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Can’t stop, won’t stop May 17, 2013

Posted by therealtinlizzy in Uncategorized.

This week saw the passage of gay marriage in Minnesota, during the live-streamed Senate debate of which @snipy and I cheered and booed/hissed alternately while drinking adult beverages at Wilde Roast. Neither of us have the least inclination to get gay-married, cuz – well it just doesn’t suit us. But cheers to homos who want to for lots of compelling reasons now being ABLE to get gay married here in ye olde Minnesota, hip-hip-hooray!

This week also saw the end of the semester for me with the taking of my Microbiology final exam today (on which I think I didn’t do too dismally), and am tonight basking in twitchy punchiness after cramming, shoving, shoehorning all things pathogens and virulence into the tiny space of my head over the past few days.

Does too fit

Must pick up the personal essay-writing again this weekend, and completing other bits of my (re)application, and then back on the train of studying for a retake  of the MCAT mid-late summer (le sigh), but for tonight – it’s all curling up with Sheri Tepper’s Grass. I’m rather pleased to have made it through Robert Caro’s first Lyndon B. Johnson doorstop (an excellent doorstop, but a doorstop nonetheless) but it’s nice to dip back into some spec fiction after that slog of nonfiction.

So while my brain works on getting back to being able to string some words together other than those relating to viral & bacterial pathogens, superantigens, endo/exotoxins, and the methods of action for which antivirals/antimicrobials are used to treat which marauding pathogens, I’m going to post the essay I submitted for my extra credit assignment for my Future Physician course. The assignment was to interview a physician of our choice,  and then string some words together about it. Happily I did so rather more effectively than I’m able to at the moment.

My intent to interview Dr. Renee Crichlow was set early in the semester, as I had recently become acquainted with Dr. Crichlow through her work with The Ladder, a progressive mentorship program dedicated to inspiring and mentoring North Minneapolis youth towards pursuit of medical careers. Given my particular interest in the practice of primary care medicine in areas like North Minneapolis, Dr. Crichlow was an ideal interview candidate. However, I admit to becoming rather enamored over the first half of the semester by the narratives of the specialists and surgeons who shared their experiences and practice details, especially those of Drs. Braman, Kelly and Grande. Dr. Braman’s manner, energy and experience in particular struck a chord with me as he related finding his family medicine rotation, to which he had much looked forward, rather more leisurely than suited his personality, which in large part led him to pursue practice as an orthopedic surgeon.

The enthusiasm, reflections and confidence these physicians collectively inspired in me led me to question whether I should reconsider thoughts of primary care medicine and instead direct my passion and ambition for medicine into a surgical specialty. While I wasn’t given to conclude that primary care necessarily entails either lack of challenge or leisurely pace, particularly given the opportunity I had in late September of last year to shadow Dr. Prasad on rounds at North Memorial, I certainly was experiencing some level of romanticism towards surgical specialties to which I had not previously considered I might perhaps be equally, or even better, suited.

Despite my interest in family medicine waning somewhat over the first half of the semester, I persisted in approaching Dr. Crichlow for an interview request. Given what I understood of her, I knew it would be genuinely worthwhile to learn the details of her life story, the arc of her medical education, and her subsequent experiences as a full physician, regardless whether my pursuit of medicine led me to primary care. What I did not expect as an outcome of my interview of Dr. Crichlow was for my interest in primary care and family medicine to be so strongly rekindled.

One of the first surprises in my interview of Dr. Crichlow was that her response to the question “why not a surgical or other type of specialty instead of family practice?” was nearly identical to Dr. Braman’s reason for foregoing family medicine to pursue a surgical specialty: “I knew I would get bored.” Dr. Crichlow asserted that, despite her enjoyment of surgical rotations and being very adept at surgery, she was concerned that pursuit of a surgical specialty would lack the variety and challenge that suits her personality. Her response to my question, as well as her subsequent narrative detailing the diversity and broad range of patients, conditions, opportunities and day-to-day experiences of her primary care practice gave me considerable pause given the frame of mind I brought to the interview.

As well as being enthusiastically engaged by hospital and clinical practice as a physician, Dr. Crichlow also invests substantial energy and time into mentoring, teaching and research. In addition to the leadership and guidance she provides through The Ladder and other occasions of mentoring aspiring physicians, she is currently involved in leading a research study at the Broadway Family Clinic in Minneapolis. All in all, Dr. Crichlow exemplifies the sort of challenge-seeking, robust and energetic physician whose life is anything but sedate or lacking in variety, opportunity, surprises or challenge.

One of my follow up questions to an inquiry on Dr. Crichlow’s experience practicing in North Minneapolis was regarding the prospect of practicing in a more relaxed suburban setting. Dr. Crichlow responded by sharing that she has a physician friend who practices out in the suburbs and who asserts that serving that particular population is actually incredibly difficult in its own particular ways. While a suburban population may lack many of the specific underlying social, economic or cultural challenges endemic to urban populations, suburban residents individually and collectively have their own underlying sociocultural character and challenges with which their physicians must deal. As Dr. Crichlow related, those underlying issues in suburban populations can at times be more subtle or hidden than those of urban populations, which as a result can be more difficult for a suburban physician to address or assist a patient with.

That response from Dr. Crichlow made me aware that I’ve been carrying a bit of a chip-on-my-shoulder about the practice of “urban medicine” versus serving as a physician to other less culturally diverse or less acutely socioeconomically challenged areas. Part of that bias is admittedly due to the love and appreciation for and familiarity with the diverse, often misunderstood and mischaracterized, sometimes unpredictable and unwieldy populations which exists within the urban areas of the Twin Cities. My biases are also based on some less than positive experiences I’ve had over the years with denizens of suburban areas which have left me concluding that there are aspects about me, some visible and some less so, about which many who reside outside of urban areas are discomfited.

However I was rather disturbed to realize how my biases, which while perhaps understandable, had infused my notions of medical practice with such a dismissive attitude towards an entire demographic, rather than leading me to do what I pride myself on in all other aspects of my life: working hard, deliberately and genuinely, to build bridges and connections with all people, particularly with those from whom I’m most different in thought, ideology, circumstances or life choices. It provided me an unexpected and discomfiting, but not unwelcome, dose of humility and internal prompting to continue analyzing and rooting out those subtle ways that my biases affect my attitudes, particularly as I pursue service as a physician.

I immensely appreciate the opportunity and privilege of hearing Dr. Crichlow’s account of and reflections on her life and practice as a family physician. The insight and perspective I gained from the interview, as well as from Dr. Prasad’s class presentation on primary care and family medicine, have brought me rather full-circle back to where I began in my inspiration of pursuing medicine as a means to expand on my life-long passion for connecting with and serving humanity. Both Dr. Crichlow’s and Dr. Prasad’s reflections have demonstrated in spades that pursuit of family medicine isn’t “settling,” nor does it lack opportunity for challenge, growth, and continued advancement of one’s own abilities and knowledge.

As a final thought, Dr. Crichlow described her purpose in family medicine not as one who “fixes” her patients, but rather as one who serves as a healing presence and a means for her patients to “remove barriers or contradictions to their health.” That sentiment, and the understanding of life and humanity that lies behind it, is an ideal with which I passionately resonate and which will significantly shape my future as a physician in whichever specialty I land.


1. Stefanie - May 17, 2013

Nice essay. Congrats on finishing classes! James an I were cheering earlier this week too though we didn’t celebrate with any adult beverages 🙂

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