A Window into the HEART

It takes special people to battle day-in and day-out on the edge of death’s door.  CT surgery is not for everybody, and that is a wonderful thing because ‘this calling’ is special.  I celebrate a few of the many special women who followed their HEARTS to fix those of others…
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ON THE REALITY OF BEING A CARDIOTHORACIC SURGEON:

“To stop someone's heart and bring it back to life requires a certain level of distance from the patient. You can't think about your patient's personal life, their family, their dreams, their wishes, their personality...not when you must focus on keeping them alive. CT surgery is so incredibly technical. It requires so much focus on the part of the surgeon, that there is no time or brain-space left to think about anything else.”

– Rachel Elisabeth, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgeon

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ON BEING A WOMAN IN CARDIOTHORACIC SURGERY:

“If you can’t operate in heels, you can’t operate.”

– Kristine Guleserian, MD, Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgeon

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ON SETTING AN EXAMPLE FOR YOUR CHILDREN:

"There are elements of pride, lessons learned, and ways that I have inadvertently taught my kids what it means to work diligently toward a goal, to give of yourself to others, and to try to make a difference in this world."

- Mara Antonoff, MD, Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgeon

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ON THE DRIVE FOR CHANGE & EQUITY:

"Nobody has the right to make us feel inferior for who we are, including ourselves. I can’t way for the day when we have equity and strong female role models are not such an endangered species. The #ILookLikeASurgeon and #ThisIsWhatWeLookLike campaigns are already making so much ground in shattering stereotypes and providing inspiration the world over. Medicine is a man’s world baby. And it’s a about time we changed that."

- Nikki Stamp, FRACS, Cardiothoracic Surgeon

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ON KNOWING YOU’VE FOUND ‘YOUR CALLING’:

“During my first day on my CT surgery rotation as a student I knew I NEEDED to be in this field. Watching the heart stop and come back to life during the operation, was mind blowing. I BEGGED my program to let me extend my CT surgery rotation for another month because I just loved being in the operating room, learning and making a difference. I was hired as a new graduate and my manager gave me the opportunity to go directly into the operating room as a "trial" to see if I could handle it because he saw my passion for CT surgery. I am so grateful that he gave me that opportunity and that I was able to prove myself in the O.R.  Being a part of a team that drastically helps people every day, is both humbling and rewarding.”

– Erica Guidicipietro, PA-C, Cardiothoracic Surgery Physician Assistant.

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ON PUSHING YOUR OWN LIMITS:

“I chose cardiac surgery because I knew it would push me harder & make me the best I could ever be in this life.”

– Merry Uchiyama, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgery Fellow

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ON 'PASSION' & 'PASSING IT ON':

“My passion to become a skilled, confident, and caring cardiothoracic surgeon will light a beacon for many talented females to follow….I was reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau, and felt so inspired, ‘If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them’.”

– Rachel Hargrove, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgery Fellow

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ON THE ‘MAGIC’ & THE ‘PRIVILEGE’:

"Being a CT surgeon is inspiring because patients entrust their bodies and their lives, literally, into OUR HANDS.  For me there is no greater privilege. It is magical how a skilled surgeon can make the most difficult case look like a perfectly choreographed routine such that a patient enters the room with a disease and leaves completely cured.

– Tracy Geoffrion, MD, MPH, Cardiothoracic Surgery Fellow

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ON CARDIOTHORACIC SURGERY & IDENTITY:

“The Operating Room is a part of me, my identity, who I have become.  Life without the O.R. is like imagining my life without a limb.  The ability to be an integral part of someone's life and to know you had a hand in impacting and hopefully improving their future is a privilege that I hope to never give up.”

– Lexi Frederick, RN, ACNP, Lead ACNP First-Assist, Cardiothoracic Surgery

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ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-CARE:

“It is important that we, as members of a very demanding specialty, develop a sense of self-recognition so we can identify when we have given enough of ourselves...It’s time we started being as kind and compassionate with ourselves as we are with our patients.”

– Karen Calcaño PA-C, Cardiothoracic Surgery Physician Assistant.

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ON THE PHYSICAL & EMOTIONAL RIGORS:

“I once spent 27 hours straight scrubbed in - we were finishing an open heart surgery case when we were told a 38 year old man had an aortic dissection. I went from one OR to another. We worked all night into late the next morning but ultimately we could not save him. It was tragic.”

– Bethany Barlow, PA-C, Cardiothoracic Surgery Physician Assistant

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ON LIFE PERSPECTIVE:

“Being a tech in CT Surgery has made me stronger – mentally, physically and emotionally. I’ve become much more in-tune with ‘living in the now’ – I am grateful for each day. Life is so fragile and anything can change at the drop of a hat. Nothing compares to the feeling I get when I scrub on emergency cases helping to save a life - knowing this patient deserves my 110%.”

– Ashlie Nicole, CST, Cardiothoracic Surgery

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ON INTELLECTUAL CURIOSITY:

“Cardiothoracic anatomy and physiology is fascinating and above all, as a Thoracic Surgeon I not only treat a variety of diseases of the chest and upper abdomen, but can also diagnose diseases, stage cancers, and provide palliative procedures. My fellowship in Cardiothoracic Surgery provided me with an environment to become the best possible CT surgeon I can be, both in and out of the OR.”

– Lisa M. Brown, MD, Thoracic Surgeon