FACES OF SSF
“Growing up my mother was a nurse. She would get periodicals sent to her which were illustrated by the medical artist Netter. So I would read those journals that would come to her when I was in primary school. In my undergrad work I did some volunteer work at my mother’s hospital and that gave me a little surface exposure to the practice of medicine, the challenges. In my first year at medical school I was very intrigued by a neuroanatomy professor at the University of Toronto, Mike Bertram. Dr. Bertram would use two pieces of chalk and draw perfectly symmetrical coronal images of various levels of the brain and I thought that was super cool. And I like the symmetry and the organization of the nervous system I guess because it appealed to my OCD traits. In my third year I had an opportunity to do a neurosurgery clinical elective at Toronto General Hospital. When I went to meet the neurosurgeon I was informed that he wasn’t there because he was doing an emergency case but I might find the chief resident on the ward. So I hooked up with him, twenty minutes later I was assisting him taking out an acute subdural hematoma. So that was very exciting. That’s how I became interested in neurosurgery.”
Michael - San Fransisco, California
"I can't say how much is important, going back to anatomy. We should look at the basics of our discipline to find a solution and of course you have technology. Today you have a lot of tools that makes it easier but I think that we should never forget that, it's fundamental. During my time here I had the opportunity to observe some OR procedures and some surgeries as well so I tried to have balance between dissections and clinical experience, and I strongly believe that such a kind of experience dramatically impacts your everyday life, your everyday practice."
Filippo - Bologna, Italy
"I was in between law and medicine and was leaning toward law school. My mother sat me down one day and said, ‘you have to go to medical school, you have to do this.’ And I was like, ‘you can’t tell me how to live my life,’ but she’s my mother so I ended up going to medical school. Up until last year I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. When we were learning the fundamentals of everything I was like oh my goodness I really really love this and then we had patient encounters I was like this is amazing and then saw my first surgery and I was in love with this. I really really like working with my hands. Finding new things out about the body and refining surgical procedures and constantly having to retrain my hands sounds really exciting to me. Every time I dissect I think it’s ridiculous that these structures actually exist inside me and give me the ability to speak or to see. It’s such a humbling experience to look into a human body and see what’s inside you to see the fibers of what you’re made of. In the years ahead I don’t want to forget how amazed I am about everything I’m around today. I don’t want to be bogged down by the slump of residency and being an attending that everyone says will happen. I also don’t want to forget to be confident and also not lose the thoughtful tentativeness I approach everything with. I don’t want to forget that at one point I was a student and before that I wasn’t a student. I don’t want to forget that the flesh and blood inside me is the same flesh and blood I’m seeing on the operating table in front of me. Most of all I want to make sure I’m genuinely enjoying what I’m doing. I’m very very very happy I chose this path."
Chindinma - New York City, New York
"My brother has been very sick for the last ten years and was very sick while I was in med school, so that definitely drove me to work harder and study harder. I remember days and nights where I’d get calls about how my brother is doing and I’d get very emotional, but in the back of my head I knew I had to keep going. If I let this bog me down I knew there’d be no way I could study for these exams or finish them. I don’t see many things as obstacles but I just see it as something you have to do. The more hard things you go through, the more challenging your life is, the more difficulties you have to go through along the way it just makes you stronger and you can push through bigger things in the future. Being in the hospital you see what impact the doctor has on the family and the patient. Every patient that comes through has their own backstory they have their own families, their own lives going on, so every person is like an entire book. That’s why I want to be a doctor because I can interact with this person 1 on 1 and read this book."
Bryan - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
“I have a special interest in child neurology and I’d like to eventually go back home and help with autistic kids in Nigeria. There’s a lot of stigma attached to disabled children back home and so I’d like to increase awareness and bring a more holistic approach to their clinical care. The secondary school I went to was one of the best in Nigeria, but at the time that I was there there was a class called the “special class.” And kids who didn’t look like the way other kids looked like were put in that class and weren’t allowed to have classes with anyone else, had their own table they sat on, so we didn’t know how to react to them or with them because we were never in the same environment as them. And then kids who didn’t perform well enough were also shipped off into a subgroup of that. Kids who couldn’t speak properly, kids who walked funny, kids who had a drooping face or something, something that you could tell they were impaired somehow were not treated very nicely. Even in hospitals in Nigeria I’ve never seen a child that looked differently than I did, so there’s not many neurological based special centers for these kinds of kids. There’s orphanages for kids like this that aren’t receiving proper medical care in these homes. I would like to use my background as some sort of foot stool to help them.”
Naomi - Nigeria
“I’m 20 years old and I want to be a doctor, but one of the biggest struggles I face is that there are not many women of color in the field I want to pursue. I think one of the most important things to me as a doctor wouldn’t be the science itself behind the medicine but more understanding the struggle and suffering the patient is going through. Both of my parents have chronic conditions so that has helped me realize that it’s not always about getting better but about understanding that suffering and helping them get through it. In twenty years I would hope that a women in my position now wouldn’t feel intimidated and that she’d feel like she has a source of support through her professional journey. Being a doctor is really hard and it’s important to feel like you have a place in that community. While I may be one of few in my intended focus, one of my greatest rolemodels once told me, 'if you're not feeling a little bit of imposter syndrome', you're not challenging yourself enough. This saying has always pushed me to think bigger and do better, and my fellowship here has been one of my greatest avenues to do so.”
Jocelyn - Tacoma, WA