Caring for Patients: Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day

March is Women’s History Month and the theme is “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment. “   March 8, was Internal Women’s Day.  The theme was “Inspiring Change.”  Many of my patients would say to me “Thank you taking such good care of me, but I worry about who takes care of you? “ I have thought about that over the years,

The answer to that question is not so easy to elucidate.  I started to reflect and I realized it is the women that I have in my life who care for me and inspire me. Not just one but all of them.  It started with my mother who has always had a sixth sense and always calls at just the right time.  She could look into my eyes and know I was not feeling well. Through high school, college and medical school she was my greatest supporter but also never stop reminding me that she “expected better from me.” That was because I was the oldest child. Not only was my mother there for me but all my aunts.  I had four mothers. The biggest supporter was my grandmother who always made me feel special.  However, she loved all of us the same.  This was evident when she handed out praise or discipline.

My sisters are great.  They have always thought I was the smart one.  However, I think my sister Kathy is the smartest.  She has fixed ripped seams, hemmed and sewn dresses, designed curtains and just been there with her laughter and positive outlook.  She recently finished her degree.  Her goal is to start a program to help students get prepared for college and the workforce. She never has a harsh word or thought for anyone.

In school, I had committed teachers who recognized I was a step ahead.  It started in first grade.  I recently saw my second grade teacher.  She was still so sweet and filled with prasie.  Until 5th grade, I went to a segregated school.  My sixth grade teacher could have ignored me but she made sure, that I was placed in the honors program for seventh and eighth grade. I was always an avid reader but that program expanded my skills.  Her support was instrumental in my success in high school.

It was my first HS English teacher that pushed me the most. She fearlessly challenged me to write better and read more.  This was despite taking all those math and science courses.  She forced me to put pen to paper and graded my work honestly. I dreaded but learned to rise to the challenge of that “red pen.”  My initial papers were hemorrhaging red ink.  My challenge was to decrease the amount of bleeding.

I had my host of friends in HS. They were there when I lost the race for Student Body President.  One of them became my roommate in college. It broke my heart when she left school to get married.  My next roommate was also wonderful.  When I go home, I still get together with several of my friends from college. We always went to parties together and our rule was “We came together, we leave together.” That kept us all safe.

My best friend from medical school is still my best friend.  She is an OB/GYN.  We have supported each other through many stormy times. She offered to whisk me away on the morning of my first wedding.  She knew what I would later learn; it was not what was right for me at that time. However, there were no hard feelings.

In residency I met my other long-time friend, she is a family physician.  She called me once a week.  For years, we met twice a year at medical conferences to catch-up.  She was an exercise fanatic and I stayed in shape so I could keep up with her.  She is ten years older and still looks great.  When her father died, I was in Maryland.  We could not get up for the funeral. So we all went to see “Having Our Say”, the remarkable play about the Delaney sisters, when I finally could get to see her and her mother.

My late friend who was a Cardiologist adopted me while I lived in Maryland.  We would make shopping trips to the Nordstrom for the Half-Yearly Sale. We would take a Friday off and have a blast.  She taught me about fine cooking and how to write a consultation.  After her help, I received praise from a doctor at Johns Hopkins when I referred a patient.  When he sent me a consultation note, he began by thanking me for the most thorough letter he had received in years.

All these great women were there for me. They are in my yoga class, my female col leagues, former residents and my new friends.  Most important over the past 30 years, it has been my husband who has been there and since we met, has had a positive approval rating from all these women.  He once said “he never worried where I was because he always knew I was in good company.”  He meant all my friends.

I want to thank all the wonderful and courageous women who have been and still are in my life.  They have taught me to be passionate, courageous, and serve others with humility and compassion.

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