I got an acute case of it. The chief resident on GYN the last month is an amazing doctor. I remember him from two years ago, when I was a first year student, and spent one night in labor and delivery. Even then I thought his competence and clear thinking were impressive. After just two days on his service, I can’t remember a resident, barely even an attending, I’ve ever admired more. It’s too bad the residents are moving on to new rotations tomorrow.

He pays attention to his team, doesn’t distance himself from the junior residents the way some other chiefs I’ve seen do. (Maybe one medicine chief was this good.) But I was most impressed by his manner with patients, this afternoon in clinic. I didn’t think it was possible for a man to be so empathetic with women, without being condescending or creepy. He sounded confident, even when I could tell from his discussion outside of the room that he was still trying to make up his mind about a course of action. He answered the patient’s questions freely, in a way that inspired confidence from them. It was obvious that all the patients he saw today trusted him, even if he wasn’t their usual doctor. He seemed to care about their pain in a way that even the psychiatrists and internal medicine people didn’t. He was personally interested in every one of them.

Our last patient today was a college girl who had just been told in ultrasound that her ten-week pregnancy was miscarrying, and had been sent over to see the GYN people for a D&C. He acknowledged her grief, comforted her, and helped her decide on treatment options with an affect that was exactly right: sympathetic, but not overwhelmingly so. Then, back at the desk, while the nurse was scheduling her for tomorrow, the third-year resident came in, rather upset after a long complex surgery where he had a very bad time with the attending. These two residents are good friends, and they both strike me as gung-ho surgeons, with just enough extra compassion that they do GYN surgery instead of general. So the chief and the third year were discussing their issues with this attending, who they think undercuts them in surgery, and talks about them behind their backs (and here again, I thought she was a nice lady!), but he still was able to switch over to gently explaining to the patient what she needs to do tomorrow. And then, most astonishing of all, he praised my performance in the clinic. After just three hours with me, he cared enough to say something nice, even when he’s upset about something else. From a chief to a student, that’s amazing.

I admire him tremendously. I doubt even as a woman I will be able to connect with these patients as well as he does. I hope someday I’m half as competent a doctor as he is.

Anyhow, apart from him, I love surgery. It’s a little bit boring as a student, especially gyn surgeries, where there’s not enough room down there to see very well, and so delicate that I don’t dare even ask to help. But I think it will be something good to do as a doctor. I like the arrangement of mornings spent continuously in the OR, and the afternoons spent in clinic on followup, or setting up future surgeries. And I like the personalities of the doctors: They’re aggressive and competent and definite; they inspire confidence. I don’t know if I can ever be like that, but I wish to. And yes, there are personality conflicts like nowhere else, but I’d rather have a conflict over hard issues, like did you do an unnecessary surgery, or did you make a bad cut, than over soft things, like I don’t like the same beta-blocker or diuretic as the other doctor does. I feel like I’m too young and soft and lazy for this, but I want to try. And anyhow, you know you’re badly smitten with gyn surgery when a vaginal dissection and sacral spinous ligament fixation (to give the technical name) looks beautiful. What else can I say?

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