Say my name, say my name: Surgery and Microagressions


This week I am on Perio rotation. I recently finished Oral Surgery rotation, and I can say I am definitely enjoying it. It is really interesting to see oral anatomy so close up and to play a role in the process. I remember there was a time in dental school where the thought of even disclosing an interest in Oral Surgery was something I wouldn’t share out loud if I was considering it. I had recently picked up a textbook from a friend and fellow dental corp LT. When I arrived to Oral Histology class, some classmates questioned if I was studying for the Oral Surgery NBME exam, required of students interested in pursuing this as a specialty. Apparently, the workbook I had picked up was a Medical board study book, not dental. Their questioning had a tone more similar to surprise than curiosity. While I wasn’t immediately perceptive to the delivery of the inquiries, my friend, sitting nearby, was more than hip, and less than amused. “So what if you’re interested in surgery? Why should that be a surprise? Why would they care?”

It’s true, at a school like Columbia, many people specialize. Actually, most people specialize. Could we have been displaying hypersensitivity?

After all, as a black woman who attended an Ivy league professional program, I have learned to eat micro-agressions for breakfast, sometimes with a side of avocado toast.

Like when a new patient or assistant walks in and upon seeing me, questions where the doctor is. Or wonders if I am the assistant. I am cautious to give the benefit of the doubt, though sometimes it is not freely given to me. I am weary of not feeding into every slight, not consuming every product of ignorance. I must, after all, protect my peace.

This is not a post to share that I am pursuing surgery. I am flirting with the idea, but it’s a new relationship. I like it, but I don’t know if I like it like it, ya know?

Being in this rotation and getting to extract wisdom teeth, perform frenectomies and suture has really peaked my interest. I was reminded that as I am exploring new specialties and trying to map out what my career could look like (Hello Navy Fit Test x Navy PRT time), there are other careers I have considered. When I was younger, I wanted to be an Interior designer. As a ten--year old, I ordered the IKEA catalog and salivated over Swedish furniture with bold lines and way too many parts. Later, I realized, or maybe decided that I do not want to arrange interiors for a living, rather I want to own a home with a curated esthetic.

I began to think on how many things I have desired that I have not given voice to. How many things I have wanted to pursue that I wasn’t confident enough in its possibility to share with others or even speak aloud. In this age, if you don’t post it on social media it didn’t happen. If you go on vacation, you must post your passport and boarding pass, your toes in the sand, your margarita on the beach. After all, how will people know how much fun you are having? If you don’t take photos of your food, how will they be sure you are eating enough? Yep, I’m guilty.

Fortunately, social media does not define us. For too many of us, there are passions inside that we are too fearful to share with others of even admit to ourselves. When we desire to start on journeys with no road maps or paths that have not been clearly marked into the ground, it can be intimidating. I wonder where we would be if we asked ourselves the following,

If money was not a factor, I would_______

If I was guaranteed to succeed, I would_______

In a perfect world, I would be______

These are perhaps just conversation starters. However, they are starters for the most important conversations, the ones we have with ourselves. Not to inspire you to start talking to yourself on the street, (having lived in New York for 4 years, I have seen tons of that, it is not a novel idea), rather to begin to speak life to your situation. If you believe you are created in God’s image, you must start to remember that he gave Adam the task of naming all the animals. That is a gift that we as humans have always had and continue to have. Naming things, rather, calling things to be. Words are powerful, be careful what names you call yourself, and what names you answer to. Start to speak aloud those powerful visions that were created in you.

A lasting pro-tip. When meeting someone for the first time, when you say, Hi, I'm so-and-so, what's your name? Listen for that answer. Then go a step further and call that individual by that name. If that name has more vowels than you are used to, or a funny sounding ring you are unfamiliar with, do not cheat yourself and ask if you can call that person X. Call them by the name they gave you, do not return it for a cheaper one.

Call them by the name they gave you, do not return it for a cheaper one.