When you are a female in a male-dominated field, you tend to have a lot of male mentors. As I look back on my career and my education, I can only remember one true asshole that I encountered. The rest of my men-tors were incredibly generous, respectful, and encouraging to me.
So you probably want to hear about that one asshole, right? Glass half empty kind of people aren’t you? All gloom and doom? Wallow in the mud? Enjoy gawking at car accidents much? It’s OK, I’ll oblige. This time. Oh hell, every time.
You’ll have to refer back to one of my earlier posts. Let me make it easier for you:
The surgeon and I were between cases so we sat idly in the doctor’s lounge that was within the OR suite. He was reading the newspaper, I was halfheartedly leafing through a dreadful golf magazine with one eye on the television. Another surgeon, a vascular surgeon, came in and stood before my surgeon in what appeared to be an epic tizzy. In all honesty, I had no idea what they were discussing, I think it was all about hospital administration gobbly gook. I was too enthralled in the latest golf news to notice. The vascular surgeon stopped abruptly, took one look at me, who wasn’t even paying attention, and promptly said:
You. Hey you. Who are you?
Me? (looking around, it must be me) Oh, I’m Kim. I’m a medical student.
I don’t give a f^ck who you are. Get the f^ck out of here! Leave right now! You have no right to be here. Go! Leave! Get the f^ck out!
He moved towards me, intimidating, his body coming closer with each exclamation. I was in a state of absolute shock. I looked at my surgeon in desperation. I’m not supposed to leave him. We were going to be scrubbing in for a case momentarily. Where was I supposed to go? You can’t just hang around the OR hallways. Why wasn’t he standing up for me? Did he really just use the f-word, like 50 times? Can he do that? My surgeon waved his hand toward me, motioning for me to leave.
It’s OK Kim, go ahead and leave.
So I did. I went into the locker room. Went into a bathroom stall and tried my damnedest not to cry. I was about 85% successful. I was petrified. My heart was racing. My hands were shaking. I concentrated on taking deep breaths. The last thing that I wanted to do was let anyone see that he had gotten to me.
I never quite felt the same about my surgeon again. I felt betrayed.
Later we would rejoin in the OR and he never mentioned it. Like it never happened.
Months later, I was rotating with the hospital neurosurgeon group. They were a wonderful and supportive group of guys and in casual conversation, I told one of them about the experience. He said it didn’t surprise him. That’s all. And we went onto other topics.
One night, we were following up on a few patients before heading home. I saw that asshole vascular surgeon again. He was rounding on some of his patients, too. My heart sank. I felt that fear all over again. I felt intimidated. My heart was racing and inside I cowered. The neurosurgeon said:
Hey J working late tonight?
They had idle conversation, I was invisible, thankfully, and then:
Meet my medical student, this is Kim.
And that same vascular surgeon had to shake my hand. And I knew that he knew what was happening because a funny look flashed across his face. Or maybe I gripped his hand a little too tightly. He couldn’t make me leave this time.