You indeed became a physician yesterday. As we have enjoyed the festivities of this weekend, I have reflected on the journey of the past four years. You have grown and changed quite a bit over these years. But you are not the only one who has grown and changed. I have also grown and changed as I have watched your journey. With that in mind, I will reflect on a few of the moments that were touch points for me.
Did you say “thank you”?
Although many years and experiences went into the making, the real journey began when we flew to Arizona for the interview at ATSU. You called excited with the news that you had been granted an interview, but that the interview was to occur within a few days. ATSU had invited you to bring a family member along. They were keenly aware that the rigors of medical school would require a support group that was “on board” with your goals. So, after a whirlwind trip to Nordstrom with your dear sister to pick out an interview suit, we were off to Arizona.
I knew that I had one job on this trip: to deliver you to the interview on time. Having never been to Phoenix before and not yet in possession of a GPS unit, I must have reviewed the route from the hotel to ATSU twenty times. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when we entered the parking lot. Because of my fear of screwing this up, we arrived forty-five minutes early. Not a moment too soon, in my book.
It was a grueling day for both of us. I was allowed to be with you for all but the hours of direct interview. You were poised, confident, and charming. I tried to strike a balance between sharing things about you that I thought the interviewers should know and coming off as a stage mom/helicopter mom/hopelessly doting and tiresome parent. You nodded enthusiastically as the presenter reviewed the curriculum and testing schedule that would be yours if you got in. I wondered if anyone could possibly live through it. After a grueling ten-hour day, we walked through the exit. Before I gave it a moment’s thought, I said, ‘Did you say “thank you”?’ The look on your face reminded me that this was not our usual exit together after a birthday party. You had just made it through a very grown up day. It was time for me to grow up, too.
“Back to School” Shopping
A favorite tradition in our family over the years was the annual “back to school” shopping trip to Staples for school supplies. The aroma of freshly sharpened pencils evoked excitement for a brand new school year. The list included the usual items such as binders, folders, college-ruled paper, a pencil pouch, and a supply box for the top of the desk. There was a yearly discussion between you and Jennifer on the merits of colored pencils versus felt tip markers. Crayons were a “must have” at any age. A box of sixty-four with the built-in sharpener could be counted on to increase your popularity when it came to choosing partners for group projects.
The night before, we looked at each other and wondered what one should bring to the first day of medical school. ATSU had issued you a computer “tablet,” which was the latest technology for new medical students. Were you supposed to bring the computer in a backpack? What else should go in that backpack? We settled on the usual assortment of items, including the crayons. Maybe you would need to color and label pictures of anatomy. Who knows?
*a note from the little doc: the other students laughed at me about the crayons in my bag. And then wanted to borrow them.
Over time, we knew that all of these items were necessary and useful. What we didn’t know is that Dad and I should have bought stock in the company that makes 3 x 5 note cards. You must have gone through thousands in the last four years. The other important purchase was “Phyllis.” Phyllis is a full size skeleton that shows important landmarks such as the origin and insertion of the major muscles. Phyllis has oddly been a source of encouragement, having been named for Dr. Phyllis Agran (a pediatric gastroenterologist) who guided you through a rough patch in your own health during your middle school years. Like the box of sixty-four crayons, Phyllis ensured your popularity in your early days of learning anatomy with your peers. She also provided comic relief when dressed up in a myriad of outfits.
Mom, I’m calling to tell you that I am on my way to the E.R.
In fairness to me, this was not the first time that I had heard these words from you over the telephone. You have had a series of mishaps over the years, including numerous painful ear infections, a broken toe, a concussion, a pierced eardrum, pneumonia…. Need I go on??? The fact that they were uttered at 10:00 at night did nothing to ease the immediate panic. You found my panic to be hilarious and said, “I’m working in the E.R., not going to the E.R!” Frankly, this possibility did not even occur to me.
For the well being of our patients, please leave your children at home.
I saw this notice when signing in for an appointment with Dr. Thanos, the gynecologist/obstetrician who delivered Jennifer. As every parent knows, memories of your children when they are young are very vivid and can feel as if they happened yesterday. Sometimes you are startled to see your child standing before you today and you wonder how she got there. As I absentmindedly read this sign, my sense was that you were home being cared for by Grandma while I was at the doctor’s office. I was glad that I had not offended anyone by bringing you with me. Then it occurred to me that you were actually in the office, because you were doing a rotation with Dr. Thanos. As a student doctor, you said that the sign was more appropriate than anyone knew.
*note from the little doc: Don't go to the gynecologist with your mother. Not as a child, and ESPECIALLY not as the doctor. Even if you are curious about her DEXA scan results.
Stay away from that, it has germs on it!
A mother should have a nickel for every time she has said these words to a child. With this kind of money, she could book a week in paradise, complete with margaritas. I spent years steering you away from anyone who was coughing, sneezing, or had a runny nose. I quarantined you or anyone else in the house that had a fever, and zapped every surface you touched with Lysol. I kept your little yellow immunization card in a lock box with birth certificates, passports, and the deed to the house.
Bird flu, swine flu, tuberculosis, flesh-eating bacteria. All of these were the subjects of sensational news stories during your clinical training, complete with dire predictions of uncontrolled global outbreaks. My usual admonitions to stay away from germs no longer applied. Those who suffered needed you. I could only pray for your protection.
Yes sir, that’s my baby. No sir, I don’t mean maybe.
By now, you have delivered numerous babies and provided care to many who are sick. You have shared joyful news with some families and devastating news with others. I know that you are ever mindful of the awesome responsibility and profound privilege of being present during a family’s moment of greatest joy or deepest sorrow.
In looking back over your life, your innate character and experiences have led you directly to this moment. I do not remember a time when you did not want to be a doctor. This drawing is from a school assignment that asked "What do you want to be when you grow up? What does that person do?" You drew it when you were about seven years old. Twenty years later, it is time to say, “Congratulations, DR. ANNE KRISTEN (BONSANGUE) KENNARD!” You finally made it. I love you very much.