By Liz Moulder
Consultant Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon, Hull University Teaching Hospitals Major Trauma Centre

Dear me,

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You wanted to be a doctor because you knew you would enjoy the life long learning.  This expectation is true, but be prepared that the pace does not slow, and you will continue to learn so much about your own self, as well as others.

It turns out that being a doctor is not about saving lives.  It’s about making the path through life a little easier, a little less painful, and in orthopaedics, a little bit straighter.

The care of patients is the easy part of the job.  Your colleagues will cause you the greater difficulties, and their challenges become more demanding the more senior you become.

There will be several stages during your career when you wonder if you have chosen the right path.  Perhaps this would have continued to happen had you taken a diversion, but I can tell you there will be many times when you will be glad to have stuck on this journey.

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I can now see that you say you don’t want children so that your decisions are not determined by 'good' choices for women and mothers.  It turns out there is more than one way to be a parent, and to be a parent is a great privilege.  To stay close to your own mother will provide a love and support that you will never find else where, for both you and your children.


Definitely wait for the best co-parent you can find though, as parenting will be the hardest job you ever do.  At times it will be a relief to have a second job to escape to.

Be aware that medicine is a very small world.  Ex-boyfriends will reappear where you least expect them.  Casual changing room or coffee break contacts will recommend or dismiss you for years to come.

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Be nice to the people you meet and work with along the way.  Very few of them have malice in them.  In time, some will have life events, or even die, and you will regret the times you could have been kinder.

Your male colleagues do not care that you are female.  You will cover more childcare days, late starts and early departures for them than they ever will for you.  Some patients and other staff may pass comment on your gender, but that is prejudice, not spitefulness.  Let it go.  It will become easier to be different as society moves forward with you.  Blaze the trail.

You will make some great decisions based on what does, or does not, feel right.  Never take a job that you do not want, but do not be afraid to choose the difficult option.

It has taken you several decades to be less judgemental.  I would advise you to learn sooner.

There are many ways to feed a baby.  Breast feeding sucks.

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You will continue to be great at lots of things, so do not be disappointed if you seem to be excellent at nothing.  I was in my forties before I learnt that we are actually excellent at applying the Pareto principle to personal productivity.  Keep on spreading yourself thin and achieve 80% of everything with 20% of the work and you will experience, deliver and enjoy so much more than the perfectionists.

My greatest lesson has been to learn our core value; what makes us tick, drives our best decisions and validates our emotion.  There is one word alone that describes us; discover this sooner and you will understand yourself and your motivation so much more.

My greatest regret is that I did not weed the asparagus bed in good time.  Do not repeat my mistake and, remember, you reap what you sow.