Saturday, May 03, 2008

Dr. April is . . . TBTAM

I know, I start every calendar doc post off with, "this is one of my favorite medblogs". But it's always true. I love Dr. TBTAM and her blog. Not only that, I would love to be TBTAM (except for that part about looking at vaginas all day). She’s a successful wife, mother, doctor. She's talented -- she writes and sings her own songs. She is an accomplished cook. She travels around the world. Heck, she even makes New York sound like a nice place to live.

Here's my interview with Dr. TBTAM.

Q.1 Ok, first of all, from what I can tell, you are a gynecologist, but you used to also practice obstetrics. Why did you drop the obstetrics?

It wasn’t really planned. I was doing the usual every second to third night call with a busy academic practice and trying to also have an academic career. I realized that I was never going to get any research done unless I gave up something. When I got offered a job here in New York to help run the outpatient clinic at my current institution, I jumped at the chance to give up the OB and the night call. Academically, it was the right decision at the time, and I got a few good projects done over the next few years that I am really proud of. Of course, now that I have two kids, my academic career is stalled, although I still write a review article or book chapter a year, and give lectures and such. Hopefully, when the kids are older, I’ll get back to it more fully.

Q.2 How did you choose ob/gyn?

For the answer to this question, I shall point you to
this post I wrote for Blog for Choice Day in 2007. In short, I was rebelling against male authority.

Q.3 What other specialties, if any, did you consider?

I thought I was going into internal medicine. The residents and attendings in this field at my medical school were some of the most brilliant people I’d ever met. I loved hanging around with them. .

That may explain why I wanted to do a maternal-fetal medicine fellowship (like
MWAK). It’s a great mix of ob and internal medicine, and the folks in it are really smart. My mentor was an MFM, and I wanted to be just like him. But by the time I finished residency I was getting too old and couldn’t face the idea of any more years in training (I had not started med school till I was 25). So I just headed out. Luckily, my mentor recruited me to an academic job where he was heading, so I still got to hang around the real braniacs, even if I wasn’t one of them.

Q.4 Which did you discover first – medblogs or food blogs?

Food blogs. Once again, I will point you to
a post I wrote, this one a tribute to my first food blog, Butter Pig. It pretty much says it all about me, cooking and the food blog world.

Q.5 Can you recall the first medblog you read?

It was
Shrinkette. (Who has since given up blogging, though her blog remains on line and is fabulous. Come back, Shrinkette!)

A month into food blogging, I found myself wanting to blog about the rest of my life, but had all sorts of concerns about privacy (both my own and my patients’), as well as a desire not to endanger my employment. I dug around the web for stories and advice, and did a big post on the topic called “
The Dangers of Blogging” (which still gets a lot of traffic today). Lisa, one of my commenters (and a great advisor on the subject), pointed me to a post Shrinkette had done related to privacy.

Through Shrinkette, I found Grand Rounds, and the rest, of course, is history.

Q.5 What are you growing this spring in your container garden?

We planted pansies in the window boxes and I’m going to replace most of the herb pots because I think they have ants and I’m tired of fighting them in my kitchen every summer.

But the amazing thing about gardens is that once they are mature, they just show up in the spring so I don’t have to really plant anything upstairs on the roof other than some annuals for color. So we’re at the point where we just maintain what we’ve got. Which,
as I’ve written before, is no small task.

This weekend will be our first in the garden this year. We’re planning to put down the
compost we got, weed, prune, spray prophylactically, and plant the herbs. The best part will be going to the plant store to buy the herbs.

Q.6 How’s the nose? [Being a lurker (but mostly intimidated by the medical types who had left comments earlier), I didn’t leave a comment, but I thought your 36 hour post-closure scar looked like a heart. If I were going to have a scar, I would want it to look like a heart.]

You’re so sweet to ask. And you’re right – it does look like a heart. It’s doing really well, although my plastic surgeon thinks he wants to re-do the lower part, since the scar is too wide. Now that I’ve been through what I’ve been through, that’ll be nothing.

Q.7 Tell us about some of the more “interesting” tattoos you’ve seen on the job.

Actually, none too exciting. Women seem to avoid tattooing “down there”, and I think the clit ring phase is pretty much over, at least in the crowd I tend to see. Though could someone please explain to me this obsession with waxing? Have we women gone insane? By the way, you don’t have to apologize if you haven’t waxed for me. We’re not dating. Besides, it’s bad enough having to see the gynecologist, let alone enduring having every one of your pubic hairs pulled out in anticipation of the visit. WHY are women doing this?????

I once had a patient who had a clit ring, pierced tongue, lips and eyebrows who was refusing an office cervical biopsy because she was afraid it might hurt. I offered to pierce her cervix when I was done if that would make her feel better about the procedure. She laughed and ultimately agreed to the biopsy.

Q.8 Here are some items I stumbled upon while perusing the blogs of a few residents and medical students.

“Gyn residents are catty, very catty. All the rumors about the Ob/Gyn field being a sorority have so far held true…During none of the seven rotations I have completed this year, have I once encountered a group of residents that gossiped with so much malicious enjoyment.”

“I'm hoping surgery won't be this bad. OB/Gyn just seems to attract a real different breed of cat. And wtf is up with all this gossiping that they do? OMG I've never seen such mind games on any other rotations. From what I understand, at least the surgeons let you KNOW what they think!”

”90% of [OB] residents are catty, crazy, and evil.”

I only know you through your blog, but you seem pretty sane and non-evil. Has ob/gyn gotten a bad rap?

Yes. ObGyn residency is one of, if not THE hardest residency to do. If the girls are bitchy it’s because THEY’RE TIRED. Cut them a break, given them a foot massage and a cup of coffee and you’ll have those cats purring in no time...

Q.8 Is it really true you can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex?

Sure, if you’re a lesbian.

Q.9 Who is going to win this cycle of Top Chef?

I don’t watch it – I think it’s sort of a dumb idea, pitting chefs against each other. What I did love to watch was Molto Mario. I learned so much watching him cook. I also love Alton Brown, Ina Garten and Sarah Moulton, although I don’t really watch the Food Network anymore. It’s been dumbed down.

Q.10 Being the mature person that I am, if I was at the doctor’s office and had to refer to something “down there”, I wouldn’t beat around the bush, I would just call whatever I was talking about by its correct anatomical name. Same with activities that might involve things “down there”. However, I know that some people are immature and use nicknames, euphemisms, etc. Will you share some of the funny names you’ve heard about, well, you know?

“I wouldn’t beat around the bush”? That’s a funny one...

Q.11 If you were asked to be a challenger on Iron Chef, who would you want to compete against? Original and American version, please.

I am a complete rank amateur in the kitchen and would never presume to think I could compete with these guys.

Q.12 What could you not live without?

My laptop. Pitiful, isn’t it?

Q.13 If your life were turned into a movie, which actor would play you?

Bette Midler.

Q.14 What’s the biggest misconception about your job?

That I know what I’m doing. When it comes to the human body, and especially the female reproductive and hormonal system, we docs are still in the dark ages. I always tell my patients we’re like car mechanics, but we didn’t build the car and we have no manual. We are clueless. Trust me on this.

Q.15 What were you like in high school?

Smart, fat, nice, dull. I had a few good friends, but mostly, I hung out with my 8 brothers and sisters, who were a blast. Still are. We’re as funny as Seinfeld. Really. Sometimes we get a group email conversation going (usually about my dad - we are still very immature), and one email is funnier than the next and I have to stop laughing because I am at work and am supposed to be seeing patients.

Q.16 Jamie Deen or Bobby Deen?

Neither. As I’ve told my daughters, never date a man who uses more hair product than you do.

Q.17 Quickfire Questions:

Favorite movie?
When Harry met Sally. It’s New York, it’s real, it’s Meg Ryan pre-plastic surgery and Billy Crystal in his prime and some of the best movie dialogue ever written.

Favorite book?
You mean books, don’t you? I thought so.

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron. One of the few books I’d re-read if I had the time. Not to mention the fact that the movie was probably the most true to the book as any movie has ever been.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingolver. Loved how she wove reproductive biology and farming politics into a great story.

Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. If you know New York, you have to love this book. Unfortunately, that movie sucked.

Straight Man by Richard Russo – You’ll laugh out loud.

Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley – One of the funniest books I ever read. Also another poorly done movie.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Good from beginning to end

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Biologically correct, beautifully written, especially the beginning.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. Well, maybe it’s not all that, but I loved it.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman and Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Burdoin. Must reads for chef wanna-be’s.

Belle Canto and anything else by Anne Patchett, especially her memoir of her friend.

I read voraciously as a child, much more than I have as an adult. My favorite books as a kid were Anne Frank’s Diary, A Wrinkle in Time, The Little House on the Prairie series, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the White Mountains and this old Children’s Bible that had a full page painting illustrating every story. I loved the Old Testament stories, which may explain why I know more about Judaism than my Jewish husband, and why I feel so much more comfortable around that religion than my own family’s.

Okay, that’s enough for today.

Favorite drink?

NYC Water. Cold. Straight from the tap, drunk best from a cupped hand placed below an open faucet.

Favorite meal?

Any meal eaten at my mother in law Irene’s house. You will never eat better food.

Favorite television show?

24. Since that’s not on these days, I’m watching the Wire on DVD.

Favorite curse word?

C’mon, you know what it is. You just want me to say it and sound crude. Well, fuck it, I’m not going to do that.

Any tattoos or piercings?

Just single ear piercings.

Any pets?

The one on the right.

Any heroes?

All the surgeons and OB docs out there who are working the nights and weekends that I stopped doing long ago. Operating for hours, delivering babies, saving lives. I used to be one of them, but now I am not. My style of office-based medical practice works for me and I think for my patients, and definitely for my family. But these guys - these are the heroes. I just play one in the daytime.

Thank you Dr. TBTAM for being Dr. April!

Photo Credit: from, then Later this week, I will have a post on how I chose a picture for a calendar doc who describes her blog as “sort of culinary gynecology”. I'm warning you now, don't read it if you are going to be offended by pictures of pornographic cakes.


Toni Brayer, MD said...

Medblogaddict, you should be the interviewer for the political debates. (if that wouldn't take you down a notch) Your questions are fantastic and I love love love TBTam and her insightful and funny answers. Greatest interview I've read in a long time. Thanks!

rlbates said...

Great interview!

Carver said...

Another great interview!

jmb said...

Excellent job MbA and Dr TBTAM. Even though I do miss the beefcake!

Amy said...

I love it! TBTAM is one of my favorites, too.

Anonymous said...

Love this series. Great job again, thanks!

Doc's Girl said...

That was an awesome interview...and I just about died laughing at the "waxing for the doctor" commentary. :-P Those appointments are always a bit uncomfortable in more ways than one. :)

I read this goofy story in Cosmopolitian magazine of this busy mom of three going to see her GYN. She quickly ummm... "cleaned up" with a washcloth before she left...and the doctor made some comment about her getting all dolled up to see the doctor.

It turned out that this washcloth had her daughter's glitter makeup all over it. I remember laughing so hard that I was in tears reading it. :-P Kinda gross but too funny...

Mauigirl said...

Great interview! Enjoyed it all! I too loved the waxing comments!

Anonymous said...

Great interview.

SeaSpray said...

Great Interview! I thoroughly enjoyed it! Enjoy TBTAM's blog too. :)

I would love to try that water. Water is my favorite drink too!

make mine trauma said...

okay here's a blogging reprieve for you, you've been tagged!