Stereotypically Speaking

“Yup. Size 10 shoes, Size 2 head. They’re an Ortho alright.”

~ Attending sizing up another med student (after a story about a freak weight lifting accident).

Okay, so the student in question probably didn’t really deserve the above pronouncement as they actually, generally appear (to me anyway) to be a very bright individual who is going to be one kick @ss orthopedic surgeon (says me who, next to them, admittedly, looks like a thumbless monkey handling power tools in surgery or any sort of limb/joint assessment).

But the situation did make me think of Michelle Au’s cartoon. Again.

I’ve thought of this (fantastic) cartoon off and on since I first encountered it some time during 2nd year, and I’ve been reminded of it constantly in the last few months. For instance, a couple weeks ago when I noticed the circulator, mid-surgery, snapping a picture of the anesthetist with their feet propped up on the anesthesia cart, chilling and reading Gun Dog. (Classic.) Or every time I walked through the coulrophobic’s nightmare that was the pediatrics wing of my family medicine site. Or, especially, when I read through my class’ Match List.

And yes, I am aware of the OB/GYN stereotype portrayed. And I distinctly remember how one of my classmates busted out laughing when they saw it last year, and told me how ‘that was so NurseMD. [PAHhahahahahahahaaa!!!!]’ Before I’d even told anyone I was thinking OB/GYN. And I remember how I’d responded (mentally) with grudging agreement (and fine, and maybe a hint of pride), while (verbally) protesting all, ‘What?! I’d never threaten anyone with an episiotomy. Besides, I’m not doing OB/GYN, I am going to be a [enter specialty flavor of the day I was desperately attempting to like instead of OB/GYN]!’

Yeah, in the end, The Cartoon always wins.

Really, its uncanny. If you are currently, or will be at some point (i.e. you are in med school and/or are ever planning to be in med school), struggling with specialty choices, I suggest you avoid some angst and save money on a bunch of useless How To Choose A Specialty books (which didn’t help me at all, but did provide yet another -slightly more justifiable than usual- way to waste Valuable Study Time), abandon all your heroic self-conceptions (or find a frienemy to gleefully strip them away for you), and check The Cartoon. (Seriously, they should just hand the thing out at 3rd year orientations everywhere.)

Or, you can buy the books. But, after you spend all the money, and still end up in a tie dye t-shirt and Tevas, handing out herbs in a family med clinic somewhere (just like your frienemy said you would, after they took one look at The Cartoon and busted out laughing) don’t say I (or really, the brilliant Dr. Au) didn’t warn you.*

*Note: Though you can take comfort in secretly snickering while you regularly observe your peers acting out their own version of the specialty stereotypes. Except for the whole threatening people with episiotomies thing. Women may need different forms of encouragement to push, but I would still never do that. I promise.

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