Thursday, August 25, 2011

Top Ten: The Kitchen Table.

First day of Pre-K. August 2011

They grow up.


Yes. .  . they do.

Our kids, yes.  But see, if you're an educator of any sort you know that your students eventually take wings and fly away, too. . . . .

With Small Group Alpha at the AIDS Walk, Atlanta, Georgia. October 2008.

In July of 2007, I had the joy of starting a journey in medical education with my first small group of medical students.  This past March, all but one (who was getting a Masters in Public Health) matched into the residency programs of their choice. It was such a proud moment.

With Small Group Alpha at Match Day. March 2011.

In May, the same group graduated from medical school.  And I got to do the honors of actually hooding them with their doctoral hoods.

In a word--wow.

Yeah. That was another proud moment.

Commencement. Emory SOM. May 2011.

Like any mama who's seeing some of her birdies leave the nest, it was bittersweet.  Would they remember sitting around the kitchen table sharing about all the new things they'd been learning? Would they somehow become strangers to me. . . .eventually moving on so far that our time together becomes no more than some remote memory that evokes a warm nostalgia?  Even more. . .would they still be family to each other?  Would they?

I had an adviser in medical school that I felt sure I'd never lose touch with. She was smart and helpful and caring and the best role model. In fact, she was the one who alerted me that I didn't actually want to be a surgeon. She said, "Kimberly, if you love the wards and talking to patients, but hate being in the OR. . .I don't know how to break it to you, but this is what they call Internal Medicine."

Ah haaah.

I was sure I'd always be in contact with her. . . but I confess that hasn't been the case. I did see her briefly at my five year med school reunion, but admittedly haven't seen or spoken to her since.  I don't know what this says about me but I do know that time marches on and little birdies fly away. Out of sight and (seemingly) out of mind.

But not always.

These seven birdies? I've let them go, yes.  But lucky me, they still seem to find their way to my virtual kitchen table. . . throwing pancakes at each other and squirting milk from their noses.  Laughing out loud and sharing painful moments of internships that make me cry.  Just like old times.

This week, they all checked in with me.  I was feeling particularly nostalgic and had an idea. "Take a picture of what you're doing right now wherever you are," I said. "As long as it isn't obscene."  (Which I have learned is a good idea to tell twenty-something year-old people when making such requests.)

And so. I bring you a top ten. . . .dedicated to my recently departed little birdies who, much to this mama bird's delight, have continued to chirp loud enough for me to hear.

Top Ten

#10  ~  Alanna.
Alanna at UC San Francisco, August 2011

Hard at work on the wards in San Francisco. Connecting with patients. Making care a verb. And then coming home to hug her sweet husband, Luke. Here is what a patient's family wrote to her last month:

"I don't need a crystal ball to see that you'll be a great doctor."

And here is the view she sent me from the hospital parking garage earlier this week:

Can you believe this picture?

#9   ~  Antoinette.

Ant in Guatemala, August 2011

Here is the most fluttery of my birds. . . my world traveler, Antoinette.  She added an extra year to school to get an MPH and now she is applying to Ob/Gyn residencies.  This photo was taken where she happens to be currently -- Guatemala.  She is participating in a research project there and is further developing her (already amazing) Spanish-speaking skills.

Ant is a 100% fearless traveler and live-er of life. She has a self-awareness that is unparalleled. Knowing her makes me better.  Here is what she had do say at the virtual kitchen table the other day:

I don't think any one of us really knew the power of reflection and reflective writing when we wrote that first piece, together as a small group, in that basement room in the SOM.  And while I know Dr. M has made reflection a part of daily living, I still feel like I've got a lot of work to do in that department. But I know I am more self-aware and more aware of others and their stories because of you guys." 

Hello? If you get any more self aware there will have to be two of you.

#8  ~  Tony.
Tony in Detroit, Michigan. August 2011

Here is a snapshot of him signing a prescription as a sho' nuff and bona fide doctor.  Doesn't he look happy about it?  That's because this future ENT doctor is happy about it.  Being a doctor, that is.

Here is what he sent our small group the other day:

"Okay, so I don't know if this hits you guys every now and then. . . but wow. I can't believe we get to do this for a living. Amazing."

Yeah, man. Amazing, indeed.

#7  ~  Jin.

Jin in Washington D.C. , August 2011

Jin is in a military residency and is caring for America's heroes.  Here is what she had to say about her experience the other day:

I never thought about what's going on in the middle east until I started taking care of these guys. It's shocking to see how mangled they come in, though it's equally miraculous what he multi-disciplinary surgeons do here to piece them back together. My team is swamped but I'm surrounded by an awesome group. . . they're so pro-active and so practical. It's inspiring."

Preach, Captain Lee.

#6  ~  Adam (aka "Sparky.")
Adam on night float, St. Louis, MO. August 2011

One day during his first year, Adam walked into small group with a new hair cut. The first thing out of my mouth was, "Well hello there, Sparky!"  And what can I say? The name stuck.

Adam has been loving life as an intern in Internal Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. He is surely living up to his name--"Sparky"--because he is truly like a light. . . .

Here's what he had to say about his experience recently:

"Medicine here is awesome. I love it. I am DOING things; that's what I signed up for. Also, I only have to talk about feelings about 10x/day."

(As opposed to the 10,000 times required in my small group. Ha.)

I can't get over how grown up he looks in that picture. Like he's on his way to save someone's life. I'm sure he was.

#5   ~ Hreem.

Hreem in the ER. Chicago, IL. August 2011
Hreem (pronounced "Rim") has been loving life in Chicago.  In preparation for her Ophthalmology residency, she is doing a Transitional Year first. Right now she has been on the front lines doing her ER rotation. Seeing lots. Learning lots.  Here is what she had so say in a recent message:

"As for the patients I'm taking care of, I've had some moments that have reminded me of how much I really love medicine and also how it is a constant learning process."

Ain't that the truth.

#4  ~  Doug.

Doug after a night shift in the Pediatric ER. Atlanta, GA. August 2011

Doug is so, so funny.  Not in that Chris Rock kind of way, but more in that effortless way that comes from never taking yourself too seriously. When he received my request, he took it literally and sent this. So, so Dougie of him.

Doug recently shared with us that a patient sent a message of thanks to him. The patient signed it "Psalm 147:3."  He looked it up and that scripture says this:

"He heals the brokenhearted. And binds up their wounds." ~ Psalm 147:3

Doug had this to say:

"Getting that from a patient when I had gone the extra mile made my night, my week, my month!"

Mine, too.

#3, #2, #1  ~  The Whole Nest.

Small Group Alpha, Class of 2011

 I'm so happy to have a growing nest. . . .and an expandable kitchen table.  The above picture is from when my Small Group Alpha was in their third year.  Hard to believe that this photograph below is of my Small Group Beta from around the same time in their med school training.  We all laugh at that thought because they all talk about how "grown up" these guys seemed to them back then.  

Small Group Beta, Class of 2013
I've built some equally magical memories with these guys and have heard some wonderful tales over pancakes with them, too.  They're all on their hospital rotations these days and just had a wonderful "fall break" between rotations.  I loved hearing of all the fun things they were doing this week. . . .like surfing down the coast of California. . . . traveling home to Indiana. . . .and visiting special people in Europe.

Oh yeah. . . and sending text messages like this one:

"Dr. M! I got engaged!!!"

Congrats Jenna and Rod!
See, it's fun to teach medicine and demonstrate the physical exam. But, man. It's also really, really fun to be on the short list of people that get called after pivotal moments.  That text message came after 11 PM on Saturday. And I didn't mind one bit.

And finally. . . introducing the newest members of the kitchen table. . . 

. . .hailing from Notre Dame, Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, Stanford, Emory, Davidson College, University of Wisconsin Madison, and Georgia Tech . . . .

Small Group GAMMA!

Don't they look just full of promise?

 And yes. I am already in love with all of them, too.

Oh, and if you're wondering how I manage to do my job and love my husband and love my kids and love all of these students, too. . . it's just like my Mudear told me when I asked her the same question of her eleven kids and thirty-some-odd grandchildren. . . .

"Your heart just makes room."  :) 

Ain't that the truth.
Happy Thursday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . .a favorite at my non-virtual kitchen table with Isaiah and Zachary. . .Nick Jr. style!


  1. You're on a roll here with the entries-that-induce-Ant-tears. Feeling a touch homesick tonight; yes, I'm not that fearless. But they were happy tears, especially since I will hopefully see Adam in the A in September and definitely Alanna in France in October!!!

  2. I am sure ALL of your small group are amazing, but look after that Duke student will you? No I don't know him or her but I was once a Duke nursing student and will forever treasure those that mentored me. thanks Dr M.

  3. Every single time I read your posts I am amazed by the woman you are. It gives me such peace to know that you are teaching skills in healing a body but also the compassion that a scared patient will embrace. Wow....I think your virtual table will always be full and just add the chairs, enlarge the room...yes...just like the heart.

  4. Oh man, love love love Doug's picture. So classic. Been waiting for this post all week, thanks!

  5. So excited to see a fellow Domer (ie Notre Dame alum) gets to be a part of your small group!

  6. The saying around my house is love is never divided. It multiplies. This blog lifts my spirits, quiets my soul, and tickles my funny bone. Please keep sharing.

  7. This one made me tear up a little bit too! I'm so lucky to be one of your "kids!" Keep the SG alpha stories coming!


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