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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fearless Females: Working Women

My mother has always been an inspiration to me. She is intelligent, driven, goal oriented, and in a nutshell does amazing things. Being her daughter was at times daunting. While we share many of the same characteristics, as a child growing up with this larger than life woman in your midst was... in a word.. intimidating.  Several of my past fearless female posts have been about her. You should check them out.

From the beginning my mother was working in one way or another. She married my father during a hiatus from college. Immediately after her freshman year she was married and the month before she went back to college that next year she had me.  She earned her undergraduate degree in Athletic Training and Math Education 4 years later while playing field hockey for Indiana University.  Many years later mom received the W. W. Patty Distingusedh Alumni Award from the School of Public Health (formerly known as HPER).

Next my mother went onto teach high school mathematics and be the high school athletic trainer for 2 years.  It was during this time she and my father discussed her continuing her education to eventually become a doctor.  Mainly she was tired of the local doctors telling her her opinions didn't matter because first she was just the trainer and second she was a woman.  The women in my family, they don't take kindly to that type of talk.

She did go back to school earning another bachelor degree, a masters degree, and finished her pre-med requirements.  When I was eight my mom joined the Army and started her medical education at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.  After many years of hard work, studying, and in some instance out-right gender discrimination in her chosen field, my mother became a board certified orthopedic surgeon.  This of course was not the end of her education as she went on to do a fellowship in hand surgery. All the while writing journal articles and becoming a reviewer for several athletic training and orthopedic publications.

My families most worrying time, and yet proudest, was when my mother was sent to Iraq in 2003.  Her unit, the 745th FST, was attached to the 3rd ID.  They were involved with the initial push into Iraq at the beginning of the war.  While she has talked periodically about a few of her cases and what she saw there, I know I will never really know everything.  Recently during a visit she opened up more about their job, what it was like, and the results of war through a doctors eyes.  She also let me know that they were expected to take heavy casualties in that push.  Her team would have been responsible for treating the casualties of chemical or biological warfare. They were ready, they trained for it, but thankful that there was little resistance and most people were happy to see them.

I have stumbled on articles telling about the time my mom was there and the conditions they were in.  This article, for instance, was written in 2008 during the next deployment of the 745th, but they talk about the first deployment too.  After her return she contributed to the writing of The Third United States Revision of Emergency War Surgery.

Of course, she still laughs about the boys riding bikes in Baghdad alongside their Humvee.  Her driver was a woman also, a medical tech.  They were driving in convoy and stopped on a busy street.  A boy on a bike rode up and started to talk to them. When he heard my mother's voice he stopped and looked at them.


"Yes." My mother pointed at her driver too.

"Two women?"

"Yes." Both she and her driver nodded.

He rode off and then came back with a handful of other kids all who wanted to see the women in the truck.  She said that he spoke English very well and translated some questions from the other kids.  All who couldn't believe that she was first of all a woman, second of all a doctor  and third there was another woman driving the truck.

Mom retired in 2010 and is now spending her days watching after my dad.  There is a 17 year difference between the 2 of them, so you know he needs to be looked after since he was the one looking after us all these years. She wants to spend more time at home, with him, as well as with us and her grand-kids. Work can wait for now.  Can't say that I blame her.


  1. Your mother sounds like an amazing woman and also FEARLESS! I can't imagine completing all of that schooling while she had a family to care for. And I love the story of the children in Iraq!

    1. Yes, I like to think so. However, just so you know, she is not one of these working mom types. Love my mom to death, but I really didn't know her until I left home.

      My dad, being older, was much more prepared to handle everything. He choose to stay at home when I reached 8th grade. Before that he had his own business when we lived in Indiana and then several part time jobs while she was in med school. Those helped with expenses and her education. He raised me while she went to school.

      Dad is also the one that cooks, cleans, pays the bills, and does all the day-to-day things. That is why my mom was able to do everything she did. Her husband, and my father, knew she could and encouraged her to do it.

      He was a really good officers spouse. :)

  2. That picture really shows the personality of your mom, as you describe her. She has her eye on the goal, and she's going to get there. I have a lot of respect for her accomplishments. A board-certified orthopedic surgeon is a big deal!! I looked at the 2008 article and saw that the 745th was right in the thick of things, ready for action. And that Emergency War Surgery manual is BIG. And I'm just as glad she's saying "work can wait" now, for your father. Good luck to them.

    My two younger sisters were doctors -- a thyroid surgeon, LB, who died in 2002 from ovarian cancer; and a family practice doctor near Atlanta who is about to retire. I'd like another lifetime or two in order be a doctor, too, but the academic world attracted me instead. Everyone to their own thing.

    I'm so glad to know all this about your family. Thanks for this post!

    1. Now imagine being an orthopod and an Army officer. My mom wasn't just going for big but sometimes I wonder if she was making a point. Either that or she really did love all the carpentry she and her dad did when she was in High School. Orthopedics is a lot like that you know!

      I was on the list of most likely to be a doctor when I was in high school. While I toyed with the idea, I knew that I didn't have the drive to go through with it. My talents appear to have lead me elsewhere.

  3. Speaking of your mom being an orthpod, my daughter (almost 38 now) wanted to be a "bone doctor" from the time she could talk. For years she heard that she couldn't do it because she was a "girl" and didn't have the strength. She ended up not going that route even though she did her pre-med requirements in college. She realized that she really didn't want to do it anymore but rather thought she wanted to for so long that she just went along with it. Secretly I think she wanted to go through with it just to prove all those people wrong. ;-)

    1. That's funny. My mom is tiny. She is only about 5'1" and my 12 year old has hands bigger than her. In fact, her combat boots had to be special ordered because she wore a boys size 12.

      She did hand surgery because she is good with fine detail and could sit down during surgery. However, she had to do everything the guys did while in residency. Which meant she got creative on occasion when setting bones.