Fantasies of a Busy Surgeon Mom


  1. Driving past runners donning their night gear just shy of 6am as I head into work, I think, “I would love to be hitting the pavement every morning before work. My days always go better if they begin with run.” Alas, I just can’t make myself do it and be ready for work on time. And, after 12-16 hour days (when I am not on call, 26-40 hours when I am) I am usually too tired and hungry to get it together after work.  
  2. Looking at this month’s calendar and seeing the school curriculum night this Wednesday and dinner with visiting professor next Wednesday and kids’ activities past 7:30pm every Mon/Tue/Thu/Fri, I muse “Wouldn’t it be great to actually go do that couple’s rock climbing class or attend the cheese making workshop one of these nights?” Between work, kids, and work-related travel the idea of making it out, just the two of us, at least twice a month has completely fallen by the wayside. Embed from Getty Images
  3. Seeing all the pictures of fabulous girls’ nights marching along my Facebook feed I contemplate “I would love to go for mani/pedis or finally try paint night with the girls.” Unfortunately, ‘the girls’ don’t exist in my life. Alas, a group of women (heck, even just one woman) in my age range with similar interests, who get(s) me, would love to hang out with me, and have/has a schedule that allows for regular get togethers with me just don’t/doesn’t exist in my life. Embed from Getty Images
  4. Waking up, yet again, in a little pool of drool on the couch with the DVR at the end of the show, I think to myself “I wonder what it’s like to not fall asleep during a much anticipated episode of a binge-watchable series or the football game or the Emmys…” Unfortunately, with my chronic sleep deficit putting me in a semi-recumbant position for any period of time soon leads to a slumber, mind you not a restful slumber just one that will subsequently mess up any hope I have of regaining a reasonable sleep wake cycle. Embed from Getty Images
  5. Having another frustrating call with my father about a health issue I think to myself “I would really like to be one of those children who goes to appointments with their aging parents.” I do my best but often work gets in the way (as it also does for my own doctor and dentist visits). So much gets lost in the translation between me, my parents, and their healthcare providers that I suspect that it leads to more stress and anxiety among all of us and the benefit of me having purposely settled near my family is lost. Embed from Getty Images

To be sure there are ways to overcome to all of these issues. My adult life has essentially been a series of work arounds to fit it all in. Some days I succeed and other days I just fantasize about what it would be like to not have to put so much mental energy into these work arounds so I could just let life unfold with me being the socializing, fitness buff, present mother, attentive daughter, and effective TV watcher that I dream of being.

Lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Evolution of a female surgeon

This is a topic I never thought I would champion – being a female physician. I think gender is only one small part of who we are in the world, but there are some clear themes that come along with being a female physician. Many of these, I’m sure, apply to other physicians who are not phenotypically consistent with their field. So while most of this blog is focused on female docs, I hope that many others can relate to the concepts.

A lot has changed since I started training and social media has been a big driver of this change. It has allowed groups who previously were the minority to reach out to one another and form communities (albeit electronic ones) that plug in like-minded people and allow them to communicate, commiserate, vent, and support one another. I think this is great progress. I was subscribed by a friend to the Facebook…

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How many surgeons does it take to make one badass trauma mama?

I started writing a blog post over a year ago entitled “The sisterhood of the surgeon moms;” but because I am a “crazy-time” surgeon mom I never got around to finishing it. 

The inspiration for the would-be blog post were two of my best friends. I came to know them through the profession but over years they have come to mean so much more to me than just professional colleagues. They. Are truly like sisters to me. Like those raised in the same home would “just get it,” these two pals just get what it’s like to be me: juggling personal fulfillment with professional ambition. We could could simply talk for hours about the the serious, and the frivolous, and everything in between. 

We laugh together. We cry together. We mock each other relentlessly. We call each other out on our bullshit moments. We support each other with research projects, curbside consults, parenting tips, and marital advice. My sisterhood post was going to tell you about one of those really great talks we got to have in person late one night at a trauma meeting. Oh well. 

Today we had a virtual talk. Texting back and forth on subjects of mutual interest. In our reparte we discovered that on this Sunday between the three of us real life trauma mamas we made one badass one. 

One of us was at a national meeting of leaders in organized surgery = improving our profession

One of us was on call in between trauma activations = tending to the injured and saving lives

One of us had the luxury of a Sunday off and was spending it on a mommy-daughter date = being a good mom

I recently gave a talk on burnout. (I will share it soon on the blog, promise!) Among the strategies I urged the audience to adopt were: 

Finding what makes you whole outside of work and family obligations (no matter how joyful you may think going to work and nurturing a family- whether a family of two or twenty- may be) 

Connecting with humans whether for work or for pleasure or for the goals of tending to family (even though scheduling alone time is also a necessity) 

I realized today that connecting with these two amazing friends is part of what makes me whole and between us we make one badass trauma mama. 

Dear Drunk Driver, “Tonight”.


Dear Drunk Driver,

Tonight, I am tired.

Tired from lack of sleep, tired from the long hours, and tired from bearing witness to your destruction.

Tonight, you caused an accident while under the influence of alcohol.  And, you are badly injured, requiring emergency surgery.  Your liver is hard, cirrhotic, and unforgiving.  Although I can get you through this first surgery, I know you will not survive.  I know over the next few days, your broken and beaten liver will begin to fail, your kidneys will stop working, you will start bleeding from every orifice of your body, and you will die.

Tonight, I met your family.  They thought you had quit drinking, but they asked, and I answered, “Yes.”  “Yes” you had been drinking and “yes” your liver carries the scars of your addiction.  “Yes”, it is likely you will not make it.  I saw the hurt cross their eyes, the anger, the embarrassment.  And then, the part that I dread the most, the part I was hoping wouldn’t happen – but it always does… They asked about the accident.  They asked if someone else was injured.  They asked if the other person was okay.

And a fresh, new, searing pain begins, because…

Tonight, you killed someone.  Someone’s husband, wife, father, son, mother or daughter isn’t coming home.

I see a shadow cross your daughter’s soul as her mascara weeps down her face and stains her arms.  I see your son’s image of you crumble upon the impact of my words.  I see their shame, their sorrow, with no outlet other than tears.  Their heartbreak reaches out and stabs at me, their confusion begs my sympathy.

Tonight, another family is being informed of their loved one’s death…  Their souls, and hopes, and dreams are extinguished with the two words, “I’m sorry”.

Tonight, you are blissfully unaware and asleep…disoriented, medicated and sedated because of your own injuries.  But while you sleep, perchance you dream… of all the wreckage you have caused.

Tonight, you have blazed a trail of tears.

Tonight, I am angry.

Angry you didn’t know better, angry at all the hurt you have caused.

Tonight, I am angry.

Because I know this will happen again.

When does this end?  When will you stop assaulting your body, your family and your friends?  When will you stop tearing through lives, ripping out the hearts of people you know and of people you don’t?

When will you stop?

Please, let it be-



Your trauma surgeon

** This writing does not describe one particular patient or event, but is the unfortunate result of many patients and experiences I have had over the years. **