What was my biggest obstacle?
I think the biggest obstacle isand I think for most peopleself doubt. And it happens to all of us. I always knew that hard work would pay off. But I think as little kids, we'd always think life's going to be very linear.
It's not that school is hard; it's not that... you know: "What do you do after college, and medical school, and residency,"it's that life interferes. Things happen that you don't expect. You get in bad relationships; someone dies... Those things interfere.
But when I was a resident, I remember our chief of surgerywho was a tough guysat us down because we didn't perform very well on one those standardized tests. And he said to us: "Look. I'm accused of having favorites. And I want you to know I do. Those of you who work hard, you're my favorites." And I busted my butt from that day forward.
How do I make a difference?
Some days I think I'm not doing enough; the stuff I do is pretty... generic, anybody could do it; and other days I walk out of the operating room... and I know I made a difference.
There are days I walk out of foreign countries having just broadcast something for ABC, and I know I did it right. There are days when I just do a little 45 second on Good Morning America and I know that... I have explained it as well as anybody could explain it.
But the danger is, if you walk out of the operating room, or off a television set every time and you think: "nobody can do it like I can," you're fooling yourself, and your thoughts are grandiose, and, uh, you shouldn't be doing it anymore. You're a danger to everybody around you.
Who was my mentor?
I've had three mentors, but all very different.
My father was my mentor early on. Letting me go to the hospital, I saw his passion for medicine, I knew this was a calling, and I watched him really... really combine the art and science of medicine.
My mother was my mentor for how to be a good person. She's gracious, and kind, and smart, and strong. Very much so that Midwestern mom. But from my mom, I really learned how to have a life well lived.
And my chief of surgery in PittsburghDr. Eugene Myerstaught me how to be a really good surgeon. He invested time in me; and it's a lot for him that I vowed no matter what my other careers were, I would never give up medicine.
The great mentors don't have to tell you you're good. The great mentors let your prove it to yourself. And that's what he did. He would suddenly shift places in the operating room, and I would be the chief surgeon. He would suddenly introduce me to a host of international doctors and have me explain something. Those little things he would throw my wayin a wink, and a nod of the headthat told me I was good.
How has my career evolved over time?
As a little girl, I just thought I was going to be a doctor, and I'd practice in the Midwest somewhere. And then I went from pediatrics, realized I wanted to do more than pediatrics, then went into surgery, and then very much saw myself as an academic head and neck cancer specialist, and did that for several years.
But I don't know. I have had this churning in my gut always, I guessand fortunately for me, I've listened to itsuch that I've allowed myself to entertain more than one thing. And when I was the University of Pittsburgh during my residency, I ended up being on television, and the local station there, liked what they saw, they asked me to come back a few times, and one thing led to another; and when I went to Arkansas, to Little Rock, to become a young staff surgeon, I started combining my love of television with my love of medicine. And the two weaved themselves together quite well.
Whether I'm sitting at a patient's bedside explaining surgery, my challenge is still to take very complicated stuff, and in a non-condescending manner, talk to a patient. Well, on television it's the same thing. I have to take complicated stuff and explain to 10 or 12 million people. The skill set is exactly the same.
And interestingly, being a correspondent has made me a better doctor. And absolutely, being a working doctor has made me a better correspondent.