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  • Writer's pictureJayma Anne Montgomery

Musings on Doctor's Day 2024

2024 was heralded by the distinct sound of glass shattering against linoleum--thousands of champagne flutes in rapid succession. So many, that I began to forget that the constant sound of things breaking in the background isn't indicative of a settled life. It started with a resignation letter I emailed on Christmas day while taking a huffy, two-hour walk. Then came another one just a few weeks ago, seemingly out of the blue. My hopes of a steady, predictable career year are all but dashed...again.

I'm fortunate enough to have never experienced religious persecution. My assimilated country was built on the promise of religious freedom and thus I have the liberty to worship as I choose or not at all. However, career persecution has become a new way of life for me. This makes sense since I have treated my medical work as a ministry for quite a while now. The line that separates my secular life from my spiritual one no longer exists. I consider everything I do an opportunity for worship and service to GOD. I realize this sounds insane to a non-Christian and so I don't go around openly proclaiming this in the workplace. I simply embody this truth to the best of my ability.

The last three years have seemed like a calculated effort to force me out of medicine altogether.  I've been targeted and blatantly pushed out of jobs with astonishing speed. It's as if something about me is unpalatable to the status quo of most medical environments. Striving to live an upright life before the LORD has made me the kind of physician whom patients love, administrators love to hate, and physician peers often scratch their heads at in bewilderment. I'm often left wondering if there is any place left for someone like me in this profession. I think there must be, but not the one I imagined as a wide-eyed medical student.

Here is the abbreviated rundown of my latest workplace debacle. I accepted a part-time primary care job in late August of 2023 after swearing to never return to it again two years ago. It has been an uphill battle from the very beginning with delays, frustrations, and a poorly executed onboarding process. I did not start this job until early February. In the midst of all of these difficulties, I began asking myself if this was a good move to make. But I was so tired of fruitless job hunting for nearly a year that I allowed the seduction of an attractive contract, a desirable schedule, and the potential for likable colleagues to blind me to many glaring problems.

Less than a month into the job, I turned in my 90-day resignation (this is a typical timeframe for docs unless the practice chooses to waive or shorten it). Three weeks later, I was called into my own office in the middle of being 40+ minutes behind for afternoon clinic. I was accused of unprofessional conduct and warned that if it persisted, our current agreement would be terminated without pay. As I listened to them rattle off blatant falsehoods as well as some exaggerated or out-of-context comments I had made, it became clear to me that I had outstayed my welcome. Defending myself would only further incriminate me. I was viewed as a problem that needed to be purged from their midst as soon as possible. There was nothing I could say or do that would fix things or convince my accusers of anything different. The damage had been done and their minds were already made up. The only question remaining was, would I mark my exit with grace or hostility?

This is a clinic where women and racial minorities are heavily represented. And yet, I found no real allies among them. The medical director of this clinic is a Caucasian nurse practitioner. Why? Because no one who was qualified wanted to take on the responsibility. As a result, this NP has been left to her own devices to lord her position over people whom she is not clinically qualified to supervise. When confronted with a no-nonsense, seasoned clinician who doesn't mince words or tolerate disrespect, her response has been to hide behind her boss, turn her minions against me, and scramble to gather dirt on me. Her insecurity about her position is blatantly obvious in the way she is passive-aggressively asserting her authority over me. What's even more obvious is that not a single physician in that practice has an issue with me. They remain happily sequestered in their silos, not bothering to ask why a quality physician is leaving the practice in such a hurry. Will we physicians ever learn the value of solidarity?

Doctor's Day has never been a joyous occasion for me. I do make a point to use this time to reflect on my career, the direction the profession seems to be headed in, and if it's time for me to take a lifeboat in the opposite direction. It doesn't appear that March of 2024 will be the moment I walk away from it all. But I desperately want it to be a turning point. I hope I look back on this period in my career and see it as the moment that I was finally able to step away from the revolving door. At the moment, I'm in the lobby of a new building hoping that this will be a place I can call home for a while. Only time will tell.

I want to be able to rejoice over these unfortunate turn of events because I have been provided the opportunity to identify with my Savior's suffering in this season of Lent. I know what it is to be falsely accused and to be misrepresented. I know how hard it is to keep silent when you are being lied about and conspired against. It hurts to be turned against simply for representing truth and integrity, to recognize how empty human praise can be when it so easily turns to slander. What supernatural restraint it must have taken for Jesus not to defend himself before Pilate! He knew that the outcome was a necessary step in He and His Father's redemption plan. I'm seeking just an ounce of that courageous restraint in my current situation.

Amid this intensely difficult moment, I hear Him whispering to me, "It's not you that they hate but my Spirit in you. You carry me with you always and my presence offends them. Do not be angry. Have compassion on them."

Nothing I say or do will change the opinions of those who've already decided that I am guilty. This job, like many others, was a detour I could have avoided along my meandering career pathway. But GOD has used it to further refine my character. I am already a better human and a better physician for having endured this trial. These things must come to pass to accomplish the Lord's plans for my life. And so, I'm trusting GOD's wisdom above my own. I have to fight against my own nature to accept the way of escape He has prepared for me.

I don't know how many more transitions it's going to take for me to land right where He wants me to be. I know that whatever comes next, has to leave room for writing and for the freshly forged paths leading me toward humanitarian missions both in my community and around the world.

I won't have the most successful medical career on paper. I won't retire at 65. We won't drive luxury cars and own vacation homes. We won't travel the world enjoying a vacation lifestyle.

Instead, I will be drawn repeatedly to the bedside of the sick. I will be called to relieve suffering. I will sit with people in their grief. I will ache to go to war zones and disaster areas. I will continually hope and prepare for humanitarian opportunities. My choices will sometimes confuse and distress my loved ones. The massah (the hand of God) is heavily upon me and embracing this call to a strange, unpredictable life has given me great freedom.  My delight is in knowing that when my fingers are pressed into a patient's wound awash in the stench of the dying elements I am dutifully scraping away, when I am weeping with an adult child who has just lost their parent to cancer, when I am singing over a man who's advanced COPD is wasting away his muscle mass with no hope for a natural cure, my heavenly Father looks down on me and is exceedingly pleased.

Stay Thoughtful, Friends.


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