FTG 0005 - Advancing Women’s Health with Surgeon and Researcher Dr. Jocelyn Fitzgerald '08

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Guest Bio:

Jocelyn J. Fitzgerald, MD is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the division of Urogynecology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She completed her Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery Fellowship at Georgetown University/MedStar Health with the National Center for Advanced Pelvic Surgery and her Gynecology and Obstetrics residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. She attended medical school at the University of Pittsburgh and graduated from the Physician Scientist Training Program. Before medical school, Dr. Fitzgerald graduated from Penn State in 2008 with a BS in Neurobiology from the Eberly College of Science and a BS in Women’s Studies with honors and an emphasis in Women’s Health from the College of the Liberal Arts. Her research has focused on mechanisms of female chronic pelvic and bladder pain, patient-centered outcomes of gynecologic surgery, and predicting how women seek care for pelvic floor disorders with a particular interested in the role of social media in medicine.

Episode Specifics:

In this episode, you’ll hear advice and insight from Jocelyn on:

• Combing majors for a unique academic experience

• The value of proactively seeking mentors and opportunities at Penn State and beyond

• Insight into choosing a medical school – and not just on rankings alone

• The progression of education for physicians and surgeons from undergrad to fellowships

• A day in the life of a surgeon, faculty member, and practicing physician

• Integrating additional skills and perspectives into your repertoire as a practitioner and researcher

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Credits & Notes:

This content is available in text form here.

This show is hosted, produced, and edited by Sean Goheen ‘11 Lib (Schreyer). 

The artwork was created by Tom Harrington, the College’s Web Developer. 

The sound effect is “Chinese Gong,” accessed via SoundBible used under Creative Commons License. 

The theme music is “Conquest” by Geovane Bruno, accessed via Pixabay and used under Creative Commons License.

Greeting scholars and welcome to following the Gong, a podcast of the Shire Honors College at Penn State. Following the gone takes you inside conversations with our scholar alumni to hear their story so you can gain career in life advice and it spanned your professional network. You can hear the true bread of how scholar alumni have gone on to shape the world after they rind the gone and graduated with honors, and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. This show is proudly sponsored by the Scholar Alumni Society, the constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Shawan Goheen, class of two thousand and eleven and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back. We're joined today by Joscelyn J Fitzgerald, md. Jocelyn is an assistant professor of up Stet churts and gynecology in the division of Eurogreynecology and reconstructive pelvit surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She completed her female pelvit medicine and reconstructive surgery, fellowship at Georgetown University Medstar health with the National Center for Advanced Pelvit surgery and her gynecology and US church presidency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. She attended medical school at the University of Pittsburgh and graduated from the physician scientist training program. Before Medical School, Dr Fitzgerald graduated from Penn State in two thousand and eight with a BS in neurobiology from the Everly College of Science and ABS and women's studies with honors and an emphasis and women's health from the College of the Liberal Arts. Her research is focused on mechanisms of female chronic pelvic and bladder pain, patient centered outcomes of gynecological surgery and predicting how women seek care for pelvit floor disorders, with a particular interest in the role of social media in medicine. In this episode you'll hear advice and insight from Joscelyn on combining majors for unique academic experience, the value of proactively seeking mentors and opportunities at Penn State and beyond, insight into choosing a medical school and not just on the rankings. The progression of Education for physicians and surgeons from Undergrad to fellowships. A day in the life of a surgeon, faculty member and practicing physician and integrating additional stills and perspectives into your uppertoire as a practitioner and researcher. With that, let's dive right into our conversation with Dr Joscelyn Fitzgerald. Thank you for joining me today, Joscelyn. It is great to have you on. I want to start off with, I think you've mentioned, that you are from a true blue and white Penn state family. So if you could tell us a little bit about your history of that and how you and I think many of your siblings have all come to be nitney lions. Yeah, Hiron, thank you so much for having me today. My name is Jocelyn Fitzgerald. Old Will Get, I guess, a little bit more into where I am now and what I currently do as a surgeon, but I am a Penn stater at the origin of my many years of school and a Shan mentioned. I'm the oldest of eight kids and we're only ten years apart, me and my youngest brother. So I was born and I guess I'm giving way. My age eighty six. He's born ninety six, and all eight of US went to Penn State. Half of US or Shire Scholars, but we all have very different majors. Our parents actually didn't go to Penn State. We have some other family members who did, but we're kind of the core Penn state legacy, the eight of us, and we all love Penn State. I was the first one to go and since there's so many of us, my parents were still relieved that we all decided to follow each other's hot steps and they only had to drive to one college every year, although it was for fifteen years. They were bringing bands full...

...of stuff back and forth to Penn State. At one point they had four kids there at the same time, a freshman, of sophomore and junior and a senior, which was pretty insane. And, like I said, we all studied totally different things, which I think maybe will be a theme of what I say to you today, because the diversity of education that Penn State can provide is the depth and breath is just amazing and I think that's a huge asset to applying to medicine because even though none of my other siblings went into medicine. I could make a pretty good argument for how everything they do could have applied to medicine had they decided that's what they wanted to do. So hopefully that answered your question. I'm happy to talk more about my siblings. I'm super proud of them. Are All very successful. No, that's great. So you know, to take yourself back to high school for a moment, if if I can humor you there. So you're I think you describe yourself as a pittsburger through and through. So there's a lot of great educational institutions in the Pittsburgh area. So what was it about the Shure Honors College that drew you up to Happy Valley? That's that is a great question, because now I'm on faculty at at Pitt and I went to med school at Pitt. So someone could say why, you know, didn't you go to pit they have a great honors college to they really do, and awesome opportunities. But you know, when I was eighteen years old, I am from the city. My parents live about a mile and a half from pitts campus. So I felt like I just needed to branch out a little bit and have, I guess, we'll call it the true college experience. I'm putting that in quotes for those of you can't see me right now, because there is no true college experience. You know, college looks different for everyone. But I thought, you know, I want to do something different. I want to be part of this huge, sprowling campus with the town is built around the college and not the other way around. And I had heard amazing things about the Honors College. Even when people talked about it at my high school, you know, they may as well have been talking about an Ivy League school with how not only excellent education was, but how competitive it was, how much it just that you sort of up for success. I'll never lie. I came from a place of privilege where I saw a lot of parents of my friends had college degrees and doctorates, and that was sort of expectation, you know, like you're on this path to some serious higher education and the better education you could get for a good value the better, because you're going to, you know, have some more bills to pay. So that was kind of how I decided and I knew that, you know, my parents also, like I mentioned, they ate of us had to go to college. So it was like, not that they wouldn't have supported me going to some to an Ivy League institution, but you're sending eight kids to college like you want their education to be both excellent and affordable. So that's sort of how I wand up there. Well, that's how I wanted up applying. Well, and obviously you got in. You came to depend state, into the Honors College and, in True Shire scholar fashion, you had a unique combination of majors. Could you tell us how you settled on those and the relationship that you had between a major in, I believe, liberal arts and one in the Everly College of Science? Yeah, absolutely so. I think most premed I meet really knew I wanted to be a doctor. Really knew that, and it's almost like comical to me now to be like, Oh, when I was in high school, I thought I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon, as though people decide what kind of doctor they...

...want to be in high school. But I'm here to make the argument that it is actually an okay thing to know. I think that's going to be I wrote about that in the preparations that you gave me for this podcast. I'm going to give like sort of the opposite advice of what a lot of people give, which is very good advice, that it's okay to not know what you want to do. It's equally okay to know exactly what you want to do, and that is okay too. It is okay to have like a vision for yourself at a young age. So the only thing, I guess I didn't really know about myself was that I hadn't really considered becoming an OBI Joan. But at the root of my reasons for going into medicine were the same, that I wanted to make a difference for women. And the reason I think I thought I wanted to go into Orthopedicx is because there's so few women in orthopedics and it's a boys club and I thought I was an athlete, like I'm pretty bright. I could make a difference here. I could. I could change this cultures to more women know they can go into earthpedix. But then we'll follow up. I went to Penn State, as you said. I majored in biology, like everyone, because they had all the prerequisites for med school or built in. I knew I didn't want to take a gap year. I didn't want to do a post back program. So I had to pick something. Nor would I. You know, again, money is a very real thing. Like my parents were like we're gonna we can pay for you to go to four years of college, like that's that's what you get. So I needed to get those prerex in sign up for bio but kind of realize that there was something missing from that education. I knew, and like my heart of hearts, that I was a feminist and that being a feminist scientist was something that I just really I really was. And I freshman year, started looking around, as many people do, for a thesis advisor and there's a program a Penn state called the wiser program, which stands for women and Science and Engineering Research, and I figured that would be a great way for me to find someone that I matched up with. So I applied to that program and I had to rank a bunch of different labs on Penn State's campus and interview with each of three labs. You basically over offered interviews at three of them and you had to put them in a rank list. You dropped this envelope off somewhere in camp. I for get where. I dropped it in a little male slot. So I sign out for like a Kinnesiology lab that studied these movement mechanics, thinking I wanted to do orthopedics or some sort of sports medicine. But there was this other lab that was led by a woman named Phyllis Mansfield, who was a professor of Women Studies and by a behavioral health where she studied the long term effects of women's hormonal cycles that have been going on for seventy years and was this epidemiologic research study that she had inherited from the University of Minnesota that had been going on for seventy years and she had all the data of seventy years of women tracking their transition from their reproductive years into their menopausal years, which to most college kids might sound a little boring, but I thought, oh, this sounds kind of cool and I went and I interviewed with her and I was blown away. She basically laid out for me this enormous gap in women's health and women's achievements which occurs when women are suddenly invisible to the healthcare system and to society when they transition into menopause. I'm going to just like pause for a second and say, like what she said to me I'll never forget, and I still say this to my medical students. People have this vision of a menopausal woman. They see like a white haired grandmother. I'd to just point out that our vice president, Kamala Harris, is fifty eight years...

...old. She's a menopausal woman. Like we need to re envision what that looks like, these women who are rising into their power on sort of a time delay, sometimes from men depending on, you know, the pressures they felt in their home life and childbearing, etc. And she was like this is an opportunity to make real change for women on a social level through the way we study their health. And I left that meeting thinking, Oh my God, she's so right. This field of medicine and steady needs me versus this kinesiology lab. I mean, how many people are interested in sports medicine? A Lot, you know, a lot, and gets plenty of money, plenty of recognition. I felt like people were they didn't need me as much. And so I came out of that meeting, I looked at my little paper where had to rank the labs and I have the Kinnesiology lab first and, as I like a I'll never forget this approached the little mail slot, I erased it and changed it and like put it in the mail slot before I get stall myself, and then you can guess where I ended up, what lab ended up in. So this woman became my mentor for all of Medical School. She be my thesis Mentor, and I decided in the process of working with her that I wanted to be an Obgyn and I wanted to make a difference in women's health that way. And so that's essentially exactly what I did and I picked up a women studies major. She was the one who encouraged me. She said you can definitely do this, you can add this to biology. It will enrich your biology major through these double I don't know how you'd say it, like a lot of women studies classes are double posted as by Behavioral Health and Women's studies, and you could. I actually she was the one who told me I could get a bachelor of Science and Women Studies. That didn't have to be bachelor of arts just because it was through liberal arts. So and there was a women's health track. Actually a lot of people don't know that. Then in women studies at Penn State you can take women's health classes and that was it for me. I said, okay, I'm going to figure this out and back in two thousand and four or five. Whenever I did this, I had to go. I remember there was like no air condition, even in this advisor's room, in this old office, and piece by piece, figured out where I could fit all my classes in so I could graduate in four years. Because, again, my parents were like, you're you're not staying, and a minute later than what we're paying for, four years is what you get. I have to figure out how to put this all together and because I could overlap a lot of my science classes from Everley to count towards my bs and Women Studies, I managed to do it in four years and that's how I lined up with two majors. Long Story Short, no, that's fantastic and I think that's a challenge that a lot of students have, is they want to piece together and I think a takeaway there is you sought help, you sought the you know, the staff, the faculty, and you made it work and I think there's a lot of yeah, you know, we always say not everything is possible, but a lot more doors open if you are in Shriar, in the Honors College for these unique opportunities. And I want to jump ahead just a minute here and we'll come back and talk about your thesis research, but I'm curious how your particular to your women studies classes may have impacted your bedside manner, if you will, in your practice today. Absolutely so I will. I've just, I guess, take this opportunity to explain to the listeners what it is that I do. So I am in a field of medicine called female public medicine and reconstructive surgery. People out in the world know that, as the euro gynecologists, I'm basically a hybrid of a gynecologic surgeon and a eurologic surgeon. I take care of women who have had childbirth injuries and especially women who have pelvic floor disorders as they age like in continent...

...and prolaps, which probably a lot of eighteen, nineteen twenty here aunts are listening to just don't know that having babies can make your vagina fallout, but that is a real thing that can happen and I can surgically repair that and that's that's what I do and that's how a lot of Menopausal or perimenopazzle women end up in my office. They have these states of aging that have treatments for years when and thought they just had to live with these conditions and it really disempowered them and kept them in their homes, kept them from achieving everything that's possible for them, and it's really awesome that I'm able to reverse that and make it so they can go about their business as they should be, leading and helping their families and doing whatever it is they find in their purpose. So that's what I do for a living. And so like, how does women studies affects my bedside manner? It has everything to do with my bedside manner. I mentioned the piece about how my patients come in in distress. Very few of them, like many of you listening, had no idea that with the passage of time, they would experience these symptoms you're in ear linkage, bulging of their vaginasts, all sorts of other pelvic floor conditions that are not talked about openly out in the world because they're embarrassing in taboo and women don't want to be like hey, guess what, my Chinese falling out. They don't tell their friends that, you know. So the the first thing that my women studies brings to my bedside manner is acknowledging where these women are coming from, based on the social standards and pressures that they've experienced in a lifetime of just living female. I know that they are coming and scared and mad that no one told them this could happen to them. They feel very alone, even though my waiting room is pactful every single day of women with the exact same condition as them. So validating their symptoms and validating all the experiences that brought them there is something that I learned from recognizing the female experience to the Lens of my women studies classes. I see a lot of patients with pelvic pain, a lot of patients with a history of physical and sexual trauma, a lot of birth trauma, trauma. Informed Care is something that was born out of feminist scholarship in a setting like a women studies class. So I all of that and I teach that to my residence, to my fellows. A lot of people in stem they recognize these forces at work, but they don't have the vocabulary to describe them or the vocabulary to describe the systems that have produced an inequality in their patients, that they helpably feel when they're talking to this distressed human being. I feel as though the gift that the women sudies major has given me is the ability to name those systems inside of medicine for my colleagues and my trainings. Fantastic. Yeah, I think the only place you might even potentially hear that in pop culture might be something like a gray's anatomy, which typically does not try away from these topics as but you know, I was aware of many of these issues myself and obviously I identify as male, so little bit gone to these things as I don't have to deal with them personally. So definitely learning a lot here and I hope you, as the listener, are as well. So going back to Undergrad for just another moment, you mentioned that you were an athlete, which is what originally were. Was Drawing you to or so, and I think of Calie Torrez on gray's immediately, so of first first Ortho surgeon. I think of is is female, right, and a woman of color. I Love Grades Anatomy for that reason that people associate or so with a Latino...

...woman. That is amazing. Unfortunately, it's not quite the reality yet but I think just having that character, not to digress, but just having that character. Thank you, Seann Ronch. Shout out to you exactly. Representation absolutely does matter to try and normalize things that have not been normalized. But going back to that, you said you were an athlete. You know, obviously you double majoring, trying to get out in four years. You're doing research, which we'll talk about a moment, but I'm curious on what else were you involved in? Obviously a core piece of the Honors College experience is not just the academic excellence but building global perspective and creating opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Did you have any opportunities to engage in study abroad? Any clubs, any club sports or, I am anything like that? Yeah, great question. To be very clear, I was not such a tremendous athlete that I was in Ath in college. I was involved in a lot of things and I will say that this will be a take home message of hope for anyone listening. Do the bare minimum of things that you feel you have to do for your application and spend the rest of your time doing something that you actually really care about. It is so hard to be on committees. I still am fighting this battle with myself as a surgeon today, people ask me to be on committees and I'm like just like really don't feel like doing this, like I don't really like this. I sort of dread the meetings. I don't set aside time for this, I don't prioritize this. There's always time for stuff that is important to you. You will find the time because it will light you up inside. So the stuff that I did that, you know, I succeeded the most at was related, I found more and more, to my interest in women's health and the things I did through the women studies department, you know, like I loved the vaginant monologs. I loved there was a women sties honor society I was involved with. I didn't do a full semester road. This is not related to women studies at all, but I did the theater class where you go to London for two weeks over winter break, which I felt was sufficient. I didn't really have time in my double major schedule to go abroad for a whole semester. That would have been tough, but I thought that was engaging and fun. That was just a fun thing that I did. The other thing that I did that I was a another sentinel experience of being in the Honors College was doing an unpaid internship, which otherwise I would not being able to do. An unpaid internship is like the epitome of privilege right, like a lot of kids cannot, for to do an unpaid internship and according to my parents, like neither could I. They were like, you're gonna work in the summertime. You know, if you want spending money for beer in school or whatever like, you got to have a job. But I had this opportunity to go to Washington DC for a summer between my sophomore and junior year and intern with this organization called the National Women's Health Network that my mentor, I mentioned, Dr Mansfield, had connections with and it was to this day, like such my cup of tea. There were there were, oh we Juans, were physicians and Surgeons on the staff and board of this advocacy organization where they critically assessed women's health research that was turning into policy, or might have turned into policy. They were basically watch dogs for women's health in DC, and so you had to really understand science, but you also to understand how that science would trickle down and affect everyday lives of women. And I could go there and it was it was a policy people and doctors and women's health. It was the coolest I was like I have to do this and my parents were like, well, you know, figure it out. So I went to the Honors College, I went to a bunch of plays, I went to...

...the Honors College, I went to the College of Liberal Arts and I went to Everley and I applied for as many little scholarships as I could and I got them and it enabled me to do pay rents in DC. I mean I had to live a little bit outside, you see, and like not the nicest apartment and take the train in every day and eat Rabin noodles. But I did this internship because of being in the honor Scheloge, because I could had the opportunity to apply for this funding to spend the summer doing this enriching experienced and I'm like still grateful for that to this day. I met people that I still, you know, have connections with. Its solidified a lot of things for me in terms of how women's health turns into very real laws that keep like through the FDA or otherwise, and very few other fields of medicine are like that, where your count where you need a watch jug organization to make sure that the laws are protecting women in their bodies and that doctors are involved in doing that's a whole other podcast about how much extra effort that is when you're in women's health, when when you're in orthopedics you don't really have to, you know, like watch dog the government all the time to make sure that the laws they make aren't like hurting your patients. I'm not saying there's nothing, but there's not much. So, to go back to your question, that was something I was very involved with, was keeping those opportunities and talking to other scholars about it. I guess last thing I'll say is that I was in though I danced for the Honors College when the Honors College still had their own thought organization and is since gone, unless it's come back, but I'm pretty sure it went away. There was it was like the Honors College team. So I danced and though on. Those are some of the things I did. I don't know. Hopefully that's an answer to your question. No, that's fantastic and I think just a couple of editorial notes for me as your host. First, if you are looking to get involved in thought as a scholar, you can get involved with a Shire student counseled. They are kind of ore into thought and they have dancers every year, or at least a aim to and most years. So we're recording this in August, two thousand and twenty one for reference in case something changes on that. And Justlyn you talked about internship fund. So I think that's something that gets overlooked for scholars as we have a lot of resources to support students, whether they're looking to travel abroad, go to a conference, do an internship, and it sounds like you made good use of all of the different identities you had as a student, whether that was in everly, in liberal arts, as a shire scholar. So if you're a student, if you're listening to this, take advantage of those resources, come talk to us. And if you're an Alam, this is a great way to support students, is through contributing to those experiences and paying it forward. But I love that you got an internship in DC, which is not necessarily the first thing you might think of for a Future Med student. And I would love if you could tell us how you went obviously there's the mcat and you know all the things that go in there, but if you could walk us through how you went about choosing the Med schools that you applied to in that process and how you ultimately selected to go back home and attend the University of Pittsburg? Yeah, great question. I did study for the M cat. That's summer I was in DC. That was pretty much all I did was like go to my internship and go to my m cat class and study in my little, like crappy apartment for the mcat. I mean not saying going. I'm not saying going to medicine is easy. You need to know and your absolute heart of hearts that there's nothing else you could possibly do. On one hand, I could tell you, I guess. I mean the amount of things I'm again are quotes that you guys can see. The amount of stuff I like gave up to become a doctor is ridiculous. I never really felt like I was giving it up because I feel as though I have a higher purpose in medicine, which is to help women who could not help themselves, and...

...that keeps me going. If I did it for like the money. I'm not saying it's not a great job. I'm well, I'm very well compensated. But if you're doing it for like any reason other than to fight your way through this world for people and their most vulnerable, like going to finance, like if you're if you're smart enough to go into medicine, you're smart enough to like make a whole lot of money and have a lot of success doing something else. So that's my plug on medicine. But I would never choose it, you know, any other way. So back to the mcat and like how did I wind up going to Pitt so a thing that there were two things, basically. This isn't a very sexy answer. One is that I'm from Pittsburgh and I love Pittsburgh. I'll have a lot of shoutouts to Pittsburgh through and I work in Pittsburgh. Now, I mentioned my eight brothers and sisters. So when I was in College, Sam Twenty Years Old, I'm applying to medical school, my youngest brother was only ten. So they were still in a lot of them in high school and I kind of wanted to watch them grow up a little bit and be around as they know I wanted to go to their basketball games and be around my family. There's also, I will say no, for as much as I like, wanted to go two and a half hours away depend state for college so I wouldn't be down the street from my parents. When you're in a pressure cooker like med school, there's no dollar sign. You can put on a little extra social support, even if that means your mom bringing you a sandwich when you're studying for your cardiology final. So it was a combination of those things. And then the last thing is that Pitt is an extraordinary med school. It's like right on the brink of being a top ten med school. I think it's like eleven or twelve, but the resources are totally unparalleled. And I'll guess I'll say the last thing is, even though the a I was like a Conveni or my family, I can go to this absolutely extraordinary medical school. I'm going to put in one plug for the division I now work in, which is the OB joy in department. Pittsburgh has McGee Women's Hospital, which is now I've got. I've been at John Topkins, which is right to my residency. I've been at Georgetown I've been all over the country. I've applied at pretty much every o like top twenty Obgui en academic division that this country has to offer for either residency or fellowship, and there's only one other sort of two, maybe three. They're very rare, these hospitals that are dedicated to women's health, and not only completely dedicated to women's health, but poor millions of dollars into women's health. And at Pitts there's such a research powerhouse that they actually have where I work now, at Magi Women's Hospital, a free standing obguy in hospital with a research institute directly across the street, a research bio medical science tower dedicated solely to the advancement of Science for women. Nowhere else has that a research institute like that, and I knew I wanted to go to Objiu n. So now, looking back, with all the knowledge I have, all the friends I have all over the country at these beyond cutting edge institutions, there is still nowhere as cutting a true woman's health as McGee in at the University of Pittsburgh. So that was probably the biggest reason that I like. That's it. Going back. So you mentioned research and obviously pitt sounds like it's a great institution for it, for Women's health. Did you find that your thesis experience in the Honors College was a good foundation for you going into, as you called it, the pressure cooker of Med school? Yes, I absolutely did, and I think it...

...gave me and this amazing birds eye view of where research needed to be done in women's health. That is what my women studies doing did for me. It allowed me to look down at the things that truly keep women from being their best selves and asking why don't we have the tools to make them their best self if they have this condition? My thesis research specifically focused on Menopausal health and how menopause unfolds over the cool you know, over the course of woman's life span, what disease states unfold that we can intervene and understand better in medicine. What I actually ended up doing in med school relied a little bit more on my neurobio background from every mashed together with that. So I started noting that there were so many women who have pelvic pain. Public pain is kind of like an umbrella term for pelvic pain. I mean that is what it is women who had to have like debilitating pain somewhere between their belly button and their knees and nobody can figure out what it is or why they have it, and they see a million doctors and they rule out everything dangerous, that I'll kill them, and they're like, I don't know, I guess you just have this pain. You have to live with it. And I thought to myself like no, that's that's not right, like why don't we know more about this? And then when I got to medical school, Pitt had like kind of a med school version of the wiser program that I went through it and state it was called the like the frip program or something, was like faculty research in interest projects, and I just started over. I did the same thing. I was like I'm going to hunt down someone through this little database of labs that might be interested in what I'm doing, and so I did. I found this guy who actually was in Gasternurology, but he was studying this concept, which is now known to be pretty well understood, that the female pelvists has a whole bunch of nerves that overlap with each other. It's not like your arm, where it's like Oh, you break your your wrist and the nerves from your wrist. Your brain is like, Oh, I know that my wrist hurts because there's only one a few nerves in my wrist. So like we know that that's what's injured. The female pelvis isn't like that. It's like connected by this web of nerves that all go back to the same part of his spinal cord, and it's kind of thought to be like a design of evolution so that you can tolerate the changes of pregnancy. This enormous like bowling ball that sits deep in your pelvis and you are like, oh well, I mean I can feel it, but I don't really know what I'm feeling. And it's design that way so that women will keep perpetuating the species. Otherwise it would be like forget this. This is horrible, but that can back by here sometimes and women can have pain in one public organ, like their colon or their bladder, but actually it's coming from like their uterus, or actually it's coming from the muscular structures of their public floor. Actually it's coming from their hip or their lower back, and it all sort of feels the same mishmash of pain. And he was doing research on how women can have this gaster intestinal disease, but then the pain shows up in their bladder, like how does that happen and why does this happen in women and not really men? I was like, yes, that is a thing. These women are suffering. They're coming into see doctors and doctors are basically telling them that they're crazy and this can't possibly be the case. But women are like no, like I'm really suffering here. And I said this is how basic science can inform and enormous bias that we have against women who are showing up in pain. And so I got into his law Bob, and then through him I got this other amazing mentor...

...so you're seeing a theme here, like you find someone who can help you and they wedge the door in and you just got to show up to the meetings. Like, once you at your foot in the door, you just need to show up on people's front doors and tell them that you're interested and show that you're a good worker and that you'll follow up in the things you say you're going to do. And I got into this program that I rish initially what it's almost like the sophomore gate at Stryer. We're like you can do they still call it that? The junior gate? I guess, where you get into the honors college as a junior. Yeah, you can join Honors College as a first, second or third year student. Oh, that's new. Okay, perfect. Yeah, we used to call it the junior gates and we face the term out, but the concept is still very accurate. Okay. So for the listeners again, I'm old, but they had a similar thing in this program at pick called the physician scientist training program and you can stand med school for extra year and they would pay for your tuition for those years to do basic science research under the mentorship of these amazing people. And so I got into that program that I hung out for an extra year doing this basic science research on these complex mechanisms of women's pelt pain. And then I went to a meet you went and like many years have gone by. It's been like eight years, or I guess ten years even, since I was in that lab. But now I've, with the help of many brilliant people, again asking for help from people who are smarter than you. Here at the university. Pits are weird. We've built a clinic where we see patients with multiple different types of doctors and specialists to address women's probably pain so that they can be back to the theme of like validation, the way women's studies effects my bedside manner, believing these women and then using science to back up what they're saying is true, and so that was sort of how my thesists experience led to my research and medical school and now my research as a surgeon. It really all just built off each other. Yeah, I think you hit on something really important. A lot of opportunities are there. You just have to ask or seek out folks before there's an opportunity. Often just make those connections. He said, you know, finding mentors. So it sounds like you go out and take advantage of these opportunities and I'm curious how in Your Med school experience. Obviously I'm not a doctor, but I have a general understanding that when you graduate you go on to a residency and then it's oftentimes even fellowships. If you can share your story and advice for students to start thinking ahead. They may be an Undergrad now, but to start laying the groundwork for two and three steps ahead, for if they're interested in just medicine generally, knowing that those are the next steps down the road? Sure, and I remember, I just want to stay to anyone that's listening, the idea that you're a college freshman and you're signing yourself up for sixteen more years of school until you get to where I am now. All that is daunting. Like I knew I was doing that. I remember like pulling out my calendar in two thousand and eight and saying to myself, Oh my God, like when I'm finally done with this. I added it all up and I added an extra year. So I guess the time I was like I'll be downe in two thousand and nineteen, and then I did that extra yo research end up being two thousand and twenty, like I'll be thirty three years old, which is so crazy to conceive of when you're eighteen, being like me as a thirty three year old is an inconceivable thing. You're like, Oh my God, like how will I ever make it? And I will say this to you the number one always root yourself in the purpose of what you're doing. Always like there's got to be something more than you're just doing this for yourself that's going to get you through that amount of time, amount of dedication it takes to do something like getting to finally be a surgeon out on your own and like getting a bigger paycheck and more respect...

...and whatever, just feeling like you, quote, made it, and more are quotes. The other thing I'll say is the time is going to pass, no matter what. You know what I mean. At some point you're going to show you're going to turn thirty three, thirty four, thirty five years old someday, God willing, not going to work, would covid, I guess, but we're all gonna make it. You're going to make it and you may as well show up every day working towards something you really want to do, if it's really your dream. The time is going to pass anyway. All you have to do is show up every day and do your best. Now, is there a little bit of pre planning involved? Obviously, like I'm very type a person I ever going to be on this podcast, being like I just like hung out and these things happened to me. They did not like I I have. I'M gonna hold this up. This is my to do list that I currently have sitting on my desk like the I have like twenty things and little truck boxes on here. Yeah, for July. You just showed me a very long piece of notebook paper and every single line has some kind of activity and a little empty box next to it waiting to be checked off. So for the for you as the listener. That's why she just showed me. And I've been making these lists since I was in Atherton Hall. I still have all of I used to make a one of these every single day. I would make a little index card and I would map out like my day, like every day. I still have all of them. I have almost almost twenty years worth, because I like want to see, like what did? What have I been doing this whole time, working my butt off, like I'm never going to tell you that. You're not. I have twenty years of planners and to do lists where I thought to myself, like how will I get myself from Point A to point b? And it's built of index cards, a little things that every day you're like, okay, I'm going to email this person. Okay, now that I've emailed them and they've given me this little object what are the little pieces of this project so that I can produce a deliverable I can actually publish this paper I can actually feasibly finish this? Do I really care about this? All that stuff. So your question. I think you're totally leaving myself down another path, but like how can you plan for a few steps ahead? I think the easiest thing is again like find a mentor any of you listening, welcome, to email me. Like there's something you think you want to be a cardiologist. Ask a cardiologist how they became a cardiologist. I asked nobody in or like a public surge and like how do you do this? People who are older and wiser sort of laid out for you and then you think like okay, how can I make a contribution that's going to make me perhaps an attractive candidate for each next step? What are the barriers standing between me and this goal? And you know, I will say again, I have to like disclaim so many times how much privilege I have and how I had access to people that were willing to help me. I faced very minimal, know, discrimination along my path. So it'll be like even harder, you know, for students who don't come from a place where they can see other doctors, they can see their friends mom's being doctors. So reach out to other people early. I think more and more, like young faculty are thinking, we need to open, like kick down these doors open for people who don't have these examples in their everyday life of how you can see what you can achieve. I know that was a long answer. I don't that exactly answered your question, but I guess the take home things break it down into a little steps. Show up every day, have a bird's eye view of where you want to go and eventually the time will pass and you'll get there. No, I think that's great because I said here, at the age of thirty one, I'm like wow, yeah, the you you hit that age regardless of what you do between twenty one and thirty one. So it's going to come, so you may as well make the most...

...of that time. And you mentioned and I had a lot of fun along the way. Let me just say I made so many friends, so many good times. The hospital can be fun. It's gratifying. I have memories for my patients. It was worth it. Oh, I bet. And going back to what you said earlier, you know you kind of talked about point a to point B and you started med school at Pitt and your back at pit working as a full on, you know, professor and surgeon. But in between you had some interesting stops. It's some very premier brand name, if you will, top ranked, whatever the term would you want to use here, institutions like Johns Hopkins and Georgetown. So if you could just maybe describe briefly your experiences and what the difference between being a med student, a resident and a fellow is on these different points on the journey? Definitely. Yeah, so a MED students, probably, well, maybe most, you don't know. Being a med student is kind of just being like an Undergrad student on steroids. Only in a weird way you're like back to high school because at least in Prief covid times, you sit in the same classroom all day long and the professor's come to you. So, as you like elementary school, I guess you like sit in the same room instead of college. Were like walking all over the place like you're med school. You're with a hundred and fifty people. That on average, that's your full class, and you just sort of like sit there and then you go to the library and then you do it all again in the next day. At least for the full first couple of years, and then the last three years is when you start rotating in the hospitals among all the sort of subspecialties of medicine to figure out what kind of doctor you might want to be. And let me just say it's like totally fine tun kind of know what kind of doctor you want to be. I did. I was like I wouldn't be in Ovid you and and I deviated from that plan like very minimally in medical school. There was a very brief moment where I thought maybe I would be a urologist with the same endgame for what I am now, which would have been a fine path, but I didn't. Now it's like obigone all the way. I gotta Save the ladies. So yeah, so then at then I med school, the last two years you kind of rotate on all the subspecialties, do you get a taste of what might be interesting to you, and then you apply for residency in that specialty, and I chose Ob two end so that was what I applied for all over the country and I ended up matching it's my residency at John Topkins, which is an amazing places, one of the best residencies in the country, and it went to Baltimore for four years. That's how long O be joy in residency is. And then this is not unique to Ob Joan, but ob Juy and in particular has a lot of rather long and involved fellowships because of the way the training path is. And I guess I'll just clarify that. A fellowship is where you learned to become a subspecialist. So someone who is like a cardiologist doesn't just become go to cardiology residency, they go to internal medicine residency and then specialized in cardiology. I went to ob guy in residency and then specialized in female public reconstructed surgery specific to women and bladders, called your gun. So that's three more years of surgical training after that. And there's some people who even do like another fellowship beyond their initial fellowship. Had I wanted to do something in like transgender surgery, I could have done an extra like you're so of training beyond my fellowship, like a sex there's no word for that's just a second fellowship. But but I did I did not do that and that's kind of the path that you take. So if you want to be a subspecialist, you have to do a little extra beyond your residency. Fantastic and and I appreciate I kind of I was almost picturing like brought like you're like an upside down pyramid and you're slowly narrowing down as you go along. Exactly. That's right, and I know we're kind of tating towards it's the tail end of our chat today and I was hoping, you know, full circle back. You've...

...talked a little bit about it, but you're back at pit and if you could just talk a little bit about a day in the life of you in the workplace and particularly how you balance direct patient care, the red tape, if you will, of you know, the office side of stuff of being a physician, being a surgeon. I know you teach and presumably if you're doing any kind of research, and it sounds like you're helping to really build up a fuller program around what you're doing. So how you are managing all of these things to get you know, I think there's students will think I want to be a doctor and I go to med school, but they don't get necessarily know what a day in the life could be. So if you could try to pull back the curtain to reference the wizard of Oz a little bit, like what does it look like? Yeah, it's not, honestly, like that different from being an Undergrad. You're like balancing like your classes, your tests, your clubs, your friends, your leadership or get like maybe you want to take on a leadership role and you're working towards that like a pen state. You know, you have like a lot of obligations. There's never a time. And I even was duped a little bit. I was like cool, if I just can get through this, if I just can get through this, if I just can get through this, like I'll have less to do. That's not true. You just have like more control over what it is that you do and you have a lot more purpose even than you did early on, driving you to do those things. So it's not easy. Like I'm really busy, and I bring that on myself because I have a lot to do in medicine. If I wanted to just like take care of my patients, do like a minimum amount of research and, I don't know, like teach the student's robotic surgery as once a month, like I could do that. I could do the minimum, which is still a lot of work. Like I will never say like that, as that is enough, like anyone that that's what they do. They are going already doing the most. Like how do I balance it? The same way I did when I was a fresher Netherton with this to do list. I write down all the projects I have and I sort of prioritize little pieces of them, knowing that the time will pass anyway. I'm getting I think covid has showed a lot of us, like you need to put some boundaries on your time. I got a little better at that, like what needs to be done and wrapped up by four or five o'clock so that I can I brothers getting married this weekend, like go do that and just have that be my focus. It's an ongoing battle, like there's there's, if you're, I'm sure, anyone listening here, that's all to be a shrire scholar isn't type A over cheeverer. I know that. So, like you're already someone who goes above beyond and someone who can see more of what needs to be done and know that you're capable of doing a lot of things that other people just don't have the bandwidth or maybe the expertise to see and you're like, Oh, why does everything fall on my shoulders? Like I remember, I still feel like that all the time and you just have to pick like the highest impact things and while also maintaining your obligations that we all have to our employer. So your original question is like, what is the day in the life look like? There's a to do list involved. My average week, I will say, and it changes all the time as that I do basically like one to one and a half days of surgery per week. I'd say, one to two days of being in the office and then one to one and a half days, and I realize if you're doing math, that doesn't add up to five days. But like on average one and a half days of things where I can do things like this, be at home, work from home, do a podcast, to work on my research and sort of tie up loose ends for my office. So like a day in the life of...

...me could really look like? Let's just say I'm in the office. I'll show up at eight o'clock, maybe I'll have a medical student or resident who's rotating with me and I'll have twenty patients to see. My Office staff will have me sign things, my nurses will have questions for me about my patients. I'll be running into the rooms seeing people, some more straightforward than others. My student might be like seeing patients also. They'll be telling me about the patients they saw. I'll be sort of asking them a few questions, teaching them about the condition that patient has, and then we'll go in and see that patient together. On like a particularly crazy day, maybe it my clinical ended four, and then we'll have the teaching session, like lectures, the weekly lectures, not that different from med school or Undergrad and sometimes I'll even have, you know, like a small surgery. That's rare, but like maybe another surgeon will be doing something and they'll need me to come in and do a little something extra. And then the next day I'll have like my own day of surgery, which will go from like seven to five. That's like a pretty standard day and there's always little interruptions. That's like the biggest thing I'll say is, like, if you think that you're just going to show up in your time is going to be totally protected always, it's not going to be your you're still and email, like your email is still gonna flow while you're doing these things. You're going to have your institution asking you for stuff. You're going to have other faculty asking you to help them with a lab or, you know, a surgical simulation. That's what happens all the time, and you just need to tell people like what you are and are not available for and how much time you can realistically devote to something disclosed. You know your other obligations and focus your energy where you think it's getting the most bank your book and just do your best. That's all I can do and I think honestly, you know, if you're somebody listening and you maybe later on change and decide to do something other than medicine or maybe something else in healthcare. Those last things that Joscelyn, you just said are equally applicable no matter what industry you go into. You does interruption matter, email flowing the other you go into law or sales or teaching, whatever, that will still happen to you. So very sage. So I've one more question that just kind of popped up in my mind. You were talking about robotic surgery. Obviously that's probably advanced leaps and bounds just even since your time as a med student. Asn't as a Shire stollar. Are there any obviously a lot of students who are looking to go to med school probably there's a lot of things that they already know that they should be looking into, shadowing and all these kinds of things and volunteer hours and taking the mcats. But is there anything kind of maybe less obvious that a prospect of med student who's a shire scholar should look into exploring in terms of skills that they could be developing? I mentioned like very early on. I mean I double majored in in Women's studies, but there's plenty of things that I wish. There's plenty of majors I wish I had like all the time. I love to learn, like all the time the world to do. They're all you could make almost anything applicable to medicine. And that is such a good point that looking at where medicine is going, it is not wrong to look at where like people say it's like not I'm not professional or appropriate in your code of ethics and medicines. Is All a totally like unspoken, not true stuff like look, we're like the money and the influence is going. There's an enormous amount of opportunities in tech in I we didn't talk about social media on this podcast, but I mean I think the role for social media medicine is so enormous. Tech devices, you mentioned robotics. I mean things that, like other fields, are doing and talking about. Medicine tends to lag behind a little bit because in these premiers of your life we're like a lot of people are getting into these really innovative fields and being like movers and pushers. You're sort...

...of in a libraries. So I think that people like invest so much up front in their medical education, both personally and financially, by the time they kind of make it, they're like, oh my God, I tek my loans back, so I just need to get into this ground of like seeing patients and who knows what. But there are other paths and there are more and more mentors popping up, people in other industries that can support your interests in medicine. That's very welcome. Be something I would do in my future. Like now I have this really solid foundation and translational research and patient care and now I can identify like hey, these are the things that would make this system better. How can we ask other industries to help us do this. There's like no end to the opportunities I personally have gotten and continue to see if you just learn about other industries from your friends and family. My siblings, with their huge number of very differs majors from hen state teach me things all the time. I'm like, Oh, like, that would really help medicine. I should talk to someone about this, and I actually like have my sister in advertising, like I've partnered with her on things and healthcare, advertising and women's sports, like. There's in roads to medicine. Touches everything. So I guess if there's something that you think is really cool and you're not sure how it could apply to medicine, do a google and like find someone that you think maybe has crossed over, because I can pretty much guarantee they exist. Speaking of social media, if a students, if you're listening to this, and they want to connect with you later on down the road, what is the best platforms that they ki? Is At linkedin or something else where they can get in touch with you if they want to, you know, seek you out as a mentor. Yeah, yeah, I'm a huge fan of transparency and social media in medicine. You could find me on I'm on all those things. I am a an elder millennial, so I'm on all the whole I'm not on to I don't like produced tick tock content. I guess that's the only one. But Yeah, you can find me on Linkedin. You can find me on doximity, which is basically like Dr Linkedin. You'd find me on twitter, which is where I probably am the most continuously vocal and accessible. My handles at j Fitzgerald and d you can find me on instagram or I post, I would professional account, where I post a lot about mostly female public medicine. That's at Pittsburgh Hero. guying those with a the main ones. I read most of my DM's. Is there a final piece of advice I maybe hasn't come up in the conversation, that you think is really important for a scholar to hear and that you're just burning to share with them today? Nothing that I really haven't having said there is no like magic pill to make this easy and there's no magic pill to make the time go by. I would I would just say, like always root yourself in a pert in something that is bigger than you. It will help you survive the days where you question if you're good enough or smart enough or if this is worth it, or if you know missing your friends Bachelor Atte Party is like a good enough reason to be in medicine. Like little things are just like why did I get myself into this? You remember, like the patients, or even like the device that you're working on or the the big end game to all of it. Keep that in mind. Know that any successful person you see stands on the shoulders of hundreds of other people that got them where they are and probably hundreds of to do lists, and all they did was show up every day, do their best, open themselves up to making connections with other people and be kind. Like, if...

...you ask nicely and work hard, it will get you really far. And there's going to be people who you'll be nice to them and you'll work hard for them and they could let you down like that. That happens, but on the whole, people want to help and they will if you are willing to to work on that relationship with them. I think that is really great sage advice to wrap up on. But before we're done, we have a tradition here on the show where I would love to ask you if you were a flavor of Burkie creamery ice cream or great colleague here at University Park? What flavor would you be? But most importantly, as a staller alum? Why that one? I've had the whole podcast to think about this and really, to be fair, I've had like twenty years to think about this and now I remember, like I forget the full name of this one, but I'm going to say that it's like the mint chip flavor. That is. Is that still flavor? What is it actually called? I think you might be referring to better sweet mint, kind of the mint chocolateship type of flavor. Bitter sweet went mint is my favorite flavor and I think it's because it's like so refreshing. It's like the perfect combination of like mint tea and the chocolate is like like Mintea and bitter and dark and it just like the contrast is really good and you can eat a lot of it because it feels like you just brush your teeth. So it's like you didn't even in eat an enormous code of ice cream. Always a great, reliable standby at the creamery never disappoints. So then that's a great choice. Dr Joscelyn Fitzgerald, thank you so much for joining us today for an excellent conversation. You've heard how you can get in touch with her if you are interested in learning more, connecting with her and potentially seeking her out as a mentor as a scholar alum. So thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you so much for having me. We are thank you, scholars, for listening and learning with us today. We hope you will take something with you that will contribute to how you shape the world. This show probably supports the Shire Honors College Emergency Fund Benefiting Scholars experiencing unexpected financial hardship. You can make a difference at rays dot PSU dot edu forward slash shreire. Please be sure to hit the relevance, subscribe, like or follow button on whichever platform you are engaging with us on today. You can follow the college on Facebook, twitter, instagram and Linkedin to say up to date on news, events and deadlines. If you have questions about the show or a scholar alum who'd like to join us as a guest here, I'm following the gone. Please connect with me at scholar alumni at PSU DOT ETU. Until next time, please stay well and we are.

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