At a point in our careers when we are deciding what medical specialty to choose and evaluating our goals and expectations; how can we make these decisions in the overall context of our lives, with the ultimate pursuit of balance and happiness.
According to the American Board of Neurosurgery there are 219 board-certified female neurosurgeons, and I am proud to be one of them. But how did I come to the conclusion that neurosurgery would be my ultimate path and what advice can I share with those who choose to follow the same path, or those that struggle with the decision to follow another specialty?
For me, the neurosciences were always a part of who I was. I was fascinated by the brain, the thin gossamer wires and neurons that tethered our micro-connections. The most fascinating, complex and interesting organ of the body; this was my opinion. I began undergraduate knowing that someday I would pursue the neurosciences, and involved myself early on with neuroscience research. Somehow managing to split my time between class schedules and cell cultures, pipetting and lab meetings when time allowed.
I never had a clear path in mind, but it was a rough sketch, the fragmented puzzle that existed with the pieces still not yet connected, but moving closer by inches daily.
But then, life took its own course. My mother, who was always a strong, powerful figure in my life was tragically diagnosed with a ruptured anterior communicating artery aneurysm. And this is when I met a neurosurgeon for the first time. He came to the emergency room, being on call for the hospital and introduced himself with authority. He was able to obtain all the necessary diagnostic testing, schedule an angiogram and ultimately took her to surgery the next day, to secure and clip her aneurysm.
After her extensive recovery and rehabilitation, I began thinking much about this man who was a neurosurgeon. I imagined his diligence, resilience and fortitude. I thought about his educational background, vast knowledge and stellar operative skills. And so, this is when I decided that neurosurgery would be my path.
We all need to choose what will keep us going as physicians and surgeons in those dark hours. When we are tired and fatigued, hungry and exhausted, angry for missing yet another family event that is special or meaningful. We need to find what will keep us going.
For me, what keeps me passionate about my field as a neurosurgeon is providing outstanding care to those in the greatest of need. I have utilized my skills not only nationally but internationally, performing charity work in South India to the indigent. And I want to do more.
I suggest finding something that you love for whatever reason it is and holding onto it. Because there will be times when your loyalty to your field will be questioned… by you. We do not need death or tragedy to find the thing that we love, but we do need a purpose and passion for whatever specialty we choose.
This is what keeps us going.
Dr. Sheri Dewan, M.S., M.D. is a full-time Neurosurgeon practicing in the Metro Chicago area. She is 1 of 200 board certified women neurosurgeons in the United States. She can be followed @drsheridewan