I sensed that I want to fight against avoidable death for the first time at 12, looking at my granddad, dying of undiagnosed diabetic coma.
Two years later I was invited to a class majoring in biology of one the top Moscow high-schools. Most courses were taught by professors of Moscow State University, which implant critical thinking and research skills into my brain. As course projects I studied birch leaves variability using geometric morphometry, some etological features of hamsters and differences in response to exercises between genders. These years were challenging, but the school helped me to nail basic sciences at medical university.
Entering the medical school, I was not aware of my future speciality. Although, I had reservations just for a couple of months. I still have a vivid memory of my first meeting the student research group of the largest Russian center for cardiovascular surgery. That day in neonatal cardiac ICU I realized the tremendous amount of knowledge and skills I am to achieve before I will take responsibility for health and life of others. I stucked on big surgery and got so motivated, that, a year later, I managed to achieve a level of understanding enough to make a presentation on student section of all-russian meeting of cardiac surgeons. In the same year I began volunteering in thoracic OR of one large local hospital. I learned protocols of most adult cardiac and thoracic procedures in those three years. In the evenings I peered at recordings of operations, analyzing them frame by frame.
Being a third-year student I carried about me thin rubber tubes, sutures and instruments. I guess I looked weird buying a few pounds of porcine hearts to practice anastomoses. From time to time I scrubbed in for experiments in animal facility and assisted in transmyocardial laser revascularization procedures. It was a tricky task – to mark tiny burns with epicardial prolene 7/0 sutures in off-pump settings. I believe that my fine motor skills derived some benefit from intensive piano lessons during my childhood. I got to be born pitch perfect and my parents dreamed to raise a new Van Cliburn. I have a photo of myself, five years old, playing grand piano in Moscow Conservatory. Thank God parents quit my musical career and I became a doctor.
I have always had good luck with my teachers. They nurtured my medical judgement in line with evidence-based approach. Indeed, medicine is an art in some degree, but you need years of experience to make sense of it. Therefore, for young doctor it is reasonable to rely on guidelines with proven efficacy, than on diagnostic acumen or sixth sense. Training of high-quality physical examination and history taking is a centuries-old tradition of our medical school. In a few years of exposure to clinical surgery I learnt that actually “big preparing means small surgery”, and vice versa.
I enjoy to serve my patients even with my non-medical skills. I will always remember a 33 years old gentleman suffering from malignant thymoma with extensive local invasion, complicated with superior vena cava syndrome. I would like to think that my enthusiasm for medical imaging and 3D modeling helped to design a radical resection. To me, the ultimate reward is to be warmly thanked, even for little things, like redressing your patient by yourself on day off.
I have a passion for coming up with solution of non-trivial problems. Thus, investigating intracardiac hemodynamics at Bakulev Center, we invented precise and robust method of trabecular meshwork measurements for left ventricular cavity. And this year I had luck to spend a few months in Baltimore studying big hospitalizations data, so I decided to get familiar with statistical language R and wrote some scripts for automatic trends analyses.
For the year of surgical internship I have assured myself that my choice is the best on all counts. Surgery is the unique blend of clinical medicine, fundamental science, innovation technologies and inimitable drive of OR. Our specialty requires wide medical knowledge and erudition in related areas, but allows you to focus on some problem at the same time. Last years I live a dream – to get high quality training in the U.S. I will make all possible efforts to become an excellent surgeon and perhaps make some contribution to science. Five years hence I would love to find myself in thoracic or vascular fellowship.
The program I will be matched to, will receive vigorous, motivated and compassionate team player, who is eager to help his patients and colleagues.
I have found myself; now it’s time to create myself.