Tag Archives: surgeon

A New Kind of Hero for a New Kind of World, Career Hero #15

Female surgeon(This post is part of a pact I made. Click here for the full story.)

Ambition. Passion. Tunnel vision. Laser-sharp dedication.  Self-criticism. High expectations. An entrenched fear of failure. A need to compete and to win. And self-awareness.

Meet Josephine.

Without exception, every single one of those traits fuel her career. 

As she candidly admitted to me, it was mostly in search of approval and admiration the reason why at the age of 17  she decided that she wanted to follow her parents’ footsteps and become a surgeon.

Guided by her parents’ example, she immersed herself in a rigourous training program that lasted 13 years.  It included working long hours, completing exams 12 years in a row (that’s a total of 24 semesters) and supporting a family on very little pay – while watching most friends live comfortably. 

13 years later, Josephine now owns and runs one of the most succesful private day surgeries in the country.

Note to self: Knowing what you want is only part of the picture – working with all your might is what will get you what you want in your career. 

No doubt, she earned her current success.  As she wrote to me:  “Being self-demanding to ensure my success has become a habit…Fortunately my profession is judged by results.  And it’s delivering results where I’m talented – and I seek to be better every single day.  It’s because a patient’s complication gives me so much angst that I seek to be a better a surgeon.”

Most definitely she feels that it’s an advantage over other surgeons to have parents working in the same profession.  Because she admires her father inmensely, she has been wide open to learning from his path.  Today she feels that she has gained 30 years of experience – over those who don’t have parents in the same profession – or those who aren’t willing to learn from their parents.

In her words:  “It’s been a matter of learning from my dad’s mistakes.  About following his idealogy about work – and paying close attention to what it takes to stand out as a surgeon – just as my dad has.  From a technical view point, I’ve benefitted from the number and variety of procedures that I had access to during my formative years, from having a medical library at home, and from travelling to conferences with him…This is in large part why my experience is much greater than it should be at my age…Today we enjoy learning as a family.  Professional development has become a fun family activity that my dad, my mom and I share.”

Note to self: Sure you can chose to rebel against your parents – and go at it alone. Or you can choose to leverage their wisdom.  It’s your choice.

As much as she admires her parents, and learns from them, she feels that perhaps the best career move she has made so far has been to work alongside her dad – and not for him.  They each have their own private practice, that includes having separate patients and support teams. That has allowed her to make a name for herself – and importantly to receive her own referrals and build her own reputation as a surgeon.

Note to self:  The success of your parents – and of others around you – is not your own.  The sooner you accept this reality – and use it to your advantage – the sooner you will start to cast your own shadow.

Although her career has benefitied immensely from working alongside her parents, it’s having clear and achievable goal posts that have led her to her own achievements.

In her words:  “In school I knew I had to complete the school year, in university I worked towards completing every semester, and during my residency I worked towards completing every new rotation at the hospital.  I always planned  – and rarely did I make impulsive decisions.  I guess I was fortunate in that sense. There was always someone around who reminded me to be analytical, look at the facts and stay on the path I had planned.”

Note to self:  Set achievable goals – and a long career path will not feel like holding your breath under water.

Clearly Josephine is a person who thrives under the constant tension that exists between success and failure.  She is constantly looking to improve her skills, increase her knowledge and sharpen her business acumen – that is her way of guaranteeing success and warding off failure.

Note to self: What are you doing in your career to guarantee success and ward off failure?

“Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is that my profession is made a day at a time, a patient at a time.  As long as one is ethical, committed and professional, results will begin to emerge.  Just as well, monetary achievements cannot be an end in itself – but a desirable fringe benefit that results from helping people and offering a service with care and loyalty.”

Note to self:  Working for money is short-sighted.  Expand your vision.  Work for more than money – and the money will come.


*Name changed for privacy reasons.  I feel honored that Josephine trusted me with her story. She did so only on the condition that her identity not be revealed.  Looking to respect her wishes – and thank her for her contribition – her real name has not been use