Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Doctor thoughts

I've been given this thing, a doctor award, for my involvement in the sexual health clinic in a neighbouring town. I've been providing them with physician services for 12 years, about once a month. It's a very quiet clinic most of the time, with a small client base, but the teen pregnancy rate has dropped dramatically since we started it. I don't mind the work; I actually like working with adolescents, which is what most of our client base is, and this little corner of medicine is something I'm reasonably competent at.

I am, however, humbled and disconcerted by the award. It involves an all-expenses-paid trip to Vancouver, an awards ceremony, a bio and headshot published in a brochure and the opportunity to say a few words. Yikes! I don't at all like being publicly recognized for my work. I had no idea my clinic had nominated me, and would have asked them not to if I'd known this was in the works. The award is in memory of an MD who died while doing a medical evacuation of a woman in labour in a remote corner of our province. He too worked in his community's sexual health clinic where he was known for his compassion and his ability to make his co-workers feel valued and respected.

I feel inadequate being recognized for my doctor work with an award in memory of this guy. I am, as I tell people, "barely a doctor." As the years have gone by my maternity leave from full-time medical practice has become fairly permanent. First I chose to return only to an extremely part-time practice. A few years later I stopped covering the ER and let my hospital privileges drop. A year or so I decided that due to a lack of ongoing breadth of experience with general medicine I needed to limit my scope of practice to well-woman care and sexual health issues. And so my medical expertise and contribution continues to shrink.

Yeah, I think I do some pretty okay work with young teens, I'm open-minded in providing prenatal care to people who are drawn to natural and alternative medicine and birth plans, I'm slick with Pap smears and I can juggle birth control pills and insert IUDs. I have good relationships with my outreach clinic staff and volunteers. I drive 40 mountainous minutes each way through winter nights to staff a quiet clinic in a town that doesn't have anyone else to do the job. I feel a sense of obligation to the clinic I helped start. But I do so little of it! Even if you do something well and reliably it seems unjust to be honoured for it when there are so many people who work so much harder at it than you do.

So can I make my peace with this? My preference would be to plead parenting obligations and bail on the trip to Vancouver but I know that I owe it to the staff who nominated me to accept it with gratitude and graciousness. Sometimes I wish I didn't have this other life as a doctor; it can be awkward.


  1. Anonymous9:45 pm

    I had no idea that you were/are a doctor but I'm sure that if you were nominated for an award you deserve it. Can't help you on the go/don't go dilemma, I'm afraid!

  2. Anonymous11:00 pm

    I suggest considering what you are modeling for your kids. It is not just the original, spectacular or flashy accomplishments that deserves acknowledgment. Being dependable, kind and trustworthy are honorable things that are too often overlooked in this world. Be gracious and model for your kids that it is an okay thing to accept appreciation for things that may seem perfectly ordinary to you.

  3. Wow, Congrats! I agree with the above comment, you are getting the award because you deserve it. It would probably mean a lot to those who nominated you that you attend.... good luck on your decision!

  4. Anonymous11:59 am

    Congratulations! Remember that in accepting the award, it's not just for you - you're also acknowledging the work of everyone else in the clinic for providing a much needed resource that otherwise would not exist.

    Besides, as anonymous said, it's not only the glittery big achievements that deserve recognition. You're the person who quietly kept going every month for twelve years, even though you had kids, even though it meant you had less time for your own hobbies like running, with no thought of reward. People appreciate that kind of commitment to the community and your patients, and that's sounds like the kind of thing that this award acknowledges.

    Congratulations! :)

  5. I never liked getting attention and even if someone thought of me and gave me a small gift, I would say (and think) I'm not worthy, you shouldnt have etc....I had a friend say to me once "just take it and say thank you, sincerely". The fact that you are humble and quiet makes it all the more special. How nice to be recognized by your colleagues:) Good for you:)

  6. I'm no help on the go/don't go situation because I'd be feeling awkward on the fence, too, but congratulations!


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