Let Me Explain Why I Am Not Grooming My Child To Be A Physician.
I am a black, female, board-certified Anesthesiologist. As a minority, female in this white, male majority specialty, I represent less than 3% of board certified anesthesiologist in this country. I am from humble beginnings. I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana. My parents were not college graduates. My Mom and Dad were hard working individuals who pushed both of their children to achieve great things. My brother was the first male to bring his Bachelors Degree to my Paternal Grandfather. My dad passed away 2 month before I graduated from medical school. I am the only female physician in my family. I do have 4 male cousins who are physicians.
I am a single parent. I admit my bias, but I do believe my daughter is one of the brightest children I have ever met. I am sure she will accomplish great things, and she will become whatever she sets be mind to, both personally and professionally. However, my daughter will never feel any pressure from me that she must follow in my footsteps.
I was recently asked a series of questions in an interview about balancing my profession and motherhood. My daughter and I have been seen sporting matching scrubs. She also wathces her fair share of Doc McStuffins. So the interviewer was impressed with her ease with pronouncing "stethoscope." He then asked me, “Will you groom your daughter to also become a physician?” I briefly pondered and answered, “No.” [Update: the writer complete scrapped this entire portion of the interview]
Somewhat shocked and unprepared for my response, the interviewer paused and proceeded to say “Allow me to rephrase. Will you encourage your child to be a physician?” Again, I replied, “No.”
Somewhat exasperated, this interviewer then asked, “Do you want your child to be a doctor?” Still, I replied, “No.”
Allow me to explain my position. Please understand, first and foremost, I want my child to be healthy, happy and prosperous. I want my daughter to choose her own path in life, and whatever profession she decides to pursue, she will have my full support. As my offspring, she will have access to many resources and benefits to assist her with success. We will find a mentor, should she chose a career beyond my broad scope of expertise. Still with all that being said, I do hope she has no desire to become a physician. I am sure you would like to know WHY?
I know the good and bad of medicine. I do not want those “bad” things for her. I have sacrificed a great deal to become a doctor. Some days I admit I wonder if it was worth it all. Not every time I ponder my career choice, but mostly, I love what I do and would make the sacrifices again. However, some days I think of the struggles, harassment, and depression that has come with my career choice. After I cry, I think to myself how I never would want this for my child. I have lost count of the many times I would say to myself, “[He] better be glad my dad is dead.” Knowing fully that my dad very well may have committed criminal acts of violence had he been alive and had knowledge of some of the treatment I endured at the hands of my male counterparts. I am not referring to the sophomoric behavior of my site chief asking people to remove my picture from the wall of the operating room staff members. So many times I have actually been the first black female anesthesiologist to practice at a hospital.
More egregiously, I can recall being physically assaulted, shoved, spit on, and even having surgical instruments hurled at me for no other reason than being black, female, or both. Recently, I was verbally assaulted by another male physician in a fit of rage because I was advocating for a very ill patient who needed medical intervention. My pressing need to ensure the patient’s heart was healthy was preventing him from performing billable procedures. This man yelled at me like a maniac with spit flying from his lips. He called me stupid and unfit to be in his department. This scene played out in front of patients, nurses, and many other hospital staff. Still I wanted to insure my patient received proper care, I consulted another male physician to speak with this enraged physician. After a brief man to man conversation, it was as if I was never present. They both agreed to the exact care I had originally requested for the same patient. Do you think the doctor who yelled and spit at me was called to task or held accountable with consequences for his antics? No, He did not. So I ask myself, “What mother would want that for their child?” I will always reply, “No!”
While actually resuscitating a critical patient, I was shoved from the bedside by a male charge nurse who said “Your big head and big boobs are just in the damn way!” I lost my balance and fell to the floor. Then, this same nurse proceeded to ask the male anesthesia resident with me, “Who is that chick?” My colleague was silent. The other nurse present answered him, “That’s Dr. Hall, the Anesthesiologist.” [Pause] So one would think that he would be embarrassed, or apologize. Well none of these things happened. He just continued to yell, “You can’t help anybody over there on the floor!”
During residency, I had racial slurs written in my books, on my white coat, and left on my car. Throughout my career, I have been called just about ever derogatory female pronoun I know, and passed over time and time again for countless positions. It was not until recently did I have the courage to share these experiences with my family, friends, and young people I mentor.
I believe that we need more minorities and women physician my specialty, Anesthesiology, and medical careers as a whole. I mentor young people who want to be doctors. I will always do my part to ensure more people that look like me are getting a seat at the table. So one might say, I am grooming another mother’s daughter to walk in my footsteps while I refuse to push my own. Touche’.
However, in my defense, I do not approach these persons to usher them into a career path I know will be brutal to them. I only mentor young people who have already shown a passion for healthcare. I also try to foster relationships with current institutions and administrators to ensure safer and more tolerant environment than what I endured during my training. I also hope that my voice is being heard to end workplace violence and discrimination against women. After finding the courage and my voice, I have been extremely open and honest with many about my experiences. I hope my willingness to share prepares these young people and starts much needed conversations to bring about real change.
Still, I am my father’s daughter. I can only practice so much self control. My duty as a mother is to protect my child. I can not honestly say I would be able to keep my composure in a situation where I know another person was causing her severe emotional, mental and/or physical harm. I also know that medicine is not the only profession these horrible acts will take place. I can not protect her from all of the unknown. Still, I also can not push her toward a career I personally know to be a minefield of discrimination and abuse.
Still with all that being said, my child will do any and everything she puts her mind to do. Luckily, I have a great village complete with legal counsel and bail if anyone should think of harming my child… Who am I kidding? They will not offer me bail!