Despite ongoing efforts and changing perspectives, gender equity in surgical specialties has not yet been achieved and is not simply a problem of the past. Only in addressing deep-seated gender roles and actively creating opportunities for the representation of women and gender-diverse persons in surgery can surgeons in Canada accurately reflect the populations they serve.
As a medical student, I have found that one of the biggest challenges during my journey through the many clinical experiences is the ability to truly immerse myself in my patients’ stories and attempt to place myself in their shoes when thoughts of other clinical and academic responsibilities were constantly hovering over my head.
My third year had not been going as planned, and most days I was questioning my purpose in life, which I was once so sure of.
You never know what environment you are going to walk into at the start of a busy clinic day. Patients visit their doctors with a multitude of expectations and fears surrounding their medical treatment and care.
The rectangular device’s intrusive, sudden blare triggers a visceral response as I feel the plastic clip vibrate against my hip. I feel my palms flood like a wetland, sweaty fingers crashing against each other like driftwood washing onto shore. My mind wanders for a moment as I notice the reaction I’m experiencing.
When I reflect on ways to implement holistic care for the patients I work with, I think of the impact of my mother as a primary caregiver for my abuela’s (grandmother’s) medical care, despite not having a medical background herself.
My eyes locked on the upside-down words scribbled on the paper that was torn from my preceptor’s notebook a few moments prior. Dear God, my patient wrote, I am grateful for this life.
One young woman sits and waits patiently, scrolling on her phone to pass the time. A couple sits across the room talking softly to each other. The air feels light in the quiet room. A woman arrives, checks in, walks with heavy steps to a chair and sits down with a sigh.
As a future physician, this experience reminded me to remain empathetic, compassionate and unbiased in all aspects of patient care. By doing so, I can not only improve trust and connection with my patients but also ensure that my clinical judgment remains clear.
Most of all though, I tried to calm my racing mind and remind myself to just learn. And with that, I wondered, “What is the most important thing I can do today?”
I opened their chart and scrolled to the recent notes section. A new title I had never seen before popped on the screen. There, at the top of the chart, “Deceased Note” was written in bold letters.
The beauty of medicine is that we are trained to see each person as an individual, not as a victim of their stereotypes. We are taught that we are more than our skin color, our religion, our clothing or our gender. But even though I see more than a patient’s demographic on static paper, those same patients, and sometimes even colleagues, fail to see me as more than just a woman.