Who do you want to be when you grow up?

Earlier this week, I met the guy whose job I want to have in 20 years. Physician and scholar and novelist! The guy talks about getting medical humanities grants like ordering a salad at Chop’t: “So one of my colleagues had this idea and we got a grant and studied it.”

For the last several months, as I’ve been on the academic medicine job market (post on that struggle later, once I actually Have A Job), my attendings have asked me, “do you want to be like … Ned? Or Emerson? Or Lonely Tourist Charlotte Charles?” And I’ve always answered, “None of the above?” Not really, I pick a name usually at random. (But I’ll take Chuck’s dress sense any day.) But frankly, none of the career paths that my current attendings have, really fits with my goals and interests. They are great people, who clearly love what they do and are fun to work with, and I have learned a LOT from them, but what I want to do is pretty niche, and while I’ve had some excellent role models as a medical student and resident, there isn’t anyone here at my fellowship institution who does what I want to do.

There are times, intermittently, when I still feel I missed the mark and should have stuck with literature. Don’t get me wrong, I love taking care of patients. But I love it because I love their stories. I am doing NaNoWriMo this year, and I cannot wait for November 1.


A Play in Two Acts


Interior: Clinic Room. Morning. 

And how far did you get in school, sir?

Sixth grade. I had to quit because of the Depression.



Interior Clinic Room. Afternoon

Any family history of tremor?

No, but it’s just my parents, they were orphans. The rest of their families were killed in the Armenian genocide.


You forget, sometimes, how close some of the tragedies of the 20th century are.


Winning and losing

Today a 87 yo demented man who has called me “young lady” for the last year, ever since I told him he shouldn’t be driving, told me that he liked me and that now I was a “real doctor.” (I think he has just forgotten about the driving issue.)

And someone else hugged me because I reprogrammed their DBS to give them better tremor control with less speech impairment.

And then, just before I left work, I got to tell someone over the phone that their spouse had an incurable, progressive, inherited condition. They started crying. They were at work. Note to self: never ever ever do this over the phone ever again.


Aphorism du jour

Haste makes … it likely that you’ll send your PI a veeeeery rough draft (as in, a methods section without methods…) such that the bulk of his feedback was along the lines of “Um. Have you written a paper before?”

Ugh. Embarrassing. This is why you don’t try to write a paper on an iPad mini in the airport jetlagged on 3 hr sleep.



Conferencing is hard

I just got back from two major conferences, the 2017 American Academy of Neurology meeting in Boston and the 2017 Movement Disorders Society congress in Vancouver. They weren’t back to back, but even just 6 weeks apart felt too close. All my post-AAN time was spent finalizing the poster for MDS (and stressing about whether my passport would arrive).

In terms of networking… I continue to be not great at this. AAN was a little better in that it was more interactive, and I felt more comfortable going up to speakers after their talk. AAN also has a very strong focus on mentorship and career development — this year, like last, I mostly went to career development and research methodology talks, rather than content-based talks on movement disorders, and made some good connections including some folks on committees.

MDS, on the other hand, was very lecture-driven, and very basic science heavy. Day 1 was 8 hours of lecture! It was like being back in school. My co-fellows and I peaced at 6pm (9pm Eastern time!) in favor of beers. Days 2-5 were similar; although there was plenty of clinical content (eg management of non motor symptoms in PD), the plenaries were heavy on immunofluoresence stains. I can’t pay attention with that stuff. And for some reason, slides and syllabi were not available, which meant that most of the plenaries were full of people taking pictures of slides on their phones, which is incredibly distracting in a dark theater!

The things I really liked about MDS were Grand Rounds (expert clinicians examining actual patients; a bit rushed and artificial but nice to see a few different exam techniques), Video Rounds (individuals submit cases for review, which are then discussed by a panel of experts and MC’ed by Tony Lang and Kapil Sethi who are hilarious), and the MDS Pavilion (small TED talk style presentations about topics like “How to write a winning journal article” and “How to get engaged with the Society.” There was also a Young Members Reception which was great, and a Young Members Lunch.

And then, you know, I got to look at this view every morning:


So all in all, not a bad time. Next year in Hong Kong!