Friday, January 29, 2016

Acutely wonderful.

with Jen and Lucas Grady chief residents 2015-16

It was wonderful and ordinary. Me, sitting on that little couch in their office and them talking to me from their desks. I had a paper in my hand filled with my thoughts on something and I needed their input. And nothing about that was unusual.

Especially this year.

"What do you think about this?" I asked. "Or wait a minute--what about that?"

And, like always, first we looked at each other speaking without talking. Then we all started talking at once yet somehow understanding and hearing what each person has to say. Ideas flying all over the place, crashing into walls, mixing with perspectives and considerations until they meshed into one thing. That's been the nature of this think tank we've developed over the last couple of years. And all of it has been wonderful.

Magical even.

In general, I have a great amount of affection for our Grady chief residents. On most years I befriend them and begin to hammer out ideas with them on things related to our residents and education. They ask for my help on an idea and I ask for theirs. Then, at the end of the year, I feel this slight bit of melancholy at the end of the year, knowing that it's the end of the era. And usually, it's sort of bittersweet but in a way that's mostly okay since that's the way of the medical education world.


But this year is different. The two chief residents at Grady, Jen and Lucas, attended Emory for medical school. I knew them both slightly as students; well enough to be happy when they matched into our program. Then Jen was placed into my Thursday morning resident clinic. I started working with her every single week and got to know her much better. She was also mutual friends with a few of my former small group advisees so the "getting to know you" process was swift and natural. I was immediately impressed by her and wasn't even remotely shocked when she was selected to be a chief resident.


And then there was Lucas. I had these smatterings of encounters with him in the clinic and always found his energy positive and infectious. But that all reached a fever pitch when he was assigned to work with me for his first ever senior resident Grady ward month. It was, in a word, awesome. We were drunk with teaching, high on ideas, and manic from the magnetism that we immediately felt as medical nerds. It was indescribably great.

But just when it seemed like it couldn't all get better, I learn that not only will Jen and Lucas be chief residents--they'd be chief residents at the Grady site together. And this meant that all of this energy would be in the office almost directly across from my own for an entire year.


We hit the ground running. Since we knew we'd be working together during their chief year, we started our collaboration process during their third year of residency. We hammered out ideas and created curricula. Ran our lecture ideas by one another and offered meaningful feedback. And essentially, pushed ourselves into this amazing zone of development that has lasted for over a year.

Great stuff has come from it, too. Seismic shifts, in my opinion, with the learning climate and the level of expectation our learners have from themselves and their teachers. Out of the box interactive sessions that feel more like a really fun gathering than a mandatory lecture. All a manifestation of what can happen when minds intermingle and ignite one another into being able to do their best work.

So yesterday, I was sitting on that little couch running ideas by Jen and Lucas. We skipped from idea to idea like rocks on a pond, influencing each other and laughing and doing the thing that we've been doing for the last two years. And as I looked at Jen, I noticed all of the words written behind her on the dry erase--board, deadlines, ideas, goals--many of which I sat with them to create. Then in the midst of it all, it dawned on me that it is almost February and that June would be here before we know it. And that, like all of the time I've spent with the chiefs, this time is finite.


A wave of sadness washed over me and I quickly coached it away. But right now, I'm feeling it. Feeling it in this weirdly complicated way since the biggest emotion I feel is deep gratitude for this era. But I think that's the hard part, you know? Sometimes you're doing something and you know it's an era. That once it ends it will never be this way again. At least not like this, it won't. And usually that's fine because our lives are enhanced by moving from era to era and the very best ones leave us forever changed for the better--they do. This is no different.

I remember feeling this way around this time during my chief residency. I had this profoundly special mentor named Rick Blinkhorn who was acting as chairman at the time of my chief year. He was smart and innovative and provocative. I loved him in the way you love a cherished mentor because I knew--and I mean it, I was very aware--of how great that era was. I could feel it each day when I met with him and knew I was growing toward something greater because of that time. It was acutely wonderful, that time. It was, and I felt it and knew it.

Yes. That.

Acutely wonderful. I guess that's it. My time working with Jennifer and Lucas in this capacity has been just that. Acutely wonderful. The immediacy of what comes out of our collective thoughts feels magical, not just pleasant. And since I know that it is finite, I feel a little sad about it.

But not so sad I can't enjoy it for what it is and what remains. Plus, I've lived long enough to know how much comes from these times and how much better I am as a result. I'm excited to see that part for us all.


I love that I am a thinker and a feeler. I love that these acutely wonderful eras in my life have been punctuated with chest-grabbing emotion to let me know that this is happening and that I am fortunate.  And let me be clear--much of what I do on my job and in my life are perennially pretty awesome. But somehow, some way these moments, that is, the pieces of my life that are acutely wonderful find a way to stand out. They grab me by the waist and pull me close with an outstretched hand to waltz me all around the room in big sweeping circles. And I feel it. And know it. And savor it. I do.

I'm nearing the end of something acutely wonderful and I know it. But you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. No, I would not.


Happy Friday.

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