How One Female Surgeon’s Leadership Was Like a Lightning Bolt of Inspiration for Me

Who has inspired you? Challenged you? Shaped you? In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re recognizing the women who made us who we are today. To all who came before, the mothers, grandmothers, mentors, teachers, and trailblazers… thank you. Here, Dr. Jeanniton writes to a mentor who led the way for her.

Dear Jennifer,

It's been a minute! I hope you've been well and that you and yours are staying healthy. I can't believe the last time we saw each other was over two years ago. Our annual volunteer mission trips to the Dominican Republic were always such a recharge for me. It's interesting to think about how much I feel like I need that energy now for the exact reason that I can't access it.

I've never written you a letter before, so you're probably wondering why I'm starting now. ​​With all that ​we've experienced ​over​ the past year, I feel compelled to be forthcoming about my appreciation for those that matter most to me. I've never expressed this to you before, but our time together at our annual missions has profoundly impacted me.

You see, you set an example of being a female surgeon that felt like a lightning bolt to me. You never raised your voice or bossed anyone around, but your quiet strength made you the most commanding person in the room. You embodied a type of leadership I'd never witnessed before: distinctly feminine, strong, capable, and kind. I remember being in awe of watching you make complicated surgical cases look deceptively easy.

Then, upon the case being completed, rather than take that moment to replenish yourself, you'd take the upper hand in assisting ​with​ physically maneuvering a slumbering patient to the recovery area and immediately seeking out a family member to update them on their loved one. At the beginning of the day, you'd greet everyone by name and with a smile, and you were commonly found at the end of the day helping out other departments with loose ends after you'd complete your cases.

I learned that the brilliance of your power was in your ability to yield it when appropriate.

That's certainly not to say you were all sweetness. I learned that the brilliance of your power was in your ability to yield it when appropriate. But that didn't mean you wouldn't hesitate to speak up when a senior staff member would try to wrangle someone from your team for tasks they were looking to clearly offload.

It never surprised me that patients traveled from great distances to return every year, just for the chance to see you again, and thank you for the care you provided years ago. But how you managed to simultaneously take such great care of your patients and your team still alludes me.

I can't say that I have many role models, male or female. But meeting you taught me that being a woman was an asset in ​our​ field, not a liability.

Hoping to scrub in on a case with you again.


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