Saturday, August 3, 2013

Young bird.

This is Tony. He's one of my former students from my very first small group.

It's hard to believe that he's now a third year resident. Yes. A third year ENT resident no less. Operating. Calling shots. Growing up. It's so hard to get my mind around that. I get pictures and am blown away that one of my little birds is getting so close to becoming a papa bird in his own right.


So yeah, he's a third year resident now. And for the record--residency is hard. It demands that you grow and sometimes that pace is very, very uncomfortable. The stakes are high -- especially when you're responsible for dissecting open neck structures and cutting their tiny structures.

Um, yeah.

Tony is one of the ones who has regularly reached out to me during this time. In fact, most of them have but him perhaps more than most. He's texted me about the growing pains, asked me my thoughts or, many times, just needed somewhere to talk about his. Sometimes it is a full on conversation. Sometimes it's just a quick email or text. But regularly it is something. Which is pretty awesome.

And no. He is no longer a medical student at Emory University. He's not even in Georgia anymore. But like I said before--these relationships don't fizzle out after graduation. They evolve, yes. But they don't go away.

Residency is hard. It is. But with people behind you, you get even better at being behind yourself. We all need that. Whether you're a medical student, a resident, or a full fledged whatever-it-is-you-are.

I always ask my patients, "Who are your peoples? Who sees about you?" And I ask this because it's important. We all need peoples. And somebody should always be seeing about us. But that only happens when we allow them access.

Although Tony graduated in 2011, I am so happy that he continues to grant me just that. Access, man.

Case in point:

A few days ago, I received this text from Tony.

And this. This is everything. Everything to me. See, even though he already graduated, I was still in on that growth. I don't just see the glory -- I know the story.

This. Getting things like this far exceeds any award that I could ever publicly receive. He's thinking. He's reflecting. He's growing. And he's writing. Writing through it despite being in the epicenter of a grueling surgical subspecialty training. And granting me access to be a part of it.


Read these beautiful words and bear witness along with me. I can think of no better way to underscore what is magical about longitudinal mentoring experiences.

Tony wrote this as a reminder to himself of who he is. When we talked about it, though, we realized that it could be many different voices depending upon the circumstances. Us to ourselves. Us to each other. God to us. And just maybe Tony to a young mentee of his own someday.

Thank you, Tony, for allowing me to share your journey with this community of thinkers.

Letter to a Young Bird

Good morning young one
I've watched you
Terrified to breathe
But in your first act of trust,
pulling this world's air into your burning chest
To announce your arrival.

I looked into your eyes that instant
and every moment since, young one.
I have seen your curiosity
I have seen your courage
I have seen your strength
I have seen your capacity for... (all things infinite)
And in your eyes, I have also seen understanding
that you too, just as I have,
have seen all of these things in yourself.

You have grown, young one.
And the world has grown with you.
the troubles have become more crucial
the universe has become far reaching
ideas are everlasting
love is the ever elusive magic---
  you know it exists, you inhale it with each breath
  you've been told it enfolds you
  but you can't touch it.
  you have never seen it.
  and it rings false as soon as you speak its name--
the very mention tumbling the tower on which it was perched.

You look tired, young one.  
  I see past the eyes that you put on display for the world.

  they say that they've seen you fly.

But you and I know better.

You have floated.
You have coasted.
and as magical as that may appear to untrained eyes
  you and I know that you were meant for more than this.

You were meant to soar.
This you have known since
that first magical eruption,
that first burning breath.
But your own expectations 
  have made your wings heavy.
I have seen you look to the sky and wonder -- what are one bird's wing beats against the universe?
What is one brilliant new flame in the world-sustaining light of the sun?

Yet today, in light of the dawn of your rebirth, I say to you that 
the expectations
the fear
the doubt
the limits

are of your own creation.

The weight of the world is an illusion.

It is your canvas
  make it beautiful.
It is your opus
  add your grace notes.

Stare into the sun and shine as you were meant to.
It will not blind you
and your brilliance will not blind those who look to you
but will prism-break into every possibility they have ever known.
and even some that they haven't.

You were meant to fly.  
and fly you will.
But then you will soar
into the everlasting expanse of your dreams.
Don't worry--
  you will breathe just fine up there.  
  and you will look into the sun with wide eyes.

And you will repeat to yourself every moment as you set your course ever upward:

My light was meant to shine.
My soul was born to fly.

And so it is.

~ Anthony Chin-Quee, Jr., M.D.
    EUSOM '11,  July 2013 


And so it always shall be, Tony.

Yes. This.

This is. . .

Everything. Everything. Everything.


Happy Saturday. Again. (Yes, Mom. I'm so prolific.)

Now y'all show that man some love in the comments, people. 'Preciate you.


  1. Nice job, mama bird. Be proud! :)

  2. You are so obviously sending doctors out into the world who are not just brilliant technicians but who think and feel and care and dare to care some more.
    Wow. Tony. He is something and I wish all doctors could have (would have) thoughts like that and who would take the time to write them, to make them that much more real.

  3. This brought tears to my eyes. Awesome.

  4. These are the physicians the world needs.

  5. Nice work--to you both
    writing and reflection are so therapeutic!

  6. Tony, you are such an inspiration! Congrats to you on all you've accomplished and how graciously you've progressed through residency. Your writing reveals such insight, understanding, and empathy. Thanks Dr. M for sharing! We look forward to reading more about Tony and hopefully we'll get to read more of his writing!

  7. Hi Tony, I don't know you, never met you, but I'm so proud of you! Dr. Manning, I'm grateful that you have a heart to share the brilliance of your little birds. If we can feel the love you have for them, I can only imagine the effect you've had on them - as we can also see their effect on you. This was beautiful. Thanks Tony and Dr. M!

  8. Absolutely amazing!
    And, FYI, Tony has always been my favorite mean-mugger! LOL!


  9. Thank you both. You are such a source of encouragement. This is the reason we do what we do every day....and what an honor...

  10. Thank you, Dr.M. and thank you, Tony.

    To write is to share our hearts. To reach readers as you have reached me (and others) is the reward!

    Keep letting your light shine out!

  11. So beautiful, so powerful! Left me speechless


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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