...In medicine, role models are everything, and while I have had countless mentors that have made lasting impressions on me, I would like to single out three in particular: Dr. Steve Z. Miller, Dr. Glenda Garvey, and Dr. Ingrid Fitz-James. Every single day, I remember what you taught me, and whatever good I have accomplished as a doctor has simply been from doing exactly what you told me to.
Dr. Miller I've spoken about several times on this website, and thinking about him always makes me tear up just a little bit, because he was such a good man, with so much left to do in this life. People say that things happen for a reason, but those of us in medicine see all too clearly that sometimes there just is no reason, sometimes senseless things happen to good people, young people, and the sense of waste is truly tragic. But in addition to his family and his gorgeous children, Dr. Miller achieved the truest type of immortality. He is still practicing medicine today, through all of us that, whether we know it or not, will continue to channel his voice, his approach to patients, and his attention to the unspoken details.
(To learn more about the Steve Miller Medical Education Day at Columbia University, click here.)
Dr. Garvey is also no stranger to this blog. I first talked about her very early on, because she's just that kind of doctor that inspires absolute idolism and devotion in medical students--especially young, idealistic lady med students like me. The thing with Dr. Garvey was, my worship of her never waned, and in fact, only strengthened throughout the years. She was quite simply one of the smartest people I'd ever met, and her ability to balance that keen intellect with such a sense of true warmth and caring and effortless grace is something that I wish I could emulate if only I knew how.
Some months after Dr. Garvey passed away, I got an e-mail from her family, telling me how much what I had written about her on my blog had meant to them, and had meant to her. Which, at the time, felt almost embarrassing to me, that the public sum of my gratitude could be quantified only as a handful of skimpy blog entries and and, now, an acknowledgement in the back of a book. But Dr. Garvey, as an Infectious Disease Specialist, would surely have appreciated that there's more; that what's visible pales in comparison to the what's unseen and intangible but nonetheless fills the spaces between.
(To learn more about the Glenda Garvey Teaching Academy, click here.)
Dr. Fitz-James is quite simply the woman who taught me how to be an anesthesiologist. Period. She was my "one-to-one" mentor when I first started training in anesthesia (all first-year anesthesia residents are thus closely supervised during the first few weeks of their training), and I have to admit, I was a little bit afraid of her. She was so firey and intense, and she would look at you with these EYES that could on one hand indicate that you were brilliant and destined for success, or else that you were the biggest fuck-up that ever lived, and you might as well start packing your bags now because your career in anesthesia was going to be a short one. She had this way of calling us all doctor ("Doctor Au...") in this dry, arch way that always left some doubt whether or not she was putting invisible air quotes around the honorific. And damn it if you didn't try all the harder to show her you could live up to that expectation.
Dr. Fitz-James is so smart, and she cares so deeply, and her commitment to not just doing things, but doing things right, every single time, had a deep and lasting impact on me. As an attending anesthesiologist, there is not a single day that passes that I am not doing things just the way Dr. Fitz-James taught me. And thank goodness for that.
Did you or do you know Dr. Miller, Dr. Garvey, or Dr. Fitz-James? What was their impact on you? Or, for those who trained in other institutions, who inspired you, and how did they do it? The comments section is open.