Thursday, March 26, 2015

What we take for granted.

Today at Grady: 

Me: "Everything okay?"

Patient: "Yep. Everythang fine, Miss Manning."

Me: "Okay good. I just noticed that expression on your face."

Patient: "I guess it's 'cause I'm tripping."

Me: "Tripping off of what?"

Patient: "I was just thinking. . like every time I see y'all . . . it seem like you really, truly give a shit about me and whether I live or die."

Me: "I guess that's because we really, truly do." 

Patient: "Hmmmm."

Me: "Is there something wrong with that?"

Patient: "Naaw. I guess I'm just not used to people in my life giving a shit about much of anything. And especially not about me." 


This is Thursday. And this is Grady.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"You can't be what you can't see."

I had an awesome afternoon at the Atlanta Youth Academy today. One of the kids asked me, "Who told you that you couldn't do it? That you wouldn't be able to become a doctor?"

My answer:  "No one. No one ever said I couldn't. Or treated me like I wouldn't."

It wasn't until I pulled away and drove down the street that it hit me what that meant.


Happy Tuesday.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Life is why.

Here is something I know for sure:

I can do just about anything I set my mind to doing if I just show up, try my best, and refuse to give up. This morning I woke up to a relentless rain on a day that I was scheduled to run a half marathon. A half marathon for which my training had left some things to be desired. When I picked up my race number the day before and heard about the forecasted weather, I was honestly feeling fifty-fifty about even showing up at all. To make matters worse, my morning MARTA train was delayed for technical difficulties and nearly threatened to make me miss the start time. Which would have been a perfectly acceptable excuse to turn around and go straight back home.


Then I thought about something my friend Larry S., a cardiologist and Emory colleague, gave me last week. It was a lapel pin he'd gotten from an American Heart Association meeting with a pair of red running shoes and a simple statement on it:

"Life is why." 

He made sure to put it into my hands because he, a seasoned runner, knew that I was a relatively new one who'd been motivated by the loss of my sister to heart disease. I'm so glad Larry gave me that pin and thought of me that day. It was just the motivation I needed this morning. A reminder of why I run.

And so. I showed up. By myself. In the rain. Early in the morning. I tried my best. And didn't quit.

And you know what? It rained the entire time. Hard sometimes even. And it was cold, too. But guess what? I dug in, thought of my sister, and finished strong. I sure did.

So why would an already tired and already exhausted full-time working mother of two go out for a 13.1 mile in a chilly downpour?

Life is why.


Happy Sunday. How are you challenging yourself?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Match Day '15: It never gets old.

Match Day 2015

I keep waiting for Match Day to get old for me. For the giant clock on the wall striking twelve noon, the medical students sprinting for their envelopes, and the emotional pendulum that follows it all to seem blah and played out. At Emory, the location hasn't changed in years. Even the faces of a lot of the faculty members who stand around with our slightly less baited than our students' breath hasn't really shifted much either. Yet every single time, year after year, it feels magical to me. And brand new.

Match Day 2013

Admittedly the "odd" years are the most meaningful to me. As a small group advisor who has students graduating from the four year program on those years, these are the ones I've watched since their first day of medical school. But now that I think of it, the even years can be just as awesome. Witnessing their dreams come true on Match Day is a high that I will never stop enjoying.


Beyond that is something else though. The level of investment I have in people changed since losing my sister in 2012. It's upped the ante significantly for me. Sure. I went hard before. But now that I realize how short life is and how critical it is to be a responsible steward of my influence and time, I go even harder. I decide more carefully where to pour my energy. And once I decide? I'm all in. 

I've talked about this before but it bears repeating. Out of the ashes of some of the most tragic life experiences can come unexpected beauty. I hold on tighter now. I want to water the flowers entrusted to me as dutifully as I can and then watch them grow. I yearn to roll up my sleeves beside the other gardeners who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty with me and then stand shoulder to shoulder with them as we marvel at the spectacular blooms before us. Match Day is a chance to present those flowers to the world in dazzling bouquets. Big, bold beautiful ones that we helped to prepare.

Match Day 2011


I always take a lot of pictures on Match Day. I'm particularly mindful to snap images of those with whom I had direct involvement, especially during the clinical years and residency application process. I love going back and studying their faces. The elation so unfiltered and unlike what usual happy looks like. I guess it's just that I can see more into those pictures than others might. See, Match Day for most medical students is a day of glory. But me? I know the story. 


This year was like always. I met their parents. I met their grandparents, too. Shook their hands and tried to beat them to the kind word punch before their lips could even part. I told them who their children have been in their absence and let them know that they done good. I described the attributes that really, truly matter to parents--the ones that I now realize are the best ones. Especially now that I have children of my own.

"Your son is kind and has a heart for people. He is patient with even the most challenging patients and can find the good in everyone."

"Your daughter fights for what is right and stands up for those who may not be able to stand up for themselves. She expresses herself well and makes sure our patients are treated with dignity. She has a servant's heart and is an advocate for the least of these."

I didn't really talk about how smart they were. I mean, they're about to graduate from medical school and, for goodness sake, they got in to medical school in the first place. But since I know and I think their parents and grandparents know that it isn't really just about being smart, I give them those concrete words of affirmation. And for every kind word of gratitude they offer me, I trump them with some declaration of what I've seen in their child and the gifts they will offer the world.

That is, from my perspective as their teacher and mentor. And I win.


This is such a privilege. Each year I try and try to put it into words but feel like I fall short every time. Instead, I will just share some of Match Day 2015 through the eyes of this clinician educator and her trusty iPhone camera. The lens may not be high tech but for you to see what I see, it doesn't have to be. I especially love the ones of them holding up their Match notification letters. I love that in these photos they were looking at me and me at them. . . and how much of a dialogue is held in their eyes. Or that we were together sharing in a pivotal moment. Perhaps if you look close enough, you'll see it, too. And just maybe you might feel your pulse quicken, your heart skip a tiny beat, and your eyes sting with tears while you do. And even if you don't feel any of that, don't worry. . .  I had you covered.


Small Group Gamma, Match Day 2015

Best. Job. Ever.

That's it. That's all. Wait--and this. A certain medical student opening her envelope back in 1996.

Almost as exciting as this year.


Happy Saturday.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Now trending: #generationwow

No, they didn't train when we trained. Which means they weren't asked to stay up for 40 hours straight or sit in class from 8AM to 5PM five out of five days per week. Gross anatomy for them won't last an entire semester nor will they be falling asleep next to their cadavers with a probe in one hand and a stale bagel in the other. (Gross, I know.)

 It means they have cell phones and the internet and a level of access to their professors that was unheard of in our day. They can download lectures on iTunes and run on a treadmill while listening to someone talking about the Kreb's Cycle at 1.5X the original voice cadence thanks to the magic of swiping to the right.

And, I guess, some think that without the hazing we endured that they are a generation lost. And okay, maybe "lost" is the wrong word. But whatever the word you use, if you think about what it is meant to describe,  it wouldn't really be a good one that's for sure. No matter how hard they try, another generation ahead of them believes that achieving the level of accountability and competence that we have isn't attainable under the current academic regime. Too loosey goosey, the elders say. Too much commentary coming out of pieholes and not enough suck-it-up-ness going in.


And okay, some of that might be partially true at times. But the problem is that it suggests something stronger than just aggravating behaviors. It intimates that an entire legion of future healthcare providers somehow collectively care less. The damn that they give, if any, is somehow microscopic when compared to our massive one. You know, the one beat into us through sleep deprivation and near-patient-death experiences?

Umm yeah. That.

Well. I've said it here before and I will say it again. Shady and lazy providers existed long before duty hours reform and definitely predated the internet. And kind, empathic, dedicated and hardworking caregivers are as present today as ever. So sure, while this generation might have more permission to speak freely from the pieholes that we only used for wolfing down cold pizza and slurping tepid coffee in the middle of night, that doesn't mean they don't care. They do care. Truly and deeply they do.

I know because I get to witness it. Now you will, too.

Day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, I watch closely. I get to see the truth. And the truth is that there is nothing new under the sun. Caring is caring. Empathy is empathy. And people are people.

So go ahead. Grow old. They got this.

Happy Sunday. And shout out to everyone in #generationwow