Voices: Saying Thanks

Saying Thanks | Erin Stevens, MD

The time comes every June and July when the graduating fellows leave and the new fellows start their subspecialty training. Graduation is not something unfamiliar at this point in our careers. We’ve done high school, college, medical school, and residency graduation in the preceding 16 or so years of our lives. We’re old hat at graduating. But outside of the pomp and circumstance that surrounds our departure from training, it is also a time to say thank you and good-bye.

I spent one of my last Fridays as a fellow in June wandering around the chemotherapy units at our two hospitals, the oncology floor, and the clinic. The nurses, aides and clerks on these floors took care of my patients during my three years of fellowship and I wanted to say thank you. What saddened me was how surprised they were that I would do such a thing. I guess they are often overlooked during our harried departures every June, yet I knew my fellowship wouldn’t have been the same without them.

Harder still was saying good-bye to my patients in the clinic. Many of these patients I had operated on and cared for throughout my three years of fellowship. Some had recurred, some were on surveillance, and others were there just in spirit, having passed on during my time as a fellow. My last clinic felt more like a photo session than office hours as I took pictures with my patients, full of smiles and a few tears. They thanked me for being their doctor, not truly understanding how much each of them had taught me along the way.

Graduation night was my opportunity to thank my faculty for teaching me and my residents for putting up with me and my typical Type A personality that comes with being a gynecologic oncologist. Instead, my residents turned the tables on me, with two of them preparing a speech and a box of things that they thought might come in handy for me in Montana. The box included many of the things I used on a daily basis: post-its, high lighters, pens, paperclips; things that had become a constant source of jokes over the years. It also contained heartfelt notes of thanks from all of the residents and a poster to hang in my office entitled “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” with a map of Brooklyn and pictures of me and the residents over the years. My faculty were wonderful in their own regard, praising my skills and assuring me that I will go out and do great things. In turn, I thanked them for their teaching and for allowing me to pursue all of my research interests over my time there. It was hard to believe the time had come to a close.

We all choose gynecologic oncology as a career because of someone who inspired us to do it along the way. I was very lucky as a resident to have five great gynecologic oncologists as role models and now colleagues in the field. But one of them in particular dealt with me as I agonized over the order of my rank list, as I doubted my strength and skill along the way, and as I ultimately chose my future job. So our intention was to celebrate on my last day of fellowship, but the weather didn’t cooperate. So on Friday, July 5, I thanked my mentor for putting up with me for the last eight years…

Erin-Stevens_airplane_jump

By jumping out of a plane–together.

Dr. Stevens will be joining Randy Gibb, MD as a full-time gynecologic oncologist at Billings Clinic in Billings, MT.

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