The Benevolent Dictator

I headed out of Houston in 1985 having completed 4 hot muggy years of medical school to become a medical doctor. It was official; degree in hand I was actually a real medical doctor, but I needed to undergo additional postgraduate training. In my case this would be four more years in an OB/GYN residency-training program. The OB/GYN program at Wichita (University School of Medicine at Wichita) was a unique and very special program headed up by a guy named Daniel Roberts, MD, PhD. He was a benevolent dictator, very tough but also provided an unsurpassed training experience.

I still remember the phone number of his office. You did not want to see this number on your pager. If you did you knew that you were in big trouble. This was true for the OB/GYN attending staff as well. Believe it or not, in a lot of residency training programs often the resident physician just watches the attending operate in surgery. Dr. Roberts believed that you did not learn from watching, that the resident needed to do the surgery under the close eye and guidance of the attending physican. I did over 2,000 surgeries in my four years at Wichita – which is a lot. I was fortunate to train with and later practice with Dr. Robert Kelly, the first surgeon in the United States to use the CO2 laser to laparoscopically treat endometriosis. He was not only a pioneer in the field of laparoscopic treatment of endometriosis; he was an outstanding surgeon, one of the best. I also had the good fortune to train with two gynecologic cancer surgeons from MD Anderson hospital (one of the two top cancer centers in the United States). This was important because they taught me some very fundamental aspects of surgery. These applied to all kinds of surgery and are the foundation upon which all other aspects of good surgery are based.

Dr. Roberts also provided a great setup to teach us how to diagnose and treat patients. Not only did we help the attending physicians who had their own private practice, we each had our own clinic team, kind of like our own practice where we saw patients that did not have insurance. An attending physician not only oversaw the medical care we were providing, but also mentored us on  “how to run our practice”. We worked hard, but it was a fair and great program. I could not think of another program anywhere that I would have gone instead of Wichita.

The Wichita Residency program was also a great place for research. I learned how to apply for research grants and was actually funded for several years doing basic science research on my “off time”. Ever since I spent time with Dr. Franklin in Houston, I knew that I would not just do a four year OB/GYN residency, I always planned on going on for an additional 2 years to do what is called a Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (REI) Fellowship. As a “reproductive endocrinologist” I would learn how to perform advanced laparoscopic surgery in addition to IVF. At the time (1990) REI physicians performed more advanced laparoscopic surgery than regular OB/GYN physicians. I decided on this fellowship primarily for the advanced surgical training with the added benefit of becoming proficient in IVF (In Vitro Fertilization or what is commonly called test tube babies).

Research that I performed in my second year at Wichita resulted in me receiving an award from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine in 1987 for best research done by a resident physician in the world. This was really exciting and again provided the necessary boost to obtain the next step in my career. I will talk more about this in my next post.