Tuesday, March 23, 2004

dr. garvey

Dr. Garvey passed away yesterday morning. It was news that we'd all unfortunately been expecting, but that fact didn't mitigate the fact that it was a sad loss that came too soon. The Au-Walrath household loved Dr. Garvey, and we will miss her.

At graduation this past May, she looked incredible. A tad thinner, maybe, and a little pale, but still such a force of Garvey-ness. Her hair was perfect, and her suit so chic. She looked strong, and her voice was firm. As we filed in to take our seats, I gave her a little wave and a grin from the first row. From the stage, she nodded and smiled back.

The preceding Spring, I had run frantically into her office, in the middle of a career crisis, desperately needing guidance. Residency applications were looming, and I still couldn't figure out what field I wanted to go into. Pediatrics? Or Medicine? Or Pediatrics? Or Medicine? I was running circles inside my own head and giving myself vertigo. This was clearly no good. So one afternoon I e-mailed Dr. Garvey and asked if I could come to her office for advice. Well, what I asked for was advice. But what I really wanted for her to do was sit me down and, in that no-nonsense way of hers, just tell me what to do. At that point, I felt like whatever she told me to do, I would do it, because Christ, she was Dr. Garvey, she knew everything, didn't she?

But she didn't tell me what to do. She just listened. And asked me questions. And then she listened some more. Then, finally, she did give me some advice, and this advice was so good that ever since then, I've been giving it out myself to every third and fourth year medical student with similar indecision trauma. Except before I give the advice, I always say, "Well, Dr. Garvey once told me..." You know. Just so you don't think I'm not citing my sources.

The advice, to paraphrase, was this: "In the end, you're going to decide what field of medicine to go into based on the types of patients you want to treat. Do you like treating children? Or do you like treating adults? It's about the patients you most enjoy. So try a little bit of both. Do a Medicine elective, and do a Pediatrics elective. And, if while working in one dicipline, you find that you keep thinking about the other dicipline, How would we approach this problem differently in Pediatrics? How would the differential be different in Pediatrics? then you know that's where your true interest lies, and you know that's what you should do.

Just when I was about to have another mini breakdown, like, what the HELL kind of cryptic answer is THAT, just TELL me what what I should DO so I can just go and DO it, she looked at me and, with a small smile, added, "I would be be thrilled for you to do Medicine, but I have a feeling you're going to end up choosing Pediatrics." (Which, when I thought about it too much, made me paranoid that maybe she thought I wasn't smart enough to be doing Medicine, because otherwise, why wouldn't she be putting the heat on for me to boogie with adults like her? But I think that just speaks more to what a weirdly psychotic head state I was in at the time.)

Anyway, what she told me would happen was exactly right. I did a Pediatrics Sub-Internship. Then I did an Adult Infectious Disease elective. Or at least I started out doing an Adult ID elective. Halfway through the month, I realized I was doing exactly what Dr. Garvey said I might do. I started missing the Pediatric patients. I wondered how things would be different on the other side. I wanted to go back. So after two weeks, I switched. I may be the only person my year to have done a half-and-half Adult and Peds Infectious Disease month.

Dr. Garvey happened to be the course director for the Adult ID elective, and she, of course, approved my drop.

She cared for her patients and she cared for her students. She was brilliant and curious and dynamic and funny. She was amazing to talk to, and even more amazing to listen to. She was, and is, one of my all-time role models. And she will be missed.

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