A quick sit down question and answer session with Dr. Mohammad Rimawi from New York City, NY.
Q1. Is there an example or memorable time during residency when you felt burnt out, overwhelmed, frustrated, or second-guessing your career choice?
Of course, there are several. However, the moment that sticks out to me the most occurred during my second year of residency…
I was at the very end of a 36-hour shift; I had just come out of an add-on surgery case at around 5 AM. I received a page from a hospital that was located 30 minutes away, so I proceeded to get into my car. The next thing I remember was the sound of someone banging on my car window. Apparently, I had fallen asleep on the wheel, with my foot on the brake pedal at a stoplight. The police happened to be driving by and stopped to assess the situation. Fortunately, they let me go after passing a breathalyzer, but the incident resided with me for months.
I constantly pondered about what the toll of residency was taking on my well-being. What if I had fallen asleep while on the highway, what would the outcome have been then? Does working nonstop for a day and a half really make me a better doctor? To answer these questions, I began to do some research. I came to realize that these questions weren’t unique to myself but were being asked by residents across the country. Nearly half of all physicians have admitted to experiencing burnout during their career. Some even experience clinical signs of depression. I learned from this research and began investing in my own self-care; I knew that I couldn’t possibly deliver optimal care to my patients if I wasn’t optimal myself.
Q2. What was your WHY or motivation during residency? What kept you through those late nights or early mornings?
My parents were immigrants from a small village in Palestine. They came to America with no family, friends, or a stable source of income. I watched my father work 7 days a week for 30 years straight and never complained. Anytime I felt like quitting, I would simply think about my parents and the sacrifices they had made for my siblings and I. That was all the motivation I ever needed.
Q3. What is the most memorable quote or advice that was given to you?
I was venting to my father once about the workload of residency. His response was
“Sometimes we do what we have to do, so that later on we can do what we want to do.”
The simplicity of that statement has never left me.
Q4. What happened over that period of 3 years to make it so successful and fulfilling, both personally and professionally?
When the year is over and the new interns arrive, there is always that sense of accomplishment and humility. It’s a reminder of where you started and how far you’ve come, especially in knowledge, surgical skills, and patient care without realizing it along the way. It’s always a rewarding and incredible feeling.
Q5. Looking back, what advice would you give yourself while you were in residency, especially during the hard times?
Give yourself a break. You are doing the best you can, and that’s all anyone can ask of you. You will make mistakes, and that’s ok. You’ll learn and grow because of your mistakes. No obstacle has stopped you thus far, and there’s no reason to believe that anything will stop you from going further.
Follow Dr. Rimawi at @nycfootdoc on instagram
Interview by Roberto De Los Santos
Special Edition, Medical School, Literature Review
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