How Parenthood Improved my Practice: 3 Lessons from Motherhood that Made me a Better Surgeon

One of the proudest moments of my life occurred in a hospital ward, but not when I was performing surgery in the O.R… It happened when I became a mother. Since having my first child, I am now a proud mom of three, and a lot in my life has changed… all for the better. As a parent, I also discovered something I never expected: it’s made me a better doctor. Here are some lessons I’ve learned as a mom that have improved my practice, and made me a better surgeon.

Reward Best Practices: As Chief Surgeon at my private practice, and Chief-Mom-In-Charge at home, there are many people who look to me for direction and guidance. As a mom, something I routinely witness is the power of rewarding good behavior. I try and practice this both in my practice and at home. When a team-member goes above and beyond for a patient, or one of my kids puts extra effort into studying for a test, it’s important to me that they receive recognition for their work. It’s somewhat Pavlovian, but by rewarding best practices, and encouraging your children, or your team to constantly strive further, and be the best they can be, you get far better results than by over-managing, or being a “helicopter parent.” Great leaders don’t over-manage, they lead by example, and trust their team. As a mom, and head of a private practice, I trust my “teams” and encourage them to do their best… and they, in turn, always surpass my expectations.

Honesty Really is the Best Policy: As a mom, it’s important to me that my children feel they can come to me with any issue or challenge they face. The same goes for my patients. That’s why I practice the policy of total honesty, and encourage my kids to do the same. As a mom, I am direct, and keep my kids informed of my decisions and perspectives. I found with parenting, when I am upfront with my kids, they in turn, feel more comfortable sharing with me. The doctor-patient relationship is also best served by a “full disclosure” approach. That’s why I don’t charge for consultations… the more information the patient has, the more confident they feel making good choices about their health and well-being. When I work with patients that have specific fears, or reservations, or who have questions about a technique, they trust me to give an honest, informed answer. They trust me to hear them, respond to their concerns directly and really understand their needs. I’ve learned from motherhood, that by encouraging free discourse, listening, and a “safe environment” for everyone to be heard, everyone wins.

Organization is Everything: Let me say that again. Organization is everything. As a mom, you have to be able to balance schedules, multitask and be effective with time management. Being organized means putting a system in play, so you can make time to see important tasks through, follow up, and be attentive to other people’s needs. As a mom, it’s also key to set time aside to think ahead, strategize and be proactive— what school will my child attend next year? How can I help foster my daughter’s interest in math? How is my son getting to his event on Saturday? It’s a lot to manage. Which means, staying organized is a must. As a surgeon, I manage appointments, follow-ups, check-ins and time in the O.R. I also think ahead… what more can I be doing for my patients? When it comes to being organized, I’ve also found that using the latest technology can really move the needle. Now, with the iPhone, I can help my kids with assignments via mobile device: it’s revolutionized how parents can support and teach their children. As a doctor, I like to take advantage of new technologies too. I always make myself aware of the newest advancements in my field, so I can incorporate them in my practice. By staying organized, my life as a mom and surgeon has been more fulfilling, productive and rewarding.

As a mother and surgeon, I’ve been challenged in remarkable ways. When I first became a mom, I was intimidated by the demands of performing both roles effectively: I wanted to be a great surgeon, and a great mom. Ultimately, what I learned was, having kids helps you focus on what is most important at work and in life, and be more effective with how you use your time and energy. As a mom, I try to reward best practices, be honest and informative, and stay organized. This has helped me in my practice… as well as know when to pick my daughter up from her latest orchestra recital.

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