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WPC Pulse – January 2012

Identity Crisis

By Autumn Dawn Galbreath, MD

I'm guessing (and hoping) that I'm not the only one...not the only WIMD-er who sometimes runs into identity issues with being a woman doctor/dentist...not the only one whose kids' friends can't remember to call her "doctor"...not the only one whose patients sometimes express their concern about whether or not I'm old enough or practiced enough (or male enough?) to take care of them...not the only one whose kids have been told by someone "only boys can be doctors."
Most of the time, I really feel OK with this. I laugh to the patients and tell them how many years I have been out of school, or politely correct them when they call me "nurse." Or I tell the embarrassed moms whose kids call the MD dads "doctor" but can’t remember to say it to me – "Well, I'm not his doctor, so 'Mrs. Galbreath' is fine." Or explain to my kids that a long time ago only boys could be doctors, but now girls can too.

But every so often, I discover that I'm not as OK with this as I think I am. Every so often, I notice that there is a teeny, tiny, little chip on my shoulder. It's not nearly as big as those of some women doctors I know. But it's there, darn it! I don’t want it to be there. I want to be so comfortable in who I am – who God Himself made me to be – and in the choices I have made, that I don't care what someone else thinks about it. I want to be so confident of God's calling on my family that I can smile and calmly answer any comments others might throw my way. And most of the time, I feel like I am. But then it comes...

  • The 20-year-old male MA at work who calls all the male docs "Doctor Smith" and "Doctor Jones," but repeatedly and pointedly calls me "Miss Galbreath"
  • The male colleague who comments that his wife has never "had to work"
  • The Sunday school teacher who attributes toddler behavior problems in Sunday school to "needing a Mommy at home with him"
  • The relative who asks when I'm ever going to start working part-time
  • The "joke" about being my husband's "sugar-mama"
  • The comment by another mom that I never seem to be around at the school
  • The article by a colleague about the dangers of a wife having a higher income than her husband

These come my way and I feel the dragon inside me, who thankfully sleeps most of the time, getting poked awake. Really enjoying her sleep, my dragon doesn't awaken cheerfully. She generally roars awake and spews fire at some unsuspecting bystander, who may or may not have been the perpetrator of the rude awakening. As the fiery words travel straight from my gut to my mouth without ever going through my brain for filtering, I find myself thinking, "Where is this coming from?!?!" It's clear that I scare the person to whom I'm talking, but I scare myself too.

I had no idea that such venom and anger was piling up inside of me about this issue. I thought I had gotten over this a long time ago. What in the world is wrong with me? Why can't I just blow these people off? I don’t answer to them. I answer to God and to my husband – and I am confident that both of them are OK with my career calling.

Why does it happen? In my heart of hearts, I know that it's because of my own inability to truly trust God. He's the One who put my husband and me together. He's the One who sent us our three wonderful kids. He's the One whose calling drew me into medicine. He's the One I seek to follow on a daily basis as I make decisions about how to balance all of these roles and callings. And yet, somehow, at my core, I remain insecure about this life I lead, straddling the roles of medical professional and Christian woman. I put more stock in other people's comments and opinions than I do in God's calling and gifts. I am so easily pulled away from resting in Him.

God's Word reassures me over and over again that He is sovereign and that, as I seek Him, He will not let me accidentally wander off of the path He has laid for me:

Matthew 6:33
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Psalm 32:8
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.

Isaiah 58:11
The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

Psalm 22:8
"He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."

Isaiah 43:1
But now, this is what the LORD says—he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine."

Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Philippians 1:6
...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

And there are many more. So as the world around me tempts me to falter in living out God's calling on my life, the Words of God are my anchor, holding me steady as I keep my eyes on His face.

Autumn Dawn Galbreath, MD, MBA

About Autumn Dawn Galbreath, MD, MBA

Autumn Dawn Eudaly Galbreath, MD, MBA is an internist in San Antonio, Texas, where she lives with her husband, David, and their three children. Though they met in medical school, David now owns a restaurant in the San Antonio area. Between the two of them, they have experienced multiple career transitions, and weathered the resultant stresses on their marriage and family. Autumn Dawn speaks to the issues of Christian marriage, being a working mother in the church, and being a woman in medicine with an engaging humor that brings perspective to these difficult issues. Autumn Dawn earned her MD from the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio, where she also completed her internal medicine residency. She earned her MBA from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Jonathon Weiner on April 18, 2022 at 12:48 pm

    As one of Autumns patients, I have to say, for a woman who preaches her God fearing ways, she sure needs to practice what she preaches.
    The level of negativity this woman spreads is cancerous. She holds an unhealthy amount of anger and self-entitlement. How does one live such a life of negativity? Is that what fuels the soul? Does it make one feel better living a life of drama and unsolved personal issues that she projects onto others who are innocent?
    It is scary for me to wonder how safe she truly is in her practice, as the woman behind this “curtain” can be so truly vile. I think she needs some serious self adjustment and should maybe take some time off in her older age to reflect on her anger and enroll into counseling to find the root of her anger. Nobody owes you anything in this life, and the sooner you realize that- the more “at peace” you will begin to feel. Perhaps your mouth has ran it’s course and karma is constantly swifting under your feet as a sign to find some self love and rid yourself of the constant negativity you project. It shows in your work and it’s really an ugly look, the way you talk to people.

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