DeBakey Program Pre-Orientation: The Role of Preparation in Leadership

An executive, my dad has always coached me on the significance of having an elevator pitch at hand for one-on-one “VIP opportunities.”  Recently, I had one of these moments as I was leaving my research lab at BCM, when I ran into a surgical division chief on the elevator.  Frankly, I was a little too star-struck to make entirely productive conversation, but I lucked out because he was good-humored and invited me to stop by his office “whenever.”

I’ve been raised to believe that I can succeed through over-preparation.  However, a few key individuals over the past couple of weeks have made me question this mentality.  They instead encouraged me to take advantage of my “sunshine of the spotless mind” as I begin the DeBakey Summer Surgery Program tomorrow.  From a creative standpoint, I understand that a fresh perspective lends itself to offering unique ideas and potentially discovering new interests.  Yet I am a bit concerned that my intellect is not genius nor innovative enough to utilize this approach and succeed. 🙂

Although perhaps the most important quality of leadership is not preparation, I have found that preparation is a crucial factor in my interpersonal performance, particularly in professional settings.  How can I maximize my methods of preparation without coming across as over-prepared, scripted, or fake?  Is preparation even important for me as the lowly undergraduate among a team of medical students, residents, fellows, and attending surgeons?

The DeBakey program has several goals: 1) to familiarize students with the hospital and OR environments, 2) to develop time management and decision-making skills, and 3) to offer them the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of activities as part of a surgical service.  Established by Dr. Michael E. DeBakey himself nearly 50 years ago, the program succeeds in perpetuating a culture of teaching and fostering medical excellence of the younger generations.  Many of the surgeons who volunteer to take on students also derive intrinsic rewards from mentoring.  This summer, I aspire to further clarify my career aspirations, hone a broad-based skillset, and interact with as many patients as possible, keeping in mind that the objective is to work to improve their lives above all else.

These goals are diverse in nature yet equally important, and I expect to bear the majority of the weight in making sure they are realized.  My surgical mentors will undoubtedly be busy, often in dealing with matters of life and death.  I should not act so selfishly as to inhibit, even slightly, the process of delivering quality healthcare to any patient.  Understanding when to interject, ask questions, and offer assistance will require on-the-job learning during my first week.

I look forward to reflecting on my experiences through continuing to blog this summer and engaging in discussion with as many people from diverse backgrounds as possible!  I am constantly reminded of a quote from the program’s beneficiary: “The pursuit of excellence has been my objective in life.”  While intellectual merit can often be credited to preparation, ethical merit and practical wisdom come from navigating personal experiences.  Through this internship, I am thrilled to experience a life in medicine, rather than simply to observe a career in medicine, for the first time!


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