What I Have Learned In My First Decade Of Practice
Ten years seems like such a long time when you’re growing up. When you’re a kid, you look at people 10 years older than you and you think to yourself, “Jeez, they are old.” As we get older time seems to speed up, too. You get married, have kids, get busy in practice and every day is just a flash. Next thing you know time doesn’t just seem to speed up, it becomes a blur.
On July 1, 2012, I will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of my entrance into private practice. To quote the Grateful Dead, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” When my wife and I moved to Houston for my surgical residency, we were sure we would be staying there after I was done. Things change and ultimately, we decided to move back to Virginia Beach and spent nine tumultuous years there, struggling to make a life for ourselves and our growing family. Ultimately, we left the beach and good friends behind for an opportunity we just could not pass up. What an opportunity it has turned out to be.
As we start over (again), I started thinking about all the mistakes I have made and the successes I have had. Believe me, I have made my share of mistakes and had my fill of some crushing defeats. With the help of my family, we were able to pull through those rough times and also shared some degree of my successes over the years as well.
Some of the lessons I have learned over the years were hard to swallow at the time but I realize now that they were necessary for my growth both as a professional and as a person. What’s the old proverb? Experience is the harshest of teachers as she gives the tests first and the lessons later. I try to learn something new every day and happily, I’m in a place where there is plenty to learn. I do listen, guys, even if it seems like I don’t. I promise.
There are some things I have learned that I would like to share though. They seem to be universal, regardless of what you do for a living and who you are as a person.
I am fond of movie quotes. While I was never crazy about the movie Roadhouse, there was a quote from it that has stayed with me. The late Patrick Swayze played Dalton, a professional bouncer, in the movie. At one point, he is helping to set up a new bar and tells his bouncers, “Be nice until it’s time to not be nice.”
Think about that for a moment. My parents instilled in me the importance of being respectful and polite, but sometimes the time has passed to be either one of those things. For some, it is sooner. For others, it is later. Ultimately, there will be a time when you cannot be nice. There is a way to do that as well so chose the time wisely. If you are able to handle this correctly, you may just have a lasting impact and not “burn your bridges.”
I am not naïve even to think that everyone likes me. That just doesn’t happen. That being said, I would like to think I am not above anyone or below anyone, for that matter. When I work with residents, I do not insist they call me Dr. Raducanu. I ask them to call me Ron. I do this because we are colleagues and I feel I can still learn from them. I respect them and I hope that after working with them, they grow to respect me. I try to let my work and character speak for themselves, and hope folks come away with a positive lasting impression.
Of course, you can’t make everyone happy. Trying to do that is torture and can consume you. Don’t get me wrong either. I have an ego as we all do. I have learned to tone it down a little (kids teach you that, I think) but I have learned a great deal about how to handle others in this regard. Reading someone’s ego is a tricky affair. It is generally very easy to read a big ego and especially if people have real or perceived power over you, proceed with extreme caution. Also, the harder the ego is to read, the more careful you should be.
I am an immigrant. My parents immigrated to Canada with two young children from Israel where my father fought in the Yom Kippur War. My first language is Romanian and growing up in Quebec, we learned French in school. Believe it or not, I learned English, as many young immigrant children do, watching Sesame Street.
I left Canada in 1995 to pursue my DPM degree and learned how hard it really is to immigrate legally into the United States. Even though I came from Canada, I still faced discrimination, and had to pay and wait my way to a green card. This took six years, $60,000 and almost getting deported due to an Immigration and Naturalization Service mistake. I am not looking for sympathy. It is just part of what some of us had to deal with and we did. It made us stronger but for those of you who don’t know the process, please be careful how you approach the topic around those of us who had to go through it. It was not easy.
I look to the next 10 years with anticipation. I never imagined I would ever land the type of opportunity I had a year ago and hope to rise to the challenge as time goes on. I also have political aspirations but have to wait an additional seven years after I become a citizen (two years to go!) just to start on that road. We will see how that turns out.
To all of you starting in practice this year, I wish you the best of luck. I hope it is everything you expect. Also, please remember, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. If you think you see it, be sure to realize there is another tunnel coming. The important thing is that the train continues to move forward. Sometimes, if you feel it slow or stop altogether, you may be faced with a difficult decision in front of you. I pray that you have the fortitude to make the right decision every time.