Essential Wisdom: Inspiring Future Female Physicians

Christine Rizk, MD - Breast Surgery

June 17, 2019 Carrie Dubeau Season 1 Episode 3
Essential Wisdom: Inspiring Future Female Physicians
Christine Rizk, MD - Breast Surgery
Chapters
Essential Wisdom: Inspiring Future Female Physicians
Christine Rizk, MD - Breast Surgery
Jun 17, 2019 Season 1 Episode 3
Carrie Dubeau

Dr. Rizk practices as a Breast Surgeon at Saint Francis Hospital, Hartford, CT, where she is also the Director of the Comprehensive Women’s Health Center. She is a graduate of the University of Rochester, where she earned her B.S. in Neuroscience. She went on to receive her M.D. at SUNY Upstate Medical Center, completed General Surgery Residency at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and a fellowship in Breast Disease at Brown University Women and Infant’s Hospital, Rhode Island. Dr. Rizk is truly passionate and caring about her work and patients. In her 13 years of practice she has served as faculty at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, SUNY Stony Brook, an St. Francis Hospital. She is dedicated to empowering her patients and their wellness as individuals. Dr. Rizk was featured as a commentator for breast health on Fox News in 2014 and 2015, and contributed a chapter to the book “Surviving Cancer: Our Voices and Our Choices”. To name just a few of her clinical interests, she is interested in breast cancer treatment, nipple-sparing mastectomy, and breast conservation. 

Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Rizk practices as a Breast Surgeon at Saint Francis Hospital, Hartford, CT, where she is also the Director of the Comprehensive Women’s Health Center. She is a graduate of the University of Rochester, where she earned her B.S. in Neuroscience. She went on to receive her M.D. at SUNY Upstate Medical Center, completed General Surgery Residency at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and a fellowship in Breast Disease at Brown University Women and Infant’s Hospital, Rhode Island. Dr. Rizk is truly passionate and caring about her work and patients. In her 13 years of practice she has served as faculty at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, SUNY Stony Brook, an St. Francis Hospital. She is dedicated to empowering her patients and their wellness as individuals. Dr. Rizk was featured as a commentator for breast health on Fox News in 2014 and 2015, and contributed a chapter to the book “Surviving Cancer: Our Voices and Our Choices”. To name just a few of her clinical interests, she is interested in breast cancer treatment, nipple-sparing mastectomy, and breast conservation. 

spk_0:   0:05
welcome to essential wisdom. Inspiring future female physicians. A podcast for engaging and informing the next generation of women in medicine. My name is carried a bow. I'm 1/4 year medical student at the Frank H. Netter, MD. School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University. Essential Wisdom is a podcast for discussing the joys and the challenges off being a woman in medicine through the sharing of stories and advice by women who mentor us. Take a seat with me at the desk of the mentors, come along, tow, walk the holes of the hospitals to experience residency and life as a physician personally, as we get to know these phenomenal physicians and scientists. Hello, everyone. And welcome to essential wisdom inspiring future female physicians. Week to this week, we have the pleasure to welcome two surgeons to the show, the first of which we have today. Dr Christine Risk Dr Risk Practices, as a breast surgeon at ST Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, where she's also the director of the Comprehensive Women's Health Center. She's a graduate of the University of Rochester, where she earned her bachelor's of science in neuroscience. She went on to receive her MD at SUNY Upstate Medical Center completed general surgery, residency at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and a fellowship in breast disease at Brown University Women and Infants Hospital. Dr. Risk is truly passionate and carrying about her work and her patients. In her 13 years of practice, she has served as faculty at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, SUNY Stony Brook and ST Francis Hospital. She is dedicated to empowering her patients and their wellness as individuals. Dr. Risk was featured as a commentator for breast health on Fox News in 2014 and 15 and contributed a chapter to the book Surviving Cancer. Our Voices in Our Choices to name just a few of her clinical interests. She's interested in breast cancer treatment, nipple sparing, mastectomy and breast conservation. Dr. Risk, I'm thrilled to welcome you on to the show. Thank you so much for being here.

spk_1:   2:17
Thank you so much carry for having me and for putting this together. It's absolutely fantastic, and I am absolutely excited and thrilled to be a part of it.

spk_0:   2:27
Thank you so much so as we kind of dive into our conversation, the first question that I like to start with is just tell us about your path to becoming of Theodore Physician. I said,

spk_1:   2:40
It's a good question. I am. I think I'll go back to 1983 which is probably before most people listening to this were born. But, uh, my mom, um, had apparently saved something that I had written in 1983 when I was in third grade and she gave it to me when I graduated from medical school. And it's pretty much a crumpled up piece of paper. Um uh, notebook paper. And I had described even at that 19830.3 goals in life. My first goal was I wanted to be a singer because I had to sing. And thank God I am not a singer because I would never make it. Um, but I wanted to be a singer. I then wanted to be a pediatrician because I loved kids and apparently someone somewhere, mind you, no one in my family is a surgeon. All the lights, certainly in my immediate family, um, medical people, including my two sisters. But even as 1/3 grader, I rode out, Uh, someday I want to be a surgeon. Wow. And so even to this day, nobody can quite figure out where that came from. What? What the reason for that wasa are how, But I think it gets at, um ah, very, very early spot that I had, which is I I want to make people better. And then I wanted to be able to do it relatively quickly. Not that there isn't a tremendous ways to help people in in many ways, in medicine and out of medicine. But, um, I think I think with surgery, you know, unlike, maybe internal medicine where it takes, you know, 10 years to manage someone's diabetes, which is very important. There's much more of an immediate gratification with, um, taking care of people surgically. And I think that just fits my personality and clearly, But it has 1/3 go heaters, I think. Amazing. Yeah, I Even to this day, I'm not quite sure. I also, as I mentioned, have to, um, older sisters that are in medicine. And so, um, I think I just never saw gender as a barrier in the med, um, fields per se. Um, certainly in the surgical world, as I'm sure we'll get into that could be challenges as a female, but I just think, having having grown up with my sisters, who are a bit older than me doing it, I just I just thought, Well, gosh, why not? I sure can, too.

spk_0:   5:20
And did that feeling go forward with you? When you went to college and chose to study neuroscience, for example, I

spk_1:   5:30
would have to say when I was an undergrad, I wasn't quite sure. Um, at a conscious level. Although, clearly as 1/3 grader, I waas, which is interesting how that is. But when I when I went thio underground, I absolutely loved, uh, everything about neuroscience and the brain and so much of what we didn't know and what was mysterious and what was waiting to be uncovered and learned. And so I would say maybe towards the second half of my undergraduate experience again, I started to realize, Gosh, I think I want to go into a medical field. But I think coming into undergraduate, um, I was just so excited and curious to see kind of what there was out there and to sort of find my place in the world.

spk_0:   6:18
Yeah, certainly. I think undergraduate can be a really formative time as well a CZ for some people, possibly a time that deters you from going into medicine if you don't have the right people that give you the advice and the resource is to push you into that direction. So I'd be curious to know what your experience was at that time. Did you have, like, a premed mentor, somebody that you spoke to about your thoughts?

spk_1:   6:42
That's a really good question. And I and I really appreciate, I think at the point that you're making here. So I went to a CZ you mentioned the University of Rochester, which at the time, and probably still is very, very heavily, you know, um, but, you know, biological science dominated and a lot of people were premed and, um is a fairly big school. I mean, it wasn't huge, but it wasn't small either. And I definitely remember feeling very lost and overwhelmed, um, to be quite honest, feeling like there's, you know, just hundreds and hundreds and thousands of people, and everyone wants to go into premed and walking in. I wasn't entirely certain of it, but it was certainly, ah, possibility. And like anything in this world, you meet people that will try to dissuade you or convince you otherwise or convince you it's not a good idea or quite honestly convinced you it's not attainable. And I would say to that You put your eyes on the end point. Um, try to find good mentors. There are good mentors. I had one in particular who was absolutely stellar. Um, she was actually, um, one of my mentors in the neuroscience program. She was a PhD in neuroscience, but she was just amazing as faras, really reinforcing to me that I'm capable and I am able and I'm bright and I can achieve if I put my mind to it. And I think she was really important. Um, because, you know, you come in so unsure of yourself. Or at least I did, to be very honest. And when you have a lot of people sort of that weed out session or sessions, you start to believe people. And unless you have those folks that say, Look, it can be done. If you want it to be done, don't take your eyes off the goal. Um, I think you can get really lost really fast, and I think you can get very dissuaded very quickly and and that that's tough. And I think it's also important to surround yourself with a group of really positive people. Because again, an undergraduate, Um, although it was many years ago, you know, you still remember how competitive it Woz and how you know some folks cutthroat and how there's just so much stress. And, you know, it's unfortunate because, honestly, looking back over some of the best four years of your life, really, but you're too lost in the intensity off trying to figure out Okay, what am I going to do when I graduate? You know I have all this debt, although now I'm sure it's infinitely worse than that. And you just kind of feel like, Oh my God, I have to sic steed. I have to achieve what am I gonna do? And, you know, and last year, surrounded by a really positive group of friends, um, and mentors, I think it can be really, really challenging and difficult, and that's really it doesn't have to be that way.

spk_0:   9:55
I love the point that you make about that because I'm just speaking for my personal experience. The reason that I think I was able to go ahead and choose the premed, tracked and do a biology degree and all the stuff to prepare to go to medical school was one specific mentor that I had. And I often tell her that the reason that I felt like I was able to do that was because on the day that I walked into her office and I said, Hey, do you think I could manage doing these different things in order to make it work? She just looked at me and she said, Yeah, of course you can and you need people that can just tell you Yes, you can do this So I think that's really pertinent, especially for young women, possibly in areas that are, you know, highly male dominated. I mean, I know you can speak to this in the surgical field, especially

spk_1:   10:42
definitely. And I think carry your point is again completely spot on. You know, we believe we can achieve, but there has to be the voice of somebody out there saying, Look, you can do this and, um, you know, it's critical and aspires Mentors, you know, I have mentors that I still stay in contact with. I have mentioned yours from my fellowship. I have mentors from my residency. I have mentors up. I absolutely love one of my mentors from my very first job. You know, you kind of walk in. Um, you know, it's it's worse than internship. Your first days being an attending you're like, Oh, my God. Uh, believe you. Me, It's infinitely worse than being an intern. Well, yesterday I was 1/4 year medical student, and all of a sudden I have the letters I'm in deep behind my name and I write about people. It's horrifying. The only thing more horrifying than that is actually being an attending for the first day, and we can talk about that. But my point is you have mentors. Mentorship is key, um, at every phase, not just in the beginning. And I also had great advice where one of my mentors even said to me, Look, you can have different mentors for different things. I mean, I think that's such wisdom, and I'm so grateful. She said that to me. She said, Look, you can have mentors in the research world. You can have mentors in the surgical world. You can have mentors in the humanity world. You can have mentors in the balance, tal, you know, with life and having a family world. Um, it doesn't have to be a mentor. You can have multiple mentors. That meant to you differently. And so, yeah, I think I think mentorship is something that starts early That is critical and that,

spk_0:   12:31
you

spk_1:   12:32
know, certainly something that you take with you even now. Um, and and I think that, um, you know, realizing that you can have multiple mentors for different things is really important.

spk_0:   12:46
I absolutely loved that. I was reading about that recently. This idea of caulk creating your own Cabinet of mentors that everybody has a different role in there. You're cheering squad. I love that idea. So, um, in terms of then how you wound up getting from your third grade self to selecting in your medical school to do surgery? What? What? What do you think? Itwas that helped you to make that decision.

spk_1:   13:13
Yeah. You know, that's another really great question and such an evolution. I originally again, I should have listened to my third grade self, but apparently not when I would have is a medical school. I really thought that I was gonna be, you know, a family practitioner and, you know, drive a medical van looking for homeless people to provide health care for them. And then from there, I sort of evolved into women and women's care and taking care of women. So I've always definitely had a strong and heavy interest in that and really considered a career in will be dying. Um, and I kind of tried to keep all my options open. And I was very, very, very vividly. Remember, my first rotation as a medical student lives, by the way, if I could just digress for 30 seconds, you're a medical student. There is such again the competition, the stress, you know. Oh, my God. I have, you know, the lottery system. We had a lot of the system of howto, you know, choose our rotations. And my class wasn't even 400 people. But somehow I got the last number 400 I don't know, I didn't have a choice in the order of my you know, third year clinic, ALS and I was so upset for a brief moment, not realizing that that's absolutely insane. And that There's very few things that you should really get get you that excited. But of course is 1/3 year, and you and your colleagues again surrounding yourself with that positive cabinet. I mean, if you look and listen to some people that they always done and over, you're never gonna get to do what you want to do because you know you're not gonna do a more general, which is, you know, completely ridiculous. There's plenty of time breathe and read normally and getting back to the fact that I got to be on the neurosurgery service. Um, and it was split three weeks neurosurgery and three weeks neurology and talk about how the universe works. I had never entertained neuroscience or excuse me, new neurosurgery or neurology, for that matter. And I think that very first rotation was so critical because I vividly remember, um, Day one of third year being on the neurosurgery service, and I vividly remember the very first patient I ever got to take care of. And she was this beautiful 25 year old woman. Um, you could tell even with, you know, half her head shaved and 1/4 of her skull missing how absolutely beautiful. She Waas. And she was the mother of two. And she had been beaten with a baseball bat, Um, by her significant other to the point that when we would walk in and scream, Show me two fingers And of course, you know, there's always noxious stimuli to see. You know how how someone responds whether you give him a sternal robber. No, uh, some other form of somewhat noxious stimuli. And she would merely open her eyes. And I remember thinking very vividly Oh my God, this woman, There's nobody in the world that can fix her. There's no surgery, there's no medicine, There's nobody that can bring her back. And this is probably going to be her life. And I remember is 1/3 year in the very first day just being so devastated by the fact that here is this beautiful young woman whose life is pretty much over. Who's the mother of two. And I think it was in hindsight at that moment that I thought, OK, wait a minute, you know, maybe not here. But surgery can sometimes offer an immediate resolution to a problem. As I went on, I saw new epidural hematoma is drained and subdural was drained and tumors removed in people with epilepsy that, you know, we're being treated with surgical remedies. And so I think that that very first rotation, although I was, you know, kind of show horrified that, you know, why am I doing this is my first rotation. I really don't have an interest in any of it was actually very formative and at least, you know, allowing me to realize Wait a minute. You know, at least in the surgical world, if there is a fix, it's It's a rather more immediate fix on that. Gratification is tremendous.

spk_0:   17:43
Wow, that's very powerful. I feel like this is, um, a theme that I hear people talk about in their third and fourth years of medical school. But there are these very formative experiences that once you experience them, whether it's a patient or something happening in the hospital or an attending, they really impact your career. Right off of that, it's almost like I don't even know what you can compare that formative time to being a teenager. Maybe because I have things that you see, you're just so important to what's about to happen then for you in the future.

spk_1:   18:17
So true. And you know what, Terry There in the most unexpected places in the most unexpected ways they really are and it's it's, you know, it's not like the heavens opens and you hear the voice of God saying, OK, Carrie, you are going to be the next cardiothoracic surgeon. That may happen, but it's often in the stillness and in the quiet. Well, your mind can just sort of process that you get a sense of what? Of what you really find important and what you really want to do. And, you know, sometimes it's, Ah, it's a struggle and sometimes you know it down on dhe. That's okay. That is the beautiful thing about Edison. And the beautiful thing about being a medical student is that you can experience and you can enjoy. You can even change your mind. It's wonderful. I mean, people go from, you know, a psychiatry to anesthesia. I mean, but you know, most of us, I think you kind of know in your soul, and it's a matter of letting that conscious recognition come to your being. If that doesn't sound too esoteric,

spk_0:   19:28
No, I don't think it does. I think oftentimes as a student and a nice I'm sure as somebody who's practicing, it's difficult to make the time in the day to be quiet and to listen to all those thoughts. And so I'd be curious when you look back on your time as a student, Is there a habit that you I felt like you were able to do that with to get the space to have time to reflect? Oh,

spk_1:   19:51
definitely. I, um, even as an undergrad, um, I've always loved morning o. R is. My husband kindly refers to me. I am a daughter, not a runner. Oh, our hero. Um, but I found that to be extremely cathartic. And of course, we know when you're a medical student and you're getting exam after exam or you're on rotations mean sometimes your only good given, you know, 30 minutes a day, we even 20 minutes a day. It really doesn't matter. But I think you're hitting on something that's really important. And it's actually one that I think is a medical student or even Justus a human being. And I say this to the women. I'm privileged to take care of. We owe it to ourselves to allow ourselves time for our soul and for our mind and for our body to decompress every day and some days. It might be 10 minutes, and some days it might be 20 and if it's a wheel the day, it might be 40. But you must take time for yourself. Whether you're a mother of eight or a surgical resident or a first year medical student, your mind and your sanity hinge upon it and whether it's listening to music or meditating or playing an instrument. Or as I was saying for me, it was running on again. Surrounding yourself with people are members of medical student them a few of my incredible friends, lifelong friends and I'm still in contact with. We go out and run together and just that time to decompress. And I particularly like the physical because I always you felt that you know, when you're such intensely mentally focused, I think physical exercise kind of helps re center, and we focus you, but clearly anything But the point is you deserve it and you need it, and it may be different from day to day but it absolutely must be every day. You must take time for yourself. There is no negotiating that no matter who you are or what you are,

spk_0:   22:04
I love that. Thank you for sharing that I that's so important. I hope that whoever's out there listening here that time and time again and I need to your time and time again as well, because that could be difficult to remind yourself when you're getting in the swing of many things, but so important that I totally agree. If you had to choose here, I guess we've been basically filling the last 10 minutes with advice or so. But if you had to choose one piece of advice for a woman who is in college or in medical school, what do you think it would be?

spk_1:   22:39
Without a doubt, You are good enough. It's just that simple. It's It's a period. You are good enough, period. You were good enough. You are good enough as you are. You don't need the world's validation. You don't need people to tell you that doesn't mean that you're going to succeed it everything you know. But, um, you know, you fall down 1000 times Get back up. 1001 life has its ups and downs. Life's has its successes and failures. But that doesn't mean that you can't achieve and you can't succeed. Um, no matter what, if you put your goal to it and I think a lot of times people doubt that and I think that's where the problem is, if you doubt that you're good enough if you doubt that you can succeed. I heard some statistic about I think it was Steven Spielberg. He got rejected like 300 times before he finally needed as a director. I'm just tells you, I mean and look who he is. I mean, he's one of them. I mean, you know, most famous, well known directors and you know, clearly clearly he had the drive to persist. Clearly he knew rejection and failure. But it's what you do with that, and it's how you get through it. So if you are facing any kind of you know what appears to be a quote failure, I would say it's simply a challenge that is going to be overcome one way or another. But I think we really we really the collective we myself included, really suffered from a sense of I'm good enough and I'm good enough the way I am. You know, I'm not asking you Hey, the bar. But we're good enough. Good enough. And we will achieve and succeed, especially when there's an overwhelming number of voice is real or sometimes even, you know, embellished in our minds that tell us we're not. Can't You cannot listen to those.

spk_0:   24:45
I love that. Thank you so much for sharing that you're so welcome in, um, kind of changing the way that our conversation is going a little bit. I do want to spend some time talking about the experience of being a woman in your field and some of the challenges or benefits that you have found in your job in that way, eh? So I guess specifically, let's start with as a female practitioner, especially working in the breast field, you get to work women all day, which I'm sure, is, um, wonderful. Could you talk about some of the good things or some the gifts that you find working as a female doctor?

spk_1:   25:23
Yeah, I Let me tell you, I think one of the greatest gifts I could ever be given in this universe is taking care of other humans. Other people. I'm blessed that they're mostly women, although there are some men. And let me tell you, men are fabulous. I don't want this to be like any type of I don't care of women and you know yes, go elsewhere. But, um, I think it is such an absolute privilege to to take care of people, particularly in the surgical world. It's the absolute ultimate trust that you have with your with your patients. When they go to sleep, they are completely trusting of you 1000%. They are trusting your judgment. They're trusting your skill. They're trusting your integrity. They're trusting your knowledge. They're trusting your honesty. Um, there's nothing like the privilege of operating on a woman or anybody, for that matter, that trust is sacred. And I really think that the day that I should ever not realize the intensity of that of that bond is the day I need to attire. So I'm surgeries of very, very unique fields in that regards. Um, I could go on and on why I think breast surgery is the best thing ever, but I will say that I realized most of the listeners are probably not going into breast surgery, and that's that's perfectly fine. That's not the goal. But I would say that as a woman and I would bet the G y N folks feel similarly. But I would say in breast surgery in particular, it's one of those service is where it actually I think, is advantageous to be a woman. Women want women, and I think there's an understanding as a woman speaking to another woman who, if she is telling you about her breast pain or if she's telling you about how you know certain times of the month, you know her breasts, her are you no heavy and tender and so on and so forth? I think there's an empathy there that as a woman is really it's quite it's quite powerful, and I think furthermore, with the cancer patients that I'm privileged to take care of when you look a woman in the eye who's so frightened about what this means and you know as if the diagnosis and the treatment isn't as difficult enough with breast surgery, there's the whole layer of sexuality that were also afraid to talk about ago near. But I'm talking about a woman sense of self esteem on. I'm talking about relationships with her partner I'm talking about, you know, when she looks in the mirror every day when she puts her clothes on her confidence. Um, and I think it's a very unique and sacred bond toe. How with a woman where you can actually understand her in more than just the medical and in more than just the biological meaning. Okay, your breast cancers ductile, and it's estrogen positive and so on and so forth. Those things. You're critical. We can't, we cannot. We will not underestimate or not delve into those those issues wholeheartedly. But then there comes the level of taking care of a woman's soul and her spirit. And I have always said that, you know, cure is really not the focus it should be. Healing feeling is inclusive of cure, but cures of the body, where feeling includes the mind and the spirit of the soul, and you cannot go through a journey. A breast cancer without including there was those other elements. So long, long answer to a simple question. But I think in particular breast surgery. I'm very unique. Women in breast surgery are very unique because I think it's that one area where it actually benefits patients tremendously where they want to see. Ah, woman specialist. Um and that's not saying the men that do breast surgery aren't fantastic. Um, let me tell you, my mentor from residency is, you know, there's there's like, you know, there's there's nobody up that high on a pedestal in in my medical cabinet, as you say then him that, um, I don't wanna I don't wanna leave the men out that do take care of women, but I think it's it's ah, it's a very special and it's a very powerful bind that you can have is a woman taking care of another woman in the best of the best world. I think when it comes to you know, the hierarchy. However, as wonderful as it is, I think unfortunately, the majority of Chairman, um, are still men. You know, there are more women coming into those leadership roles, but I think you know there's hope. There's hope with classes like yours, Kerri, and from what I understand, and from what I read, I guess medical schools are now more female dominated than male. Um, so I would hope that that would translate into those leadership positions as well. But I I hate to say it. I still think for the majority there is a glass ceiling. No, you get to a certain point, and then you know, the chairman's, the CEOs, the people running hospitals. Unfortunately, I think we're still very, very male dominated.

spk_0:   30:54
Is there something in the experience of being, um, say, a medical student or a resident that we, as women, can work on to position ourselves to be in positions of making it to be insured women or in that equivalent level of leadership in our future?

spk_1:   31:12
Superb question. I think that would start with, um, when when you look at residency programs for godless of what you go into, whether it's surgery or pediatrics, your family medicine or pathology, I would look for, um, you know, among the things that are important to you. Clearly, one should include looking for programs where there are a lot of women, women, residents, women on the faculty, because that tells you the kind of tone that is being set of that institution and sort of the acceptance level. And I think it also gives you a sense of potentially the trajectory there. Um, I think programs were there. Very few women. Um, you know, there's probably a reason for that. I don't think it's just chance. Um And so, in order to really look at potential leadership on mentorship from women in those leadership positions, I would be very clear to make sure that, you know, the faculty has a lot of a lot of women. Or if there's precedence, no. Have they ever had a female surgeon? Um, excuse me, female chairman. I was just thinking that, um, Julie Fly slag. Who is Ah, woman that I have the absolute privilege of Dr Julie Flash. Like that issue. I had a privilege of hearing her speak at, um it was a symposium, and it was about women in medicine and women empowering women. And this woman is a force to be reckoned with. She's a vascular surgeon by training. Um, I think she was actually the chairman at John Hopkins. I am not sure what institutions she's at now. I'm blanking. Um, but she was just, you know, someone like that, um would be, you know, an absolute powerhouse tohave at an institution where you might work or train. Yeah, I always said I would work in any hospital she's, or any program that she's heading for free, like enough like a food and, you know, right stipend. But that's how how amazed and impressed I am by her and her mentorship and just hearing her speak was so uplifting. And so I think you know, having more of those conferences and having more of those symposiums and putting them together. And, um, you know, the American Women's Association. I mean, all of these things are they're tremendous. This is where it starts. This is where we have a voice. This is where we have a platform.

spk_0:   33:58
That's excellent advice in terms of your experience, Then being a female in surgery, what are some of the things that you feel have been the most challenging? Oh, that's a

spk_1:   34:11
really good Carrie, I think, work life balance, which I think for women and for men. But I clearly just keep to my thoughts. I think in medicine is a really challenge. And I think in particular, um, as as a woman you know, not that everybody wants to have a family or wants to have Children. It's very much an individual choice. Um, but I think finding that balance or just finding the balance of having meaningful relationships, whether it's for the partner, whether it's with your family members, whether it's with, you know, close and do your friends, that might as well be family. Um, I think that's one of the biggest challenges. Um, and I think that's why when I was saying Bar none, I have to make time for yourself, even if it's 10 minutes a day, you have to take that time for yourself. That's easier to do than say, for example, you know, remain happily married. Your spouse is in medicine or not in medicine, for example. So I think there's some very unique challenges for any woman whose career minded and who values and

spk_0:   35:27
you

spk_1:   35:27
know, has significant career aspirations, particularly in medicine, since you know that's that's what we're talking about. But finding that balance is is a real challenge and again advice from a phenomenal mentor that, uh but I I am privileged t know, she said. Look, you can do it all but you may not be able to do it all at once. And I just think that is such a brilliant advice. You know, you can be a mom. You can be a wife. You can be, ah, surgeon if you want to be, you know, in leadership position or what not? What happened? If you want to be the next CEO of, you know, they only haven. What have you? Um, it's not that you can't do it, and it's not that you can't have it all, but it may be the order and the priority on the timing of it, you know? And I think that is profound because I think and myself included, until I got that X, you know, advice. Probably. When I was about 35 I felt that I had to choose that it wasn't going to be that I could be one or the other that I couldn't be, ah, wife or a mom or a sister or a daughter. I was going to have to sacrifice. I was going to have to pick and choose or maybe allow the universe to pick and choose for me. And that's clearly something that I hope people, if they're listening, realized is not the case. You might not be able to do it all meeting. You might have to time things in plan things a little bit differently, especially with child care. Um, but there are plenty of women that you know have Children in residency. God bless them. I don't know how they do that, but it is possible. And the reason I know it's possible is, even though I didn't do it, I saw women do it. And so that's where that mentorship comes in. And so similarly, you know, if you want to climb that ladder, if you're very career focused, absolutely. But you know it's the timing of it, and it's the prioritization of it, and it can shuffle. It's not

spk_0:   37:37
set in stone. That is such important advice and literally brought me into the thing that I was gonna ask you next. It which was in doing that. How do you set your priorities? Uh, I

spk_1:   37:53
think you have to be honest with yourself, and that is so much easier said than done. Um, I'm giving the advice, but let me tell you, um, but I think that's the first thing. That's that's the imperative step to take. And I think sometimes it's frightening to be honest with yourself because of your you're afraid of what it means or you're afraid of, you know, saying it or feeling it or thinking it, Um there may be a guilt associated with it, like, you know, what? If I want to put myself first before my family, Um, you know that maybe the truth. But it's such a such a thing that most people think, Oh, my gosh, I can't Didn't it that I can't admit that to myself? I can't say that out loud. I can't say that to my spouse. Um, but you can't move forward and you can't, you know, be honest and clear without being honest with yourself. That doesn't mean you have to broadcast it to the world. It might be frightening to say, but you have to at least be honest with yourself. Um, so I think that's really central, but that's really, really central. And then I think the realization that

spk_0:   39:12
you

spk_1:   39:12
know what I can prioritize, but the priorities can shuffle. They're not set in stone, Um, and sort of having a somewhat of a game plan and that that, you know, I'll tell you, that's that doesn't mean that you have it all written out. So by the time I'm 30 and four days, I'm going to have 6.3 Children. But, you know, this is something that I wish somebody would have mentioned to me again. A letter to myself. Um, and I wonder why we don't do more of this in medical school. But when we're all in, you know that, you know, I'm gonna be this, that the other may not at all. And certainly I wasn't thinking about, you know, having a family may be the last thing on your mind. Um, but being female, we know that there is, You know, the clock is ticking in a sense, And so, you know, I wish that they would mention, at least in residency programs, look, you know, maybe consider, you know, freezing eggs, or maybe consider, um, you know, options at that point, you know, if you're ready to have kids, great. If you're in a, you know, a in in a position in your life that you can, um if you don't know, that's fine. To give yourself the option, But I think you're so blindsided and you so driven at that point that you're not thinking you may or may not even be in a relationship. You may or may not even want to be a parent, Um, but I But I feel that there needs to be some dialogue about it, at least to give people the option. Or the spot was before You know what, you're in your thirties and not stop the end of the world. And there's no apology for being, you know, career focused and driven. But I just wish that somebody would have Maybe you had a conversation at some point. Like it. This is something that you may consider or want to consider in the future. Give yourself the options. At this point, you know, we just don't talk about it. We don't take care of ourselves that any human level when we're in training.

spk_0:   41:18
Yeah, that's such an important thought to send to people that are younger as well, because the I think the earlier you kind of start to think about these things possibly the more easy they are. Thio, get your thoughts on for yourself about what you really want, because it seems like to me even I mean, I'm finished. You know, in the beginning of my fourth year of medical school, thinking about those things as I'm prioritizing looking at my list of Okay, where do I maybe want to go to residency? What? I maybe want to d'oh. That's like the last thing on the list. But at the same time, if you don't start at some point, you're saying you're gonna be blindsided.

spk_1:   41:54
You'd like that and I'll tell you very honestly, it wasn't on my list. It wasn't even on my list when I graduated from residency. To be honest, it wasn't even on the list. If there was an assumption that was, I hadn't been honest with myself. I hadn't really thought about it. I didn't take the time to sit down and say, OK, what are my goals? One of my long term goals and more importantly, how do I keep my options open? Well, you want to have a kid, you don't want to have a kid or who knows, but allow yourself the option should it lend itself. I mean, I think that's where being honest and That's where prioritizing comes in because you at least have had a conversation. Have had a thought. Um, may act on it may not, but but it's at least on your weight are. And it's not that you're committing to anything either. But it's at least ah, thought that has processed in your mind. Because I would say the majority of us and I put myself number one, you completely blindsided. And you're so focused because that's all you've ever been. You don't get to be 1/4 year medical student without being extremely intelligent, extremely hard working, extremely driven, extremely ambitious. I mean, and I'm scratching the surface. I'm not even doing it justice, but the beauty of all that and there's tremendous beauty and that you can rule the world and you can change the world. And it's not just hocus pocus, but in that we forget ourselves, and that might include other things. I'm just using the biology is an example. Um, you know, some people may want to I mean, my husband, for example. Thank God he has a day job, but he really wanted to be like a basketball player, like Serious. Thank God he has a day job. But did you send? The matter is you can't lose yourself whether it's you really have in your soul to, you know, do something or be something you have to you have to feed it on. And if you don't know, that's fine. But I would say Keep that option open. Don't neglect it. Um, yeah, and we're not programmed to think that way because we go, go, go We go and succeed. Go and blow that us, Emily two out of the water. You know, rock those interviews get the best residency and that that is phenomenal and fantastic and does require an intensity. And that's the priority right now. Um, but just kind of looking at the long range and just kind of, you know, what? What are my overall goals here? That includes lifestyle, you know, when you think about what to go into, you know, for some people, it's very clear that they lifestyles really important. That's one of their goals. Um, and then there's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's just being honest with yourself. What is what is important.

spk_0:   44:53
It seems like this is a conversation that we need Thio have early on in medical school, to be honest with you to promoting his types of things. Yeah,

spk_1:   45:02
100%. And they don't happen. I mean, I hope things have changed. I can tell you, we did not have any impetus. Um, as far as lifestyle, you know, conversations and and all of this that we're talking about, which is, as I said, Carrie, that's why this is so absolutely magnificent that you're doing this and that your putting it out there so that it is available to people because otherwise I don't know. Carrie, do they do this in your school? Are they doing this now? Is part of medical school curriculum.

spk_0:   45:32
I think that Quinnipiac has made a great stride toward adding We haven't interest group that specifically talks about lifestyle on, and we have ah, couple of resource is that student affairs offers us in our various like weeks of orientation and weeks in between blocks, et cetera. It's almost like it needs to be a longitude and all part of your curriculum. Like you're explaining that throughout this time, you you have dedicated windows where you're supposed to be thinking about these things because and last year, having that time in spending the moment, being honest with yourself, then it's not always, I think, used as wisely as it should be. But at the same time, I mean, maybe that's just part of the personal growth that we should all be having, I don't know. But if it's an interesting point and very important to include in, I think even thoughts from when you're in college, you know, how am I gonna really, truly set the goals that are important for me? I

spk_1:   46:31
think you make an outstanding point, Kerry, which is, you know, multiple interfaces, because again you evolve and you change. I'm sure what you know now and what you think now it may be similar to what you felt was the first year, but it I suspect not. Or it may have changed or evolved in some way. And so your goals, your perceptions, your interests, they evolve, they evolve with your education, they evolve with your experiences, and so issues that maybe not, you know, we're not, you know, obvious or important at one point strictly may surface after, you know, experience. Um, you know something is something intense. So, you know, if you rotate on the cardiothoracic service and you think Oh, my God, this is, like, the best thing ever. I can't grieve about being a cardiac surgeon. But then now you know, at some level you're gonna think But, you know, how am I gonna balance you know, my life And how am I gonna bat? Because that's intense and the years of residency and training and and that that that comes about from your experience and from your journey through medical school. So I think your point is right on that. There need to be multiple interfaces throughout the four years.

spk_0:   47:48
Absolutely. Well, Dr rest of this has just been an absolutely outstanding conversation. Thank you so much for coming and for sharing all of your advice. It's been wonderful.

spk_1:   47:58
My absolute pleasure. I again I applaud you from here to where you are, about how phenomenal this is. And I think for you and for anybody who's listening to this, just remember, keep your eye on the end point There. You know the ups and downs the bumps. Yes, that's part of the journey. But the endpoint is the end point and if you're convicted to get there, then you are going to get there. And, you know, surrounding yourself with the positive cabinet, as you put it so well. And the mentors, um, the mentors that mentor you about different, different things. But but having mentors, having people that are in your corner listening to your inner voice, being honest with yourself and then and then realizing that you are good enough and you will achieve and you will succeed. And that doesn't mean it won't be without challenges or even potential perceived failures. But you will get to the end point. Just keep your eye on the end point. Don't take your eyes off of

spk_0:   49:05
it. Thank you, Dr. Risk for joining us on essential wisdom Inspiring future female physicians. Your heartfelt and inspiring words are so appreciated. Thank you to the listeners for tuning in. This was such a fun episode to record, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I d'oh! If you're new to listening, thank you for joining us. Don't forget to subscribe. You confined us on apple podcast, Spotify podcasts or online at essential wisdom dot buzz sprout dot com. You can find additional information about these physicians online at essential wisdom, inspiring physicians dot com. On Thursday, we are welcoming Dr Lauren Kane, a congenital cardiac surgeon, to the show. Make sure to tune in. If you have questions. Comments. Please drop these on the Web site at essential wisdom inspiring physicians dot com. Thank you all for listening. Happy Monday. Have a great week.