonded early over something silly that I can't even remember now, and he started calling me Red.  Word spread through the program pretty much instantly that he liked me enough to promote from from Girl to Red.  Unfortunately, he called me Red because my hair was dyed pretty red when I started intern year.  Confession: My hair is not really red.  Confession: I have consistently dyed it every month since I started because I can't give up a nickname from the Big Boss once I've earned it.  Confession: I will dye my hair for the next 5 years.

So I asked the Big Boss if I could present at M&M.  He looked at me, arms crossed and said (verbatim),  "Did you shit your pants out of fear during the case?".  "Umm no?"  "Good, then don't shit your pants when you present."   "Ok, thanks?"

So I presented this morning.  Word had spread through the residents pretty quick that an intern was going to be presenting; so when I stood up to go the the podium everyone was at the edge of their seat.  Sort of like watching the gazelle getting stalked by the lion; they were all waiting for something pretty gruesome.  I was pretty terrified too; I'd been walking around with a knot in my stomach all week.  One of my co-interns sat next to me and literally held my hand as I was waiting for my turn to present.

So I take the podium.  I look at the 100+ people I'm presenting to, including all of my bosses and colleagues. And I feel prepared.  I've run over my case and my research numerous times.  I've prepared for every question I can think of- not just with an answer, but I've read the research that backs it up.  And so I go.  I give my presentation exactly like I've practiced and it sounds awesome.  I open the floor for questions; and I get thrown about 5 softballs right away that I just pound out of the park.  It's a freaking homerun and I can tell it.  I'm grinning like a goofball as I walk back to my seat.

I take my cell phone out of my pocket a few minutes later to find the following text messages from my co-residents (verbatim) "You killed it! Congrats!"  "U did so awesome!"  "Stop making us all look bad! You rocked it". And from an attending who I know well, "Great job, Laura!"  And (perhaps my favorite) from an attending who I barely know but somehow had my email address "Beautifully presented m&m case, Laura. You are years ahead of your rank."    Another resident said that they had never seen Big Boss look so proud as he did when I was rocking at answering questions after the case.

Needless to say, I walked around all day floating about 6 inches off the ground.  And the icing on the cake, is that about 10 minutes ago, I received a page from an attending who I have never worked with before.  I called it back, and he went on for 5-10 minutes about how astounded he was when he found out after M&M from one of his colleagues that I was a first year resident.  He had assumed I was a new fellow who he hadn't met yet; and simply could not believe that I was an intern until he heard from me directly. 

Somedays I feel stupid, like there is so much to learn in medicine that I could work my whole like and never make a dent in it.   Somedays I feel clumsy, like my hands look like chunks of meat as opposed to the graceful instruments of my mentors.  Somedays I feel underappreciated for all the hours I put it and all extra miles that I go which no one every notices.  And then there are days like today, when I get to feel like the King of the World.  

This is a day that I want to remember.


  1. You deserve to remember that. I love it! SO COOL!

  2. This was such an awesome post!

  3. Days like this one are so awesome. They seem to be few and far between in medicine (at least in my world), but it's important to remember them and to allow them to shape your perception of yourself as a doctor, rather than the no good miserable days that seem all too plenty.

  4. I am having one of those days where it feels like I know absolutely nothing and will never know enough and why won't my resident just leave me alone and only give me easy patients?

    Reading this, I feel really happy for you, and it also reminds me that I have had days where I feel smart and on top of things, and those days will happen again. So thank you for sharing your (very well deserved) happy, proud moment. :) And congratulations!

  5. Oh, I'm so glad you wrote it down! I'm sure there will be days were you feel the opposite and it will good to have this to go back on and remind you of the truth. Way to go sissy!

  6. Oh sweetheart!! So very, very proud! In the early days of my career, I kept an "atta girl" file. On my stupid days, I would pull it out and reflect on the stellar days! It got me through! Congrats on a huge "ATTA GIRL". And I laughed hysterically that you are dying your hair for the sake of a nickname!

  7. I know we may not know each other (I'm a sorority sister of Rachel's) but congratulations. That is an awesome story and I'm glad you shared. You should be proud of yourself and let others know it. I want you for a doctor some day! :)

  8. thanks for updating with a great story. i remember when i did my first M&M a few months ago...afterwards it was like i had joined the secret club of surgeons. all the attendings treated me like i was "one of them" after i was finished. definitely read this entry when you're having a tough day!