Sunday, March 30, 2014

SoMe and Me



In addition to returning to my blog after a recent break, I have also resumed my activity in other forms of social media (or SoMe for short).  In particular, I am back on Twitter (@TaborF).  Twitter has a reputation for being rather superficial, and there certainly is plenty of inane celebrity-related tweeting going on.  However, it can be used for more productive pursuits.  My primary involvement with it is the weekly #meded chat on Thursday evenings, which allows me to meet others all over the world, who share my interest in medical education.  If you would also enjoy a lively discussion of current issues in the meded field, you are welcome to check it out.

I have also joined Linked In, as a relatively late arrival.  I had been putting it off, mostly because of time constraints.  Enough of my colleagues have invited me to join them that I finally gave in.  I am still very new to it (not even a profile picture up yet), so it is too soon to say how I will like it.  I do have a multitude of professional contacts to maintain though, and it does seem useful for this purpose.

My use of Facebook is purely personal, rather than professional.  Even though mine is the cutest baby in the history of babies, I do not necessarily want to share our photos with the entire world.  So I restrict this to family and friends.  It is also my main means of keeping up with their weddings/babies/special events and a great way to rediscover people from my well-traveled past who could be in any time zone.

The one form of SoMe that I obstinately avoid participating in is Pinterest.  I regard it as a conspiracy against working mothers.  I will never decorate the baby’s room (or any room in our home) in a coordinated manner.  His Star Wars/dinosaurs/miscellaneous animals theme is perfectly fine, thank you.  I will never make any homemade crafts or baked goods for his class functions.  It’s just not going to happen and that is okay.

My blog is a mix of several identities.  I reflect on my professional work as a doctor and also my personal interests in literature and creative writing.  It also provides an opportunity to reflect on this intersection of personal and professional selves.  Any doctor who is active on SoMe needs to be vigilant about standards of professionalism.  Even when “off duty”, we are still a part of the medical community and invested with the public’s trust.  My friends in the clergy face a similar challenge, never able to truly separate their private lives from their vocation’s ethics of appropriate behavior. 

Despite these strictures, it remains important for us to be part of the public conversations about medical education and healthcare, especially in times of great change.  Our voices, as advocates for our profession and the welfare of our patients, should be heard.   

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Endurance



I have been sadly neglecting this blog.  With a new job and new baby, this is not very surprising.  However, I am finally starting to feel that I am through the major transition for now and settling into new patterns.  I have time to read again, during the hour or two in between baby’s bedtime and mine.  And a limited-but-still-appreciated time to write during his weekend naps.

Although my theme has been literature and medicine, I have actually been on a non-fiction run recently.  Reading Shackleton’s South has helped put my problems in perspective.  I may have some challenges to deal with, but I am not trying to traverse Antarctica.  I am not struggling to rescue my crew after our ship is crushed by ice.  I am not living on seal and penguin blubber, constantly cold and wet, going months without sunlight, always in danger.

When I start to complain, I should remember: I don’t have scurvy. 

Though not as extreme, medical training does bear some resemblance to the Endurance Expedition and similar ventures.  It includes physical deprivation, lack of sunlight, and some danger.  It is more psychological than physical risk most of the time, but I will never forget the nurse disarming a patient who smuggled a knife into the ER or the resident who saved me from being bitten by a demented patient.

Like Shackleton’s crew, we bring our troubles on ourselves.  They all decided to go to Antarctica.  Many had been before on other expeditions and had no illusions about what might await them.  We may be less accurately aware of what medical school and residency will be like, but it should not come as a shock to find it an intense and rigorous journey. 

What impressed me most about reading Shackleton’s account was not the adventure or survival against all odds but the leadership that made it possible.  Both Shackleton and Wild, his second-in-command, had to make tough decisions to keep their men alive.  They had to keep everyone motivated, hopeful, and ready.  If they had given up, they would have perished.  They set the tone for the entire group. 

Now that I am in charge of residents and medical students, it is important to keep in mind that their motivation, hope, and readiness are under my influence, to some degree.  When I feel cynical or worn out, I can think of Wild packing up camp every morning, looking out to sea, and projecting unfailing optimism that today help would arrive. 

Let’s also raise a glass of orange juice to Frank Hurley (the intrepid photographer) and each crew member who kept a journal on the expedition, despite the burden of carrying equipment and books across the ice floes.  They not only survived the experience but preserved it, reflected on it, and shared it.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Poem on Pulse

You can check out my poem on Pulse--Voices from the Heart of Medicine.

You can also subscribe for free!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Too Many Books




Me: “We need to get rid of some books.”
Husband: “We need to get more bookshelves.”

I am in the midst of moving again, as I have done every few years for my whole life.  My husband and I try to keep our earthly possessions to a minimum, but we both have a weakness for books.  We’re the children of librarians, after all.  We do give some books away, but not as fast as we acquire them.  We run a great risk of expanding our collection every time we set foot in a thrift store or second-hand book shop.

Though not strictly adherent to a Dewey Decimal system, our books are organized thematically.  I was reminded of this as we packed up the Tolkien shelf, the Jeeves and Wooster, the foreign language section (I will get back to you one day, Marcel Pagnol!), the travel guides to places we have been or desire to go, the shelf of gifts from various mentors.  The Bible, Qu’ran, Bhagavad Gita, and other religious texts coexist peacefully.  They complement the science shelves, dominated by medicine and natural history, the writings of Oliver Sacks and Steven Jay Gould, and books about quantum theory, cartography, astronomy, marine biology, anthropology.  

I check out and return a lot of fiction to my local library but enjoy having copies of the ones I love most.  These include my favorite novels (Heart of Darkness, the Name of the Rose), favorite sci-fi/fantasy (you expand my mind, Gene Wolfe), favorite short stories (by Jorge Luis Borges and Flannery O’Connor), and favorite collections of poetry (Donald Hall’s Without: the only book to ever make me tear up in a cafĂ©).  We have a growing set of children’s books as well, some that Baby is ready for now and many more that we look forward to sharing with him when he is able to read books without eating them.

We have moved into our new place now and most of the books are still in boxes.  It would be sensible to leave them in storage, since we will probably move again in a year, when we finally make the transition from renting to owning a house of our own.  But if we leave the shelves empty, we will be even more tempted by the library book sale.

In the meantime, we will work on instilling Baby with a proper love of books.  He enjoys turning the pages of his board books and gnawing on their corners.  On weekend days, he seems to like me reading to him from whatever I happen to be reading for myself.  He learned all about probability and prediction from The Signal and the Noise and was fascinated by Bhutan in Beyond the Earth and the Sky.  He is currently being inspired by Nelson Mandela’s autobiography.  At night, he will get his own books for bedtime.  His current favorite is Brown Bear.  He is growing up in a technological age, but hopefully will also develop an appreciation for physical books and the creativity they represent.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day



I had my first Mother’s Day last month and now it is my husband’s turn for his first Father’s Day.  He gets to spend it at home with Baby while Mama works all weekend at the hospital.  That is basically the story of our lives.  I am one of many mothers-in-medicine whose careers are made possibly by supportive partners.

This arrangement is challenging at times, but allows Baby to develop a special bond with his Daddy.  It is wonderful to see Baby’s entire face light up (often with a happy dance as well) when he sees Daddy come into a room or hears his voice. 

Although Daddy can’t breastfeed, he has other unique duties.  He is the designated solid food giver.  Baby sits on Daddy’s lap for dinner time and puts his little hand on Daddy’s big hand to help guide the spoon.  With his superior upper body strength, he is the baby flyer and bouncer and car-seat carrier.  He is better at lowering sleepy Baby smoothly into his bed.

I love watching them play together and laugh at each other.  I am looking forward to seeing how their relationship evolves as Baby grows up.  I am so thankful that he will have such a strong male role model: a man who is kind, smart, generous, patient, respectful.  A man who can coordinate biomedical research and manage multi-site databases, and also cook, bake, and do laundry.  I wish every little boy – and little girl – could have a daddy like that.

I am also thankful for the father figures in my life, who will be grandfather figures to him.  I am blessed with an amazing dad of my own, a fabulous godfather, and a number of male mentors.  Each one can play a special role in Baby’s life too.