Monday, November 10, 2014

Interviewing for Residency: Fascinating Experience

I've now been on four of the twelve interviews I have scheduled. I am amazed at how formative an experience it has been. I had two pools of programs that I looked at: programs that would be good for innovation and research (and future fellowship) and programs that would be open to my choices not to prescribe, sterilize, and abort. I expected that there would be few to zero programs that offered both. In fact, the program that I thought would be closest to "both" was my home program. I collected names of programs in three main groups:
  1. Did a CMA conference attendee, One More Soul, or another Catholic med student friend recommend it? (If yes: on list until eliminated due to financial concerns.)
  2. Do they have an open fetal surgery center? (If yes: on list.)
I add three token applications: my home programs--the one attached to my med school and the one on the campus I did my clinicals on--and that OB/GYN Mecca, Parkland. I felt that a native southerner who really wanted to go into OB/GYN wouldn't not apply to Parkland.  (Dumb reason to apply.)

I assumed that most of the academic centers would refuse an applicant making my choices. I thought that when I informed them of my decisions, they would write me off. I thought I had to decide on a future in the next eight months: will I be a napro doc or an academic researcher with a different fellowship?

To my shock, the answer might be "both!" I have interviewed at three community programs and one academic center, and three of them have been very open to my choices, including the academic center!

I am learning about myself, too: I like good surgery numbers, I like autonomy, I like peace and serenity. So I like the programs that let residents have a life, I like areas without too much traffic, I like single hospitals and few off-service rotations, I like good relationships with faculty, and I like a rich Catholic (sub)culture. I don't really care about simulation centers, and I don't rate being buddy-buddy with all my fellow residents as a high priority, because I'm a private person. To my surprise, I like pretty hospitals and good weather more than I thought.

I still can't decide whether I think it's important that I be able to do research. I'm still trying to figure out what futures I should prepare for. But I'm encouraged: it looks like I might be able to become a researcher and a pro-life physician. I'm most excited about some future interviews!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

CMA Conference Summary

It has been over a month since the CMA conference. As I proceed through the interview season, I am so glad I went. I actually had an open conversation about NFP with a fellow interviewee on the airport shuttle and was unashamed and excited about it. Thanks, Courage in Medicine.

I'm going to review the five or so talks that I found most meaningful. Check out the entire program booklet here, and order copies of these talks here.

Cardinal Burke: Physicians as Standard Bearers in the New Evangelization
This opening talk was a spiritual alarm clock that I desperately needed. I took copious notes during this talk, and I can't squish it into a short blurb, but here are some pearls:
  • Virtue is the primary method of the New Evangelization.
  • If we have the heart of God, our patient care will transform us, our patients, and the culture.
  • We are not saved by a discovery or work, but by a Person who assumes us.
  • The moral norm isn't an abstract--it's Jesus, so get to know and love Him.
Cardinal Burke urged us to form our consciences with moral study to stave off doubt that there is a moral norm. Since I was thinking of my own timidity and upcoming interviews, the message came through loud and clear that I needed to comfortably, boldly live my faith, reason, and religion as the most formative part of my life. My responsibility (since I've been told the truth) is greatly increased, and I wasn't attending to much of the iceberg of my responsibilities to glorify God.

Mike Aquilina: Challenges Before Us in Historical Perspective
The recent changes in healthcare, pointed out this speaker, are a perfect storm to drive out the people who want to serve. He went through ancient history (especially Roman historians like Tacitus and Pliny) recounting some of the same cultural phenomena we see today, such as the increasing tendency to lavish attention on dogs and to go childfree (to be clear to childfree readers: I list those as two separate tendencies). Mr. Aquilina emphasized that the cultural changes we see now are not original: every time a culture forgot to separate what is good from what is desireable, it excluded some persons (females, elderly, unborn, infants, children, various races, prisoners) from personhood and devalue them. However, Mr. Aquilina also showed that there is a history of the aberration of Christianity upsetting dysfunctional cultures. He concluded that there is no better time for us to be alive and serve; God will equip us, as he has historically.

Father Roger Landry: Bifurcation of Faith and Reason: Unleashing Radical Secularism and Its Impact on Medicine
This priest is remarkable for his use of the word bifurcation and his Latin three-word summary of how we should live. We should live, he says, etsi Deus daretur, as if God was a given. (Obvious as this may sound, it is difficult to do in the sea of relativism that is mainstream education above the sixth grade in this country.) When we live this way, unafraid that robust faith saves and strengthens reason, our lives are integrated. We also reap the following benefits:
  1. We rediscover wonder.
  2. Technological advances don't outstrip moral development. (More on this in a future post, I hope.)
  3. We don't forget the splendor of being a child of God, and we thus avoid devaluing persons.
We should challenge ourselves and our culture: what stands in the way of your practical atheism being carried into Nietsche's will to power? A hazy self-faith, godless altruism, natural law? Impossibly webby barriers to "might makes right." If you don't buy the CD of any other talk, get this one.

Father Robert McTeigue: Moral Courage in Medicine
Chosen to give the title talk at this conference was a very humorous Jesuit priest. Fr. McTeigue charged his listeners with duties to acquire the virtues (which, by the way, are humanizing and good for people). He pointed out that courage exists for the protection of the good. One of the most surprising things he said quoted St. Teresa (I think?) on the two beautiful daughters of Hope: anger and courage. This is why the evil spirit wants so desperately that we despair: when we hope, we have just wrath, and we pounce on evil! We defy it! We unabashedly judge deeds (our own and others'). Fr. McTeigue's final piece of advice: pray "Jesus, I trust in You," and mean, "I don't trust myself."

Dr. Fernandes: Catholic Medical Professionals: Reclaiming Surrendered Ground in Bioethics 
If I wasn't morally awake after Cardinal Burke and the other speakers, Dr. Fernandes would have gotten me out of any relativistic torpor left. This Wright State attending (gently, with humor) lit a fire underneath me. Like Cardinal Burke's talk, I'll just have to give you some soundbites:
  • Make yourself reasonable. Confuse them [relativists and practical atheists].
  • If people are worm food, why should we suffer, delay death, or respect religion as an add-on?
  • Cultural relativism is wrong. What if a culture is intolerant?
  • "Loving" "People" is easier than truly loving persons in front you in the present.
  • Between good and evil, there is no safe place.

Dr. Patrick Yeung: Fertility and Infertility Within a Catholic Moral Vision
Dr. Yeung, who is a professor at St. Louis University and directs the Center for Endometriosis there. He, being a napro-trained OB/GYN, had lots of relevant advice for me. "Do not look at it as a bunch of things you cannot do. Make it green and holistic and positive." "For best results," he also quipped, "follow God's design." One more neat quote: "Optimal medicine is holistic and doesn't solve one problem at the expense of [creating] others."