My latest escapade was to do a mad dash to Washington, DC post-call last Friday to participate in the White Coat Ceremony at Howard University College of Medicine. I had been invited by the Dean of Admissions to come up and cloak a few students. Former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders was the keynote speaker. If you know anything about Surgeon General Elders, you know that she will tell you what you WANT to hear and what you may NOT WANT to hear but she will provide you with food for thought. She had some great anecdotes from her time in the Surgeon Generals Office.
On Thursday, when I finished Surgical Oncology clinic, my chief resident told me that I could take Friday afternoon off and dash off to DC if I saw a couple of patients in Breast Clinic on Friday morning. I finished around noon, fought the traffic of the University of Virginia undergrads coming back to town, and got home to shower and change for the ride into DC. After a couple of traffic jams along the way, I arrived at Howard about ten minutes after the program started.
At Howard, starting with my Class, we were cloaked by an alumnus of the medical school during orientation week in a White Coat Ceremony. The speaker then was Ben Carson. I was the only representative of the 2002 graduating class so it was totally fun to do this. I even got a bit of a round of applause when my name was announced. Even though I had only been gone from Howard a couple of months, it was very strange to be there as a physician instead of as a student. The dynamics have really changed and so have I.
Surgeon General Elders reminded the group of the responsibility that was being placed on their shoulders. She spoke of the thousands of ways that a good physician might affect the health of their patients. She also spoke of the tremendous needs of the underserved population in the inner city and in the rural areas.
In the class of 2006, there was a student who had started with my class. She had academic difficulties and was dismissed from medical school. At the time, she was pretty young but never gave up on her dream to become a physican. She is now married with a very supportive husband and beautiful daughter. I hugged her as I placed her white coat on and congratulated her on not giving up. She said that the time out made her even more determined to do well on this cycle. I am sure that she is going to do well.
After every student receives a short white coat, we all took or renewed our Hippocratic Oath.
While I was in DC, I had a chance to touch base with Mary Renard while the Washington Redskins were putting a little hurt on the Tampa Bay Buccs. It was a great weekend but I miss the hospital. I must be insane!
Nat, you kick a$$. Your posts are insightful, colorful, engaging, and simply tremendous in every way. You are such an asset to OPM, and even more so, the schools and clinics that you are at! You should be proud, woman.
I can't believe that you BOTH Ben Carson AND Jocelyn Elders where there. Two totally incredible people. That must have been a heady experience.
I had Antonia Novello speak at my friend's MPH graduation about being a woman, an immigrant, and a minority in a position like that. She was a fireball! (I don't like her politics, but I admire her as a woman.) These women set such amazing examples for others to emulate.
I'm glad that they talked about focusing on inner-city youth. I lived in DC (and walked past schools in the AM where kids were munching on cheese popcorn and grape cola for breakfast) and now in Baltimore. The poverty–and its subsequent impact on health–is astonishing. My friend, a 3rd year, said on her peds rotation she regularly saw cockroaches stuck in ear canals.
So I'm going to work my tail off these next few years, and get to a position where I can start making a difference in some of the lives that need it most.
Thanks again for your posts–they help keep the desire burning strong. Gotta keep that fire burnin'. The hungrier you are, the harder you work for it.
PS: Keep up the great surgery thread!!! I thought of you as I reread the surgery part of Mel Konnor's Becoming a Doctor this weekend.