Heart of a Lion, Hands of a Woman: What Women Neurosurgeons Do
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Tuesday, February 2, 2010


In 1984 I seriously began immersing myself in neurosurgery as a 3rd and 4th year medical student.  I had already completed an intensive month in neurosurgery at both University of Maryland and UCS and in late summer flew in to Columbus, Ohio to complete my final experience at Ohio State.  OSU had been recommended to me for one reason: Carole Miller, M.D.  She was the fourth woman to become board certified in neurosurgery in the US and the first woman  neurosurgeon to become president of a national neurosurgical organization (NSA in 1988).  For me she was FIRST!  At that point, I had met few women professors or surgeons and certainly no owmen neurosurgeons.  While this fact never disuaded me from my love of neurosurgery, there were times when I wished I wasn't always existing within a sea of men.  If it weren't for Dr. Miller, I don't think Columbus would have been a destination of choice.  It was a medium sized city in the middle of Ohio with few others than thhe rambunctious football players on campus.  Every morning, I walked from my little dorm room across a dark and menancing campus to the hospital to make rounds before surgery.  The work was hard, the hours long and the learning strenuous.  After all these years, I don't specifically remember the very first time I met Dr. Miller but I do clearly recall the huge impact she had on me during my month.  She worked long hard hours, did research, surgery and an inordinate proportion of the resident and medical student teaching.  Everywhere I traveled within the hospital, it was clear she was highly respected.  At the time, I must admit to being a little scared of her-rightlyfully, she demanded perfection in the care of the patients.  She stressed that neurosurgery is a specialty where even the tiniest mistake can render horrendous results.
Initially, I was disappointed that she didn't "look after me", encourage me, or in any other way advise me.  I have since realized that in her astute way, she was helping me to understand that I had to pursue neurosurgery because I loved it and be willing to accept the challenges that would come from being one of the early women to do so.  At the end of the month, I sat with her for my exit evaluation.  She succintly appraised me of my strengths and weakness-deomnstrating insight that few other teachers had in more than 2 decades of schooling.
Years later, I had the pleasure of getting to know Dr. Miller in a less formal way, through WINS (Women in Neurosurgery).  We have had the opportunity to talk about those early years and I was surprised how clearly she remebered me and my month at OSU.  I will never forget them.  For me personally, Carole Miller was my First Lady of Neurosurgery-there may have been others who trained before her but in 1984 they didn't exist for me but Carole Miller did. 
Dr. Miller has recently been honored by the Naitonal Library of Medicine as a "Legend".  I encourage all to red more about this talented and accomplished neurosurgeon.http://www.nlm.nih.gov/locallegends/Biographies/Miller_Carole.html

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