Educating a Surgeon

My grandmother’s bed bounced high
But I lost the pillow in my hands
Four stitches in the small town
green tiled emergency room
where peering intently into the mirrored light
I was mad because I couldn’t see

From her purple kitchen,
windows full of bougainvillea,
she watched my grandfather, who,
forgetting his painful heart,
ran to rescue the cat,
returning victorious
and short of breath
chastised by her shaking head.

She put marks in that kitchen
on the door jam where we grew
mixing the batter for waffles
Grinning as she put in the nuts
which we always asked for
(even though she always put them in)

On the kitchen table
I learned to play solitaire,
Her years and years
of battle penned in stacks of small spiral notebooks kept next to her bed
by the Bible and her years and years of struggle in journals reverently kept

I raced her
To the corner
when I was old enough
to beat her
but still couldn’t
(secretly) proud that my grandmother
was so

She sent
a quilt the day I graduated
from medical school
having defended me
from the ladies of the quilting bee
standing up
when they said I only got what I got
because I was a girl
and she said No–
it was because I was

Mary Brandt, a pediatric surgeon at Children’s Hospital of New Orleans and a professor of surgery at Tulane University School of Medicine, is soon to be an MDiv graduate from Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO.

About the Poem

“We live in an era where the sexism described in this poem is not as prevalent (although still very present); but racism, homophobia, transphobia and other forms of discrimination are. This poem seeks to remind us that when we look through the lens of discrimination (intended or not), we limit who we train–which limits our ability to reach everyone who needs our care.”


2 thoughts on “Educating a Surgeon”

  1. Carol Scott-Conner

    Mary, This is wonderful stuff! And congratulations on your forthcoming MDiv. Keep writing!


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