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I Have Always Loved Back-to-School Time…Am I Crazy?

It’s that time again. Time to say goodbye to the lazy days of summer and hello to the structure and routine of a new school year. As a lifelong student, I have always loved back-to-school time, even though it means summer is over. A new school year is a fresh beginning and an introduction to new challenges to conquer.

As I send my own children back to the classroom, my hope for them is that they greet the new school year with open minds, and commit to doing their best work. This will be a challenge for my 10th grade son and 8th grade daughter, but it is also an exciting time in their school journeys.

I’d like to share with you my own school journey, because it was such a strong influence on the woman I have become. And, it’s the reason I have the honor and privilege of being a physician.

I have always wanted to be a doctor. Ever since the age of 3 (with the exception of some brief moments I dreamed of being a veterinarian or a traveling mathematician), I knew what I wanted to do. My husband often reminds me what a blessing it is to have a clear calling on your life…to know what you were designed to do. Throughout my education, I had that goal in mind.

In elementary school, I was tested and placed in the gifted and talented program, where I was able to study topics in depth and be challenged. One assignment I remember fondly was a project on sloths. There wasn’t much information in the local library about sloths, but I wanted to study something different and unique. It was a welcomed challenge!

When I got to middle school, I began to fall in love with math and science. I had some great teachers who inspired and pushed me as I advanced through my academic journey. Algebra was actually really fun for me, and I also enjoyed tinkering with my Radio Shack electrical kit and chemistry set.

High school was the really great stuff… Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy, Calculus, Geometry, Trig.  I made aspirin in Chemistry class, and I thought that was so cool. My teachers were great and my Walton High School in Marietta, Georgia is still exemplary to this day. I’m so glad my parents made it possible for me to go there.

My regret is that I didn’t apply myself more in high school History class when I had the opportunity. As a teen, I just couldn’t appreciate it like I do now. But it’s never too late to learn, and I am currently reading the Hamilton biography. History is so important and this book is so fascinating. I was inspired to read it after I saw the musical about Hamilton, which I loved.

When it was time for college, I applied to Georgia Tech basically because my boyfriend was going there. Sad but true. We broke up even before we graduated high school, but it worked out great because I was awarded a full Presidential academic scholarship to Tech. I decided to study Chemical Engineering/Pre-med because I loved chemistry and calculus and thought it would be a fun challenge. I also figured that if medicine didn’t work out, I would have a good fallback career option.

College was great. I had a great group of friends in my sorority, and Georgia Tech was in a golden age of sports. Back to school meant those glorious football Saturdays and brand new books, mechanical pencils, and engineering paper. I enjoyed Chemical Engineering but it was super challenging, especially toward the end, after I had already been accepted to medical school. There were some really great classes, and I did the chemical engineering lab coursework in London, but my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. I really had to grin and bear it at the end, and I was so glad to “get out” of Tech, as we like to say. I graduated with honors and moved on to my dream: medical school.

I was in heaven when I got to medical school! You may not know much about the University of Alabama School of Medicine, but it is an excellent medical school. The editor of the most widely used internal medicine textbook was from my school, and the surgery program was tops in the nation. During my time in medical school, I would sit for hours learning every intricacy of the human anatomy, and I delighted in learning all the mysteries of the body. It is so fascinating.

When I wasn’t studying, I made money by transcribing lectures for my classmates if they missed a class. I also did basic research, trying to find a new cure for cancer, and I won a competitive and prestigious Howard Hughes one -year fellowship grant to focus on my research. It was fun, but I realized I really love interacting with patients more than research.

Finally, the last mountain in my educational journey was residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. This was the very best urology training program. The professors were outstanding, and the breadth of experience was unmatched: I learned trauma at Ben Taub, general urology at the VA, pediatric urology at Texas Children’s Hospital, microsurgery at St. Luke’s and cancer surgery at Methodist. I also spent one year on cancer research, and I received the research award that year. During my last two years, I studied under two of the preeminent urologists who specialize in female urology, and learned a tremendous amount from them. It was an incredible 6 years.

I continue to learn as much as I can about my field by reading journals and going to seminars. It is essential to stay on top of all the medical knowledge, especially as a specialist, and I love to find the latest research and information for my patients. Learning never ends.

If you are a teacher or have children going back to school, I hope you have a great school year!

Cheers to a healthy you!
-Dr. Christi

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