Outgoing Western Vascular Society (WVS) President Wei Zhou, MD, used her presidential address to put out a call for the vascular specialty to embrace tolerance in order that it thrives amid rising cases of physician burnout and the mounting pressures of practice.
She was speaking during the 2023 WVS annual meeting held in Koloa, Hawaii (Sept. 9–12). “As a specialty we face many challenges,” she told her audience. “Some reflect differences in cultural background, training experience and personal priorities.”
Zhou, an immigrant from China, shared a personal experience, which involved a case in which she suffered illness while at work, dating from her time as an intern. “I tried to stay strong for the team and minimize my illness, scrubbing for a long pancreatic case,” she remembered. Eventually, Zhou threw up into her surgical mask about four hours into the case. As she was walking out of the operating room to clean herself up, she explained, the surgeon on the case declared before the surgical team that Zhou was “pregnant.” “He did not ask, he just assumed that pregnancy is the reason for nausea in a young woman,” she said. “On that day I lost my respect for that surgeon.” Zhou asked the WVS attendees to realize that “we are different,” and “we need to figure out other people’s perspectives.”
“To keep an honest discussion, we also need to explore our own points of view. Oftentimes, we can find more things in common than differences,” she added. That means empathy, Zhou continued.
“We don’t look like each other, sound like each other or act like each other. Being tolerant is not always easy. It requires us to accept our own limitations, look past our differences and accept each other’s flaws—and accept uncertainty.”