In an ironic twist, the same person who helped me develop into a disruptive woman in healthcare has asked me to become a founding member of the Disruptive Women in Health Care blog. She is my big sister. When we were in high school, she had the coolest job ever; she was a “medical assistant” in the office of a local internist. He was a sole practitioner who believed in giving young women an opportunity to get experience in the medical field. Many of them have, in fact, gone on to careers in healthcare. Just before my junior year in high school, with my sister heading off to college, the baton was passed to me. After thoroughly prepping me for the interview (I can still count backwards from 100 in increments of 7 flawlessly and remember the spelling of such important words as phlegm and pneumonia), she was off and I was running.
Initially, my role was pretty basic. Interviewing the patients meant asking, “What is the reason for your visit?” to open and closing with, “Are there any other complaints or is there anything else you wish to speak to the Dr. about?” As I gained valuable experience, I was given more responsibility: setting up for and developing x-rays, performing EKGs, analyzing urine and stool samples and writing prescriptions. By the time I was mid-way through college, I had occasionally been given the opportunity to “assist.” That meant helping with pap smears, casting fractures, administering chemotherapy and suturing. Finally, throughout graduate school, I became known as the Medicare expert. The staff would save up hundreds of claims for me to complete when I came home for vacations and summers.
Can you imagine how simple things were then and how different they are now? We had no computers; the forms were filled out using a pen. I knew what a LBBB was and why PVD was bad. My boss signed, by hand, each and every form I filled out. Although times were much more innocent in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I learned lifelong lessons in that office. I was the most comfortable audiology graduate student in my class when it came to interviewing patients. I wasn’t afraid of touching ear wax or giving difficult test results to families. I owe much of my success initially as an audiologist and currently in my role as Director of a clinic to my first employer, and of course, to my big sister.