Rockman: A family story of self-identity

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Outgoing Society for Vascular Surgery (SCVS) President Caron Rockman, MD, delved into her family history from late-19th century and early- 20th century Russia to deliver a poignant message to Annual Symposium attendees during the 2022 SCVS Presidential Address: “the importance of embracing all aspects of our self identity,” she said— as individuals, as people and as vascular surgeons.

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall…” told the story of Rockman’s maternal great grandfather and his youthful dream of becoming a pharmacist, a feat ultimately achieved by his daughter, Rockman’s grandmother. Her grandmother briefly became a female pharmacist in the U.S. of the 1930s, an unusual role among her peers for the time, before becoming a housewife and mother.

Rockman told SCVS delegates gathered in Las Vegas (March 19–23) she knew none of this story while her grandmother was alive. She also later discovered among her late grandmother’s effects that, although she had not worked as a pharmacist for more than 60 years, she had paid to have her license maintained well into the later years of her life. All of this factored into the thinking behind the address, Rockman informed Vascular Specialist in an interview.

“I often wondered over the years about what she saw when she looked in the mirror,” she had told her SCVS audience. “Did she see herself as a housewife, mother and homemaker typical of her generation? Or did she see, instead, an educated professional woman unusual among her peers. My sense is that she was trying to see both sides of herself.” 

That resonated, Rockman told VS, because she too had faced that dilemma—and many of her own peers may perhaps face such conflicts. 

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