“You must have the grossest job in the world. Why on earth would anyone want to be a Gynecologist?” my twenty something patient asked, as I was examining her ‘nether regions’.
“Well, I do enjoy helping people” I lamely replied. I was doubtful she heard me, as she had already returned back to texting at this point.
I smiled as I left the room, remembering my surprisingly similar thoughts at her age.
I wanted to be doctor for as long as I could remember. But when I started medical school, the two specialties I knew I didn’t want anything to do with were OB/GYN and Pediatrics.
There was little doubt in my mind that Family Practice was my chosen path. I chose Oklahoma State University because of its focus on primary care. I had shadowed several FPs and truly enjoyed the continuity of care and relationships that occurred in Family Practice.
When I started my rotations as a third year student, I excitedly picked FP as my first month. The practitioner I worked with was amazingly kind and knowledgeable. He also had a passion for teaching and I was appreciative of the time he spent instructing me. Though we saw some interesting patients, there was also a lot of mundane colds and earaches. After about 3 weeks, I started to have doubts whether this was really what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was a little concerned, but knew I had a few (our school required 6 months of Family Practice) more months to decide.
The next month, I did an away rotation in internal medicine with a wise internist who had been in practice for 30 years. While I didn’t love internal medicine, I did love the doctor. I soaked up every bit of wisdom about life and medicine he sent my way. He inspired me to THINK and not just memorize facts. On my last day of the rotation he sat me down and said essentially that I had done well on the rotation, but he thought my personality was the most suited for OB/GYN.
I smiled on the outside, but internally I rolled my eyes.
My first thought was, “What a sexist!” I was sure he was saying that merely because I was a woman. OB was becoming a female dominated field, and it had been commonly suggested for me to consider it. However, the last thing I could possibly be interested in was doing PAP smears all day. Yuck. Child bearing had no interest to me whatsoever. It was WAY too messy.
I composed my initial thoughts and replied, with a simple, “I don’t think so.”
“When’s your OB/GYN rotation?” he asked.
“The last one of the year.” I replied, having postponed it to the end.
“You should seriously consider moving it up earlier” he encouraged me.
I thanked him for his advice as a courtesy. Then thanked him profusely for the other things he had taught me.
On the drive home I was still fuming about his remark. However, my thoughts began to wander. His wife and all 3 of his daughters were doctors, but none OB/GYNs. There were no other sexist things he had said or done the whole month. I respected him greatly and had trusted all the other advice he had given me. Perhaps, I should listen and at least move my rotation up to earlier in the year. After all, I wasn’t loving FP nearly as much as I thought I would.
After several frantic phone calls, I managed to set up a rotation with a local private practice doctor, in desperate need of some CME’s. I ‘did’ very little during this month, but what I observed was life changing. I observed his daily practice: his rapport with his patients, interesting procedures and complex diseases. He was able to practice preventative medicine in a real way (one of my passions) and also do fascinating surgeries. I witnessed babies born then later the same day the removal of a giant ovary full of teeth and hair from another patient. It was thrilling. On my last day of the month, I broke down in tears on the way home. I couldn’t believe my month was over. I didn’t want it to end. I had fallen in love with the crazy life of being an OB/GYN.
Then began the soul searching and prayer. How could I have a family and be an OB/GYN? As much as I loved my month of OB, the hours were harsh, and I wasn’t sure I could hack it. Was being an OB really God’s plan for me or just a selfish whim? After months of pro’s and con lists and long discussions with my husband, I finally felt a peace from God that this was the path I should take.
Finishing my last 6 months of family practice rotation only confirmed my decision.
This life is NOT easy. The hours do get crazy. Yes, there are days when I do get tired of looking a vaginas all day long. But the longer I do this job the more I love it. So here I am, 8 years into private practice reflecting on how my life is nothing like I expected it to be when I began this crazy adventure in medicine. I realize that it is amazingly better.
Thank you Dr. Bruns for telling me I should be an OB/GYN. You were right.
Sometimes our lives take a path much different than we expected. Have you ended up on in a different role or calling than you once anticipated? How did you get there? What would you say to encourage others seeking answers about their life calling?