BABE #123: SUZI ROTHSTEIN, Hospitalist @ Ochsner Medical Center
I've looked forward to interviewing Suzi since I started this thing over a year ago - (im)patiently waiting for her to finish her residency so I could pick her brain. In addition to being a kickass doctor, Suzi is just an all-around kickass human and friend. When she isn't saving lives, you can find her surfing, traveling the world, trying out new restaurants or hanging out at local coffee shops with her nose in a book. Suzi, you're an absolute babe, and I want to be you when I grow up. -Chelsea
Hometown: Grimsby, Ontario, Canada
Current city: Baton Rouge, LA
Alma mater: Brock University; Saba, Dutch Caribbean; Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville
Degree: BSc Biochemistry, MSc Hyperbaric Medicine, MD Family Medicine
Very first job: Very first? Subway, Sandwich Artist :)
Hustle: Hospitalist @ Ochsner Medical Center, Baton Rouge
Babe you admire and why?
Jane Goodall. She’s a scientist, an adventurer, an independent, brave, free-thinking woman and an all around badass. She was first hired as a secretary for a prominent archaeologist and paleontologist, but followed her dreams and ended up revolutionizing the study of chimpanzee behavior. She lived in the wilderness of Tanzania alone with chimpanzees for 30 years! She's incredible.
How do you spend your free time?
Outdoors - as much as possible. I love hiking, running, surfing and any excuse to say hi to the sun!
Favorite fictional female character?
Hermione. Harry got most of the credit, but she was the brains of the operation.
Go-to adult beverage?
Champagne! Every day is a celebration!
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Sushi. I LOVE sushi.
Three things we can always find in your fridge?
Several variations of hot sauce, avocados, Fairlife Milk
Go-to news source?
LastWeekTonight with John Oliver.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Paul Farmer, Global Medicine Doctor and Anthropologist extraordinaire. I admire his work a great deal.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
I’d like to be diving in East Timor. It’s on my bucket list.
What’s one thing you wish you knew more about?
I consider myself informed, but I still wish I knew more about politics. I’d like to make informed decisions about every person and issue on the ballot, not just who I’d vote for president.
Last concert you attended?
Voodoo Music and Arts Experience in New Orleans. (Kendrick Lamar and Miguel stole the show for me.)
Go-to roadtrip snack?
Kind of gross, but I like to get down on Arby’s Beef and Cheddars when I’m road-trippin'.
Tell us about your hustle:
I’m a hospitalist, meaning that I only treat patients in the hospital. I am the doctor that admits patients for almost any illness, treats them (sometimes with the help of consultants,) and discharges them once they’re better. Common illnesses that bring people into the hospital are pneumonia, COPD, heart failure, arrhythmia, heart attack, infection of the skin or blood, stroke, uncontrolled diabetes, etc. My scope is broad and the variety of presentations keeps my day extremely interesting. I work with nurse practitioners and consult with specialists and love the camaraderie of working with a team.
What does your typical workday and schedule look like?
Unlike physicians in the clinic, I typically work 7 days on (from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.,) then 7 days off. It's similar to a regular 9-5, I just have twice the hours one week and then get to relax the next. During my typical workday, I follow a list of patients. I check over their vital signs and lab results each morning, then I go “round" - interviewing every patient about their symptoms and progress, performing a focused physical examination, and then deciding on a plan for the day. Is my patient improving enough to be discharged? Do they need a few more days with IV medications? Maybe I haven’t yet gotten to the bottom of what’s going on and need to expand my “differential diagnosis” (aka do more testing or imaging), or if I'm stumped - should I think about consulting a specialist? Once I have a plan and have put it into action, I spend some time writing and reviewing my notes. Throughout the day, I meet with families, answer questions fielded by nursing staff and patients as well as take new admissions into the hospital to diagnose and treat their illness.
When/how did you first become interested in medicine? When did you know you wanted to pursue the industry professionally?
I first became interested when I traveled to Brazil on an undergraduate medical mission trip. We were performing public health campaigns in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and volunteered in Labor and Delivery at a crowded public hospital. The unit was chaotic, with doctors delivering babies in the hallways (including lots of shouting, blood, crying and moaning.) I could feel the passion of the physicians as they dedicated their lives to the impoverished population, and they were really making a difference. I then decided to join an NGO and that (unfortunately) my biochemistry degree would go to waste. It wasn’t until a friend suggested medical school that it clicked. I hadn’t thought of it before, but it checked all my boxes. Helping the poor, global health, and science. Medicine has it all.
What was the education/application/interview process like to get to where you are today?
Medical training is long and arduous. I’m 31 years old and just finished my training a few months ago. After an undergraduate science degree, medical school takes four years and residency/fellowship can range from three (family medicine or internal medicine) to eight or even 10 years depending on the specialities and subspecialties pursued.
Where do you think your love for science/STEM comes from? What draws you to medicine?
My father is a chemist and physicist, and from a young age, he encouraged me to keep those doors open. I attended a science camp for girls at the local University when I was in high school, and when I told him I wanted to go to University for either English or Biochemistry, he convinced me to stick with the latter.
How would you say being a woman has affected your professional experience?
It can be tough being a young female doctor. I’ve had patients comment “I didn’t know they were allowing women to be doctors these days!” (Yes sir, since the late 1800s.) I’m also young, and patients feel comfortable calling me “hun”, “sweetie” or the ubiquitous “nurse," even after introducing myself as their doctor. Patients also regularly comment on my looks, which I’m sure is not common for my male colleagues. It gets tiresome and it’s uncomfortable, but it’s also important for me to have a good relationship with patients.
What is the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
I’m pleased that today, the gender ratio of medical school admissions is almost equal and continues to rise, as does the proportion of women entering traditionally male fields like surgery, anesthesiology and radiology.
What are some common misconceptions about your job?
There's a popular opinion that doctors are overcompensated. Being a doctor is hard work. It is intellectually and emotionally draining, I often can’t break during the day while treating very ill patients, and I confront death on a weekly basis. I believe doctors should be highly valued and respected in society, and I don’t always see that as true.
What traits should every doctor have? What makes women great doctors?
Doctors need to be analytical and logical. They need to be confident as leaders and have a life-long love for learning. They need to be good under pressure and handle a great deal of stress. Empathy and communication skills are very important. In my experience, women can tend to be more detail-oriented and thorough. I believe the emotional intelligence many women bring to the table can also help with healing. However, even with half of clinicians being female, many patients are somehow surprised to have, as some male patients exclaim, “a lady doctor!”
Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
I had several strong female mentors in my residency program. Dr. Sally-Ann Pantin showed me the value of strong patient relationships and helped me navigate through my own struggle through residency. She is the residency “godmother” at my program, especially for the female residents, and always has an open door and shoulder to lean on. Dr. Caroline Burton and Dr. Vandana Bhide inspired me to pursue a career as a hospitalist. They are all strong, smart and powerful women, and their advice has been invaluable.
What’s your dream job?
I would love to do more Global Health. I’ve had the opportunity to work in Honduras and Costa Rica, but my goal is to one day volunteer with Partners in Health or Doctors without Borders.
What advice would you give to a Babe trying to break into your industry?
It's a long road, but if you’re motivated, you can do it. You don't have to be the smartest student, but you have to work the hardest. Obtain a Bachelor's degree in science. Take the MCAT. If U.S. schools reject you - you can attend medical school in Ireland, Australia, Poland or the Caribbean. If being a doctor is your goal, you can get there. Just don’t give up!
What motivates and inspires you?
I’m motivated by the resilience of my patients. Getting well is just as much about the patient’s attitude as the treatment they receive. I tell my patients all the time that I cannot even imagine what they’re going through, and it’s true - I don’t know what it’s like. I'm inspired by their ability to stay positive and learn from their experience, how they can press forward with hope they will improve, and also acceptance when they won’t.
What helps you wind down and you manage stress?
My husband has been a rock for me throughout this process, I don’t know what I’d do without him. He takes my mind off of work but is also my pincushion when I need to vent and gives the best advice. If I came home to an empty house, alone with my spiraling thoughts about work, I’d probably be a basketcase.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
I know this is cliche, but you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Never settle. You will spend more than half your waking life working, so pursue something that excites you every day.