What do you do for a living?
I’m a medical doctor. I’m an obstetrician gynecologist.
How would you describe your job to someone?
Well, number one, it is a very satisfying position. You have the opportunity, from an obstetrical standpoint, to share in the families’ greatest days of their lives. When you look back and ask a family, mother or father, what are the best days of their lives, they’ll say the wedding and the birth of our children or something like that. I get to share that all the time with every baby I deliver.
Almost every baby I deliver there is a lot of joy and it is a great thing to experience with the family. Also, unfortunately, when you talk about emotion I am with them in their lowest of lows when you tell them that they are having a miscarriage or they have a malformed fetus or maybe a lethal fetal anomaly. It’s the hardest days of their lives and to be able to be there for them at that time, it is very rewarding also. Fortunately there are far more good days than bad in what I do but even in the bad times it’s rewarding to help them get through it.
From a gynecological part of it, a woman is trusting me with her intimate details and intimate parts of her anatomy that are needing help, whether it’s a cancer screening, pap smear, if it’s for contraception or family planning or problems due to infection or whatever. It’s almost always a very personal matter. For someone to entrust that to you is very rewarding.
What does your work in entail?
A lot of hours unfortunately. I work 8 to 5, Monday through Friday except the day that I am on call and then on that day I start at 6:30 and go basically until 7 o’clock the next morning, a 24-hour shift. I do that one day a week when I’m on call. And then, because I have good partners, one out of every seven weekends I’m on call from Friday morning until Sunday night so that’s a long weekend.
What I do is fun. It has its hazards. There’s risk associated with it, but the joy that we get with it is immeasurable.
During my 8 to 5, I’m in a clinic checking on obstetrical patients, checking their progress, looking for problems, and also at the same time doing any gynecologic work. We serve as a family practitioner to many women, just for the routine physicals and blood tests, cancer screening, preventive maintenance exams or regular, for their annual examinations or annual physicals, and then, of course, we uncover problems like cervical precancerous lesions, etc. We also do vaccinations and we do a lot of general medicine too. We are many women’s only doctors so if they have a sinus infection or a urinary tract infections, different things like that, we do that as well.
I also have a pretty busy gynecology practice where we deal with stress incontinence, well, any kind of urinary incontinence and prolapsed vaginal walls, whether your bladder, your rectum has prolapsed into the vagina. We do a lot of surgery. I have a very busy practice regarding minimally invasive procedures where I do hysterectomies with a laparoscope, basically single incision incontinence surgeries. We makes three small incisions in the abdomen and take out large uteruses as large as full term pregnancies through the scopes now. It’s amazing what we’re able to do that’s minimally invasive surgical procedures through the laparoscope. I would say 99% of the hysterectomies that we do now are through the laparoscope and don’t have to have open incisions anymore for those. So that’s rewarding to be able to bring those new surgical techniques in.
How did you get started in this career?
I can’t remember when I didn’t want to be a doctor when I grew up. I always wanted to be a physician. And early in my career, I had a mentor who had a small family practice physician in my town and went to our church. He knew that I was interested and I went over and worked with him in the clinics in the summers and on the weekends and different things like that. And he piqued my interest and then I decided that’s what I wanted to do. So I dedicated my collegiate studies to that and then was accepted to med school. I didn’t know exactly what specialty I wanted to do then. I thought I probably wanted to do family medicine and deliver babies and do all the other things. But when I got into med school and went into my rotations and obstetric and gynecology I knew then that’s really where I wanted to go.
It’s happy, as I told you before, you’re not dealing with a lot of illness. You’re really dealing with a lot of wellness. And I’m a very happy person a lot of the time. I like joy, I like to laugh, and I like to have fun and this is the profession that really deals with all of that as opposed to a lot of physicians dealing with death, dying, morbidity, and mortality all the time. That was not my cup of tea.
What do you like about what you do?
The joy of it and sharing with families one of the greatest events of their lives.
What do you dislike about it?
The long hours. It takes me away from my family more than I would like it to.
How do you make money and how are you compensated in this job?
We’re basically fee for service. We provide a service and the patients pay the fee for it. Now most of it is through their insurance, and we have contracts different insurance companies, Medicaid, etc.
How much money do you make as an OB/GYN?
I would say median income for an obstetrician gynecologist in the United States is about $280,000. But those are the guys that don’t work very much. So I would probably say median income is about $280,000 or so but there’s years I made over $700,000.
How much money do you make starting out in this career?
Well we’ll be paying our new partner $480,000. The hospital is paying his salary the first year to bring him in. It’s a guaranteed salary of $240,000 plus whatever he produces out of that he’ll be able to keep. So probably about $400,000+.
What education or skills are needed to do this job?
You need a college degree and a doctorate of medicine afterwards. Four years of college and then an additional four years of med school and then four years of residency training, depending upon your specialty. Ours is four years. And then if you do a subspecialty, high-risk obstetrics is another three years and then reproductive endocrinology, another two years. Urogynecology is another two years. GYN, cancer, and oncology is another three years. But the thing that I think is important is you better make straight A’s in college to get into med school. You need to be an A-student and that really is one of the more difficult parts of the whole deal is getting into medical school. You’ve got to push it in college to keep your grade point very high and score well on the MCAT to get into medical school. So it kind of starts early making sure that you’re making yourself a center of excellence in your life because after that you’ve got to do the same. There’s continued education and practice. You need to be excellent in your practice.
As far as skills, I think it takes a fair amount of manual dexterity. There’s times when you need to be pretty doggone strong and these days I think it takes a fair amount of good hand-eye coordination and ability to work with and being able to see on the monitors what you’re doing. You have to be good at video games kind of. Your hands have to do what your eyes are telling them what to do without touching it. I do robotic surgery as well so we’re literally out of the patient working on a console in 3-D looking in a pelvis and operating.
What would you say is the most challenging about what you do?
Again, the hours. It’s not at all uncommon to have a 100-hour work week. And then second to that is liability. We live in a society that pretty much expects perfection and 3% of babies are born with a natural birth defect that we have no ability to diagnose prior to delivery. Because you’re dealing with unborn human life, you don’t know a lot of times what’s on the other side when they’re born. That’s one of the more stressful things when you talk about doctors doing obstetrics. The stress of the liability and lawsuits is significant.
What would you consider most rewarding about this job?
The shared experience with the family at the time of birth. It doesn’t get much more rewarding than that. That’s one. The second is now, being able to do surgery in a minimally invasive way where the recovery is very short and the pain is markedly diminished, by doing that it’s a new paradigm. When most people think of surgery they think of a big knife making a large incision and a lot of pain. And now we don’t do that. We take care of their problems with very little pain, very little downtime. And that to me is very rewarding to be able to stay on top of that technical curve with gynecologic surgery and being able to provide that to my patients.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
If you don’t mind working hard it is probably one of the most rewarding careers in medicine and one of the most rewarding specialties in medicine.
How much time off do you get or take in a year?
A lot. I work hard and I play hard. But I don’t play hard until my work’s done. I have a lot of partners and now that I am getting up in age a little bit taking more time off to travel with my family. I’m coaching football teams and basketball teams and really enjoying those extracurricular activities. So I’m taking a little more time off. In a year probably average 8 weeks off.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
That I make a million bucks a year because you don’t. Uncle Sam gets a lot of it.
That’s the common misconception about obstetricians probably and also the misconception about physicians. And a lot of physicians really don’t make that much in today’s world. A lot of physicians are employed physicians etc. A lot of people who are physicians are people who have worked hard to get where they are, and I don’t really begrudge them if they do make good money because most physicians are over $150,000 in debt when they get out of school.
And so you have to pay that off and when you’re starting out, it takes a lot of time. So you’ve already deferred your wage making capabilities until you’re 30-years-old, 32, before you’re really out and going. And all of a sudden you’re trying to play catch-up and paying off these huge loans. So many of us really don’t have much disposable income until your early 40s. So there’s always a delayed gratification that you have to be in medicine because you have to work hard in college to get to through medical school and to get a good residency.
I’ve had friends who got jobs right out of college who were successful and retired by their mid 40’s. At that point I was just getting ramped up. So I think people don’t quite understand what we go through to get there.
What are your goals and dreams for the future in this career?
Continue to push the envelope on minimally invasive surgery procedures. To dedicate more of my time to indigent care and doing medical mission trips.
What else would you like people to know about what you do?
It’s fun. What I do is fun. It has its hazards. There’s risk associated with it, but the joy that we get with it is immeasurable. It truly is. Literally, just recently I had a patient who had a very difficult first delivery. The baby was born with an extremely rare lethal abnormality. And when the baby was born, nobody would have had an idea that this would happen. There’s nothing you could pick up on and so they were devastated with the first delivery. We worked through and got them through a second pregnancy, and we found out this baby did not have this problem. And getting them through that delivery was extremely, extremely gratifying. To work with them through the worst day of their lives, through a long process of years and then to enjoy then the best day of their lives.