An ongoing dialogue on HIV/AIDS, infectious diseases,
October 21st, 2018
A Day in the Life of the Academic Assistant Professor of Medicine Who Wakes Up at 5:30 a.m. to Get Her Kids to School, Takes the Bus to Work, Answers Emails, Completes Online Required Modules, and Fills Out Disability Forms for Her Patients
(Inspired by a recent peculiar article about a Bay Area tech superstar.)
Dr. Camilla Gormley is always on the move.
From the moment her alarm wakes her at 5:30 a.m. to prepare breakfast and school lunches for her three kids, to the time 16-plus hours later when she can finally rest her head on her pillow, Dr. Gormley is constantly in motion.
On a typical day, after bundling up her kids to be dropped off at school by her husband Jack — if he’s not traveling for work, in which case she (somehow) has to do it — she can be seen running after the bus which, on a good day, will have an available seat and not smell like last night’s frat party.
She recently shared with us the rhythms and rewards of being a Junior Faculty member at a prestigious academic medical center.
5:30 a.m.: She wakes up and immediately panics that she has forgotten an important deadline.
“I find that this early time of day is perfect for free-ranging anxiety and panic,” says Gormley. “It’s a tremendous relief when I realize that I don’t in fact have a school paper due, or an exam today — though one of my three kids might.”
The first task for the day is feeding her family, which consists of a streamlined operation that efficiently generates five breakfasts, two coffees, and four bagged lunches. Husband Jack takes orders and has learned the hard way not to talk back.
“He once expressed doubts about my selection of bread for the kids’ sandwiches,” she recalls. “He found himself alone on food duty for the next month, which was a disaster for all. But that will teach him.”
6:30 a.m.: She wakes her kids and helps them get dressed and ready for the day.
“My son Zack will wear anything, he’s easy,” she says proudly. “Same with Jenna, the youngest.”
But, she notes, middle child Phoebe can be a challenge. “Not a week passes by without her wanting some crazy new style to wear, nothing’s ever right,” she says. “We’re at the point where if she told me she wanted to wear her bathing suit to school in the middle of winter, I’d just give in. Sick of it, really.”
7:00 a.m.: Dr. Gormley gets in some intense cardio by running for the bus.
“If I miss the 7:05 — which stops right at our corner — I’ll never make it to work in time for my 8 a.m. patient.”
She spends the time on the bus catching up on emails that were sent overnight.
She shares one request: “Can we outlaw the ‘high importance’ exclamation mark in emails, please?” she asks. “And people who use that for emails sent overnight should be imprisoned.”
8:25: Her 8 o’clock patient shows up — as does her 8:30.
“Of course, I saw her anyway,” she said, of her late-arriving patient. “And she had a disability form for me to fill out — putting my MD degree to work!”
It’s fall, so it’s flu shots for everyone — except the patient who refused, saying it always gave him the flu.
“Oh, give me a break,” she editorializes.
12:45 p.m.: After seeing her outpatients, she paused for a quick lunch at her desk — but didn’t stop working.
“You know those corporate lunches in Mad Men, with martinis and glamorous companions in Manhattan restaurants?” she asks.
“My companion is my office computer with a required online video about fire safety.”
1 p.m.: Time to check the electronic “inbox” on her electronic medical record!
“Usually the in box has another couple of hours of work in there, at least,” she says.
“I feel like the EMR inbox should have a sign that says, Open at Your Own Risk, or Ye Who Enter Here, Abandon All Hope.”
3 p.m.: Dr. Gormley attends a meeting about the medical school course she’s teaching in the fall. The meeting is in a conference room half a mile away, so she debates whether to walk or to Uber — she’s so undecided that she arrives 15 minutes late, as does almost everyone else.
“Teaching in this course is awesome,” she says. “But why are all the meetings held so far from the hospital?”
Also not so great — deadlines for submission of PowerPoint slides and the dreaded requirement for “learning objectives.”
“Has there ever been a study showing that submitting ‘learning objectives’ actually led to more learning?” she wonders. “What if I just ignore the request?” she says, a sly smile creeping over her face.
“Let’s see, there are 58 messages here,” she notes. “I think I’ll do the ones marked as ‘high importance’ last, just for revenge.”
Included in the email barrage are several invitations to bogus medical conferences (“Greetings of the day!” they begin), as well as sales pitches for laboratory reagents, monoclonal antibodies, and small rodents.
“Why do I get emails asking if I want reagents for doing my own CRISPR experiments or for a supply of knockout mice?” she asks. “That reminds me, I need to call the exterminator for the ant problem we have at home.”
She also receives a dire warning — yes, ‘high importance’ exclamation point — that the annual Conflict of Interest form (required of all faculty) is overdue.
5:45 p.m.: As a big believer in never wasting a single moment, Dr. Gormley starts the online Conflict of Interest form on her phone while waiting outside for the bus.
“Last week I started it three times and it kept crashing,” she says.
“Apparently, if you do it at your computer, you need to be running Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer! I mean, could they please start using a browser that is updated for this century? Is that so much to ask?”
Completing the form takes her approximately 30 minutes, which completely ends all hope of listening to that great podcast everyone has been talking about, whatever it’s called.
6:30 p.m.: She arrives home to find that her three kids are fighting, their cat Quentin has vomited on the rug, and that her husband has forgotten it’s his night to plan dinner.
“I give him one thing to do,” she sighs. “Am I the only one who thinks that families need to eat to survive? You didn’t need to go to medical school to learn that.”
She picks up her phone and dials the local Mexican restaurant, which delivers.
While waiting, she and her husband reflect upon their key wins and challenges and prepare for the adventures of the next day.
“Just kidding. We’re just trying to survive here.”
7:00 p.m.: Take-out burritos for everyone.
“It’s only the third time this week,” she says, defensively.
7:30–9:30 p.m.: Gormley and husband Jack help all three of their children with homework, then Gormley starts laying out their kids’ clothes for the next day.
“If Phoebe says one thing about the clothes I put out for her, there might be Armageddon,” she says.
9:30 p.m.: As she’s washing up for bed, she remembers that she forgot to call the exterminator, and adds it to tomorrow’s to-do list.
“Ants aren’t so bad,” she rationalizes.
With thanks to Carolyn Frank Sax, MD, who really did have a cat named Quentin.