Mar 15, 2018

Interview Transcript

Interviewer: Considering a career in medicine, but aren't sure exactly what area would be right for you? We'll discuss what it's like to be an OB-GYN, next, on The Scope.

Announcer: Thescoperadio.com, focus on Careers in Health Care.

Interviewer: Each field of medicine comes with its own challenges and benefits. We have Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones, an OB-GYN at University of Utah Health, here to talk about a career in Obstetrics & Gynecology. First, how did you get into reproductive medicine?

Dr. Jones: Well, it's a long story, and students who are anxious because they don't know exactly what path to take, you need to realize, I didn't ever think I was going to go into medicine until I was a senior in college. So it's often someone who shines a bright light on a choice. A job as a basic biology scientist was probably not going to be very well-funded. So my mentor, who was a chairman in the department said, "Go to medicine." And so I was going into medicine thinking I was going to do genetics, but issues at the beginning of life are so compelling.

So I think medical students often, as they're thinking about a career, are looking for something that is egosyntonic. It's a wonderful word that means "sings with their soul." Some people are great with their hands. Some people like to play video games, and they like to do things with images. Some people are really bonded to the storytelling of individual patient care. And so people tend to find, as they go through medical school, the topic or the area that sings with their soul. And for me, as a biologist, as someone who loved the beginnings of life as a biologist, OB-GYN was a natural. A lot of drama and a lot of blood, but I was okay with that.

Interviewer: So what do you like most about your job?

Dr. Jones: Well, it turned out that what I liked wasn't what I thought I was going to like. So I thought I was going to like fixing things because I used to sew for a living, and I thought, "I can cut and sew, and so the surgery's going to be fun, and the baby thing is fun." As I grew in my work, what I really loved was women's stories. I loved the stories about their lives and anything I could do to help them be happier with themselves. Women carry a burden of inadequacy. They don't think they're pretty enough, or smart enough, or, you know, sexy enough, or whatever enough they may not be, but they actually are all those things.

So helping women be happy with their stories or get over a really hard story, that ended up being the most rewarding in the long run and the thing that I remember most. Of course, I remember the days that someone nearly bled to death and our team saved them, but I remember my ladies and how brave they were, and how funny they are, and how beautiful their stories are. And that's the best.

Interviewer: So what's the hardest part then?

Dr. Jones: Well, the hardest part is when you can't help someone get over a bad story. So there are women who feel that they are victims, and they had been victims. But moving past that victimhood, just survivorship, whether they're victims of rape, or emotional abuse, or cancer, or infertility, helping women move with the love in their heart for the thing that they lost, but helping them move beyond that. And women who can't do that, women who are addicted and can't move beyond, women whose grief is so long, then I need help. I need a professional. I need a psychologist.

Interviewer: What does your typical day look like?

Dr. Jones: Well, I'm in academic medicine. There is no typical day. So there are several days of the week when I have clinic in the morning, and I might have lectures with students in the afternoon. I might have one day a week where I operate. I have a week when I do administrative work, meaning I design educational programs for students and for residents. So, in academic medicine, you are never, ever bored. You're always steep on your learning curve, and students keep you that way.

For docs out in private practice, they might have three days a week when they do clinic, so they're in their clinic. They have one day a week when they operate. They have a day a week they try to catch up. And, of course, they're running back and forth to do deliveries which aren't always scheduled. So if you're going to be an OB-GYN, you have to tolerate a lot of chaos in your schedule. If you think you're always going to do this and get this done at a certain time, then you need to do something else.

Interviewer: Can you tell me a story or a favorite memory you have, being an OB-GYN?

Dr. Jones: Well, I would say there are a group of stories that come with patients who are going to have bone marrow transplants. So, for many years, I saw most of the women who were going to have a bone marrow transplant, usually for a life-threatening cancer. They were young women, and their future was going to be ending if they did not cure this cancer.

Bone marrow transplantation, at the time, is bringing someone almost to death with chemotherapy, and then snatching them back with someone else's bone marrow. And for these women, to watch them face a life-threatening cure from a life-threatening disease, watching their eyes as they hear that their fertility will be taken from them because the chemotherapy will take away their eggs, and seeing them afterwards, six months later and a year later, and watching them get on to their lives, they were the heroes for me.

There are so many women who've suffered from their infertility, from a rape, from abuse, from some awful surgery, but those women were, I think, examples of courage, and humor, and willingness to go forward in the face of uncertainty. And they shared it with me, and that was a privilege.

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