Reaching Your Dream

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I told everyone that I wanted to be a pediatrician since I was around five years old. Of course then I had little idea about how hard it would be or how long it would take to reach that goal. Once in college, I started tackling the academic prerequisites and making many sacrifices along the way. By the time my dream came to fruition thirteen years (4 years college + research year + 4 yrs medical school + 3 yrs residency + 1 chief year) later, I had spent so long focused on the journey that I hadn’t thought much beyond it.

Although I earned my MD degree in 2008, it didn’t feel fully real until I completed residency and started my first job in 2012, where I would make decisions independently without direct supervision. There are still many days that I have to pinch myself. I love being a pediatrician and feel so fortunate to have a career that is emotionally and academically challenging and rewarding on a daily basis.

Children often tell me that they want to be a pediatrician when they grow up. In my jokey manner I usually pretend that they are just trying to butter me up so they don’t get shots and then they laugh and insist, “no I reaaaaallllly do, Dr. Lockwood.” I know though that for every five-year old like me who says this, there will be many more who will eventually chose another path. I am usually encouraging though because it is a great dream to have, even if only temporarily. One day a twelve-year old straight A student told me that she planned to be a pediatrician and I really believed her. My advice: many will tell you that you won’t be a doctor, but if you really want to, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Why would I say that people will tell her this? There were so many naysayers on my journey, whether a brief encounter or an ongoing mentor. One of the biggest was the pre-medical dean of my undergraduate college. This was the hardest to hear. I don’t think that this dean meant that I couldn’t or shouldn’t be a doctor, but rather that she had seen so many like me fail and wanted me to be realistic about having a back-up plan. I didn’t want to hear that though. I had a secret back-up plan, but giving it any real consideration felt like I was admitting failure and I wanted to spend all my energy toward reaching my goal. With every stumble though, I thought of her doubts and it pushed me to prove her wrong, do better, work harder.

So I told the hopeful twelve-year-old on my exam table that she should use the naysayer’s doubt to fuel her toward her goal. She confided that someone had already told her she probably couldn’t do it and appreciated that I told her to ignore them. Why would anyone doubt this little girl’s intentions? Many people think that a child can’t make such a serious decision. Others have a notion of what a doctor looks like that might not include a girl/woman, an African-American, or a child coming from a family living below the poverty line. She might be the first doctor in her family. Maybe she got a poor grade, and maybe it was in a science (gasp!). For any of these reasons, her road will not be easy, but if she feels called to medicine the way I was, it will be worth it.

Per aspera ad astra

(“through hardships to the stars“)

Skating Into 2017

The end of 2016 brought with it a few surprises and challenges, so when the last few days of this year brought a flu-like illness, it seemed an appropriately timed way to wind down a rough stretch of weeks and start fresh in a new year. As my sinuses cleared and I started to feel the renewed vigor of health after illness, I saw the hope in a new beginning.

In the past year, I have not written here as much as I wished. I hope to remedy that in the months ahead, but here are some of the things that kept me busy away from the blog:

  1. I started a podcast!  http://www.chop.edu/health-resources/primary-care-perspectives-podcast-pediatricians
  2. I published a very personal piece about the birth of my son in JAMA Pediatrics:  http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2580309
  3. I published my 3rd and 4th pieces on KevinMD: http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/?s=Katie+Lockwood

I have some other things that I wrote that are still trying to find the right publisher, so stay tuned. It has been humbling to write intimate pieces about my life and find them rejected repeatedly, but I know that is the process and it pushes me to edit further and work harder.

In 2016 I also took on a few new roles at work, including a leadership position as the Director of Continuing Education for the CHOP Care Network. These new roles provided me with fresh challenges that keep me excited while also giving me the flexibility to spend two afternoons a week with my son after school. It has made my work-life integration even more satisfying, albeit busy.

I started some good habits this past year that I would like to expand on and hope to remain committed. First, I started reading (fiction) again and joined a book club. As a working mom, it feels great to reclaim a hobby and some me-time. Second, I started exercising. Not only was I looking to shed a few pounds, but I really want to be healthier for my kids. I bought a spin bike and started doing a few at-home exercises. I have never liked gyms or exercise classes, but I found a class that I enjoy and went a few times this Fall. In a very cliché New Year’s resolution, I would like to do this more often.

I am full of other cliché New Year’s resolutions, like using my phone less, seeing my friends more, and traveling more with my family. 2016 had its fair share of disappointments, but it was full of opportunities as well. 2017 will be about what we do with those opportunities. On New Year’s Eve, we took our 5- and 3-year-olds ice skating for the first time. Like the weak-ankled-first-timers they were, they were awful at it. I wasn’t exactly Kristi Yamaguchi either, but 2016 reminded me that I need to be a role model for the kids, even if imperfect. So I cheered them on with hope (“look, you are doing it!”), love (“yay, let’s take a family picture on skates”), realism (“this is supposed to be hard”), and a touch of impatience (“just STAND UP”) because I am human and can only carry someone on skates for so long. So if 2017 is like ice skating, let’s hope that this year we are able to stand up on our own, shuffle our feet forward, and try not to humiliate ourselves in front of the children.

Standing Together

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Before my family stuffed ourselves with our delicious Thanksgiving feast, we took a minute to acknowledge what is happening at Standing Rock. Amidst the fun of family reunions, football, and eating pie it can be easy to forget the complex and painful history of Thanksgiving and Native Americans. So it seemed appropriate that our extended family chose to donate money to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe on Thanksgiving, acknowledging the importance of Native Americans in our past, present, and future, while honoring an aunt who exemplifies compassion and unity.

In the recent deluge of political articles and posts, the coverage of the North Dakota Access Pipeline seems to get buried, as no candidate has taken a strong stand on this issue. So I was excited to see that one of my favorite kid play spaces, Play Arts, is hosting a banner-making and supply drop-off event in support of Standing Rock. Their event is on Thursday, December 1st, from 10-11:30 AM. Anyone who brings a donation also gets to play for free in their amazing play space. There is a list of suggested donations on their site also. If you can’t attend this event, there are other ways to get involved and show support if you are interested.

November was a difficult month, but with all the gratitude flowing from Thanksgiving into #GivingTuesday, December is full of hope. When my aunt heard at Thanksgiving that we donated to Standing Rock in her name she said something similar to what President Obama said, that if you believe in something, you should make your voice heard. This is the message that I want my children to hear, who know nothing of fracking, climate change, or eminent domain yet, but are learning to assert their opinions in their own age-appropriate ways. As I walked my 5-year-old home from kindergarten today, I told him that his teacher complained he was too loud in class. He responded simply and confidently, “yes, I was loud.” And I smiled and thought, oh little one, now for what will you use your loud voice?

 

[Disclaimer: All opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I am not responsible for the content or quality of external sites and links are provided only for your convenience. I have no affiliation with Play Arts or any of the Standing Rock or Sioux tribe charities or organizations. You should use your own informed judgement when making donations.]

Thankful and Nostalgic at the National Dog Show

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One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving each year is watching the National Dog Show. You know, the one that comes on after Santa makes his appearance at the Macy’s parade and that is hosted by John O’Hurley from Seinfeld. Not everyone with me on Thanksgiving agrees, but I like judging the dogs from home and seeing if my favorite wins. Unlike the more pretentious Westminster show in February, the National Dog Show does a good job of condensing a full day’s worth of events into a two-hour special with family friendly facts about the various breeds. Ever since I have lived in Philadelphia I have thought about attending the show, which tapes nearby, and this year, thanks to winning tickets from PhillyFun4Kids, we made a new Thanksgiving tradition.

My interest in dog shows started a few decades ago, when I was around the age of my children and a neighbor started taking me to dog shows. Years later, I learned how to handle a dog myself and then started entering competitions at age ten. I showed our pet dalmatian for a few years before my interest in dog shows waned. Although I do not frequent dog shows anymore, I look back on those days fondly and appreciate the sportsmanship, poise, and confidence that they fostered in me. So bringing my young children to experience their first dog show was nostalgic.

In case you have ever watched a dog show and wondered how they pick a winner, let me break it down for you. The dogs compete first against their own sex, then escalate up to best of their breed, then best of their group, then best in show. The judge examines the dogs and ranks them as to how closely they compare to the standard described as the perfect dog in that breed. These standards take into consideration the function for which the breed was bred. The judge puts hands on the dog to see their form and temperament, then watches them move and assesses their overall appearance. The dogs win points for each dog they defeat and after 15 points, earn the title of champion.

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We arrived at the dog show just in time for the Diving Dog Competition and watched the world record holder jump 29 feet into a pool. The kids enjoyed watching the dogs leap through the air and splash the audience. Thanks to MetroKids, they also enjoyed coloring pictures of dogs and bouncing in a Scooby Doo bouncy house. While they burned off energy, I sneaked away to watch the Pro Plan® Performance Team perform stunts. The National Dog Show is a benched show, which means the competitors need to stay during the day for the public to view and visit the 202 breeds represented. So we wandered up and down the aisles looking at dogs big and small to find our favorites. Influenced by my preferences, they squealed when they saw a grouping of dalmatians and pet a few named Henry, Logan, and Mystique.

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Our day at the National Dog Show proved to be what I remembered from my own childhood: wholesome, educational, and family friendly. There were of course meltdowns and the children didn’t want to sit and watch the judging as much as I did, but it was a good start for their first show. I am excited to see it on TV on Thanksgiving and to attend in person again next year.

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A new project: a podcast

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If I haven’t written as much here lately it is because I have been busy launching a new project: a podcast. A few months ago I took on a new leadership position and was tasked with educating a geographically and professionally diverse group of physicians. My boss gave me the freedom to creatively tackle this challenge and I decided a podcast would be the best approach. It allows physicians to update their knowledge on current events and hot topics in primary care without being tied to their desk or being told when they need to do it. These 15-20 minute podcasts are interviews between myself and content experts at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and they will be published on average every other week.

 There are a few ways you can listen:
·         www.chop.edu/pcppodcast

As this is a new venture, I look forward to hearing your feedback. If you have ideas for future episode topics, please leave a comment. I hope you enjoy listening to the Primary Care Perspectives podcast!

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