What are the realities of a gay orthopaedic surgeon in the Canadian medical community?
In Episode 5, I’m speaking with Ang, who talks about leaving Straight-passing behind, and what he’s learning from therapy.
To get the most out of our next episode (#6: Healing the Scars of War), first watch "The Scars of War" (27 minutes) here:
Ang, Sen Zhan
I work about 80 hours today so I get to forget about my sexual preference I get to forget about that sort of painful part of being gay and and whatnot is so so I think residency was almost a gateway for me to escape. Everything sort of just came crashing down because the professional life didn't work and then my personal life was a disaster. So what the hell was I doing?
Sen Zhan 00:29
The third culture is what emerges at the intersection between your culture of origin and the other cultures by which you've been shaped. Beyond Asian is a place for stories of global nomads with Asian roots brought up in diversity. Together, we explore the interplay of our pasts with our presence and our relationships with the multiple cultures we move in. These are more than conversations about Asian identity, their portraits of whole people, what keeps them up at night, what their hearts longed for, and the impact they hope to have on their communities. I'm your host, Sen Zhan, a third culture kid born in China, raised in Canada, and currently based in Berlin. This series is a first step towards making peace with my own Asian background. And it's my hope that other third culture Asians will hear themselves reflected in our stories. What are the realities of a gay orthopedic surgeon in a Canadian medical community? In Episode Five, I'm speaking with Anne who talks about leaving straight passing behind and what he's learning from therapy. So a You and I have known each other for quite some time. We met on the first day of occupational therapy and physical therapy school in the year of 2009, I believe. And I remember that you and I, and I think maybe two other people were members of the Asian community in that program, which was quite a small program. So even though we've known each other for quite some time, and I've heard bits and pieces of your story over the years. I like you to take us through the beginning of it, of how it all started when you arrived in Canada and how you came to be in the place that you are now.
Yeah. So to start off with I am in my second year of training, which is called fellowship in orthopedic surgery and then and then I came to Canada when I was 12 and from China and I even greeted with my parents at the age of 12. And then at that time, I had to learn French first and then English later on. Afterwards, I managed to get into a bachelor degree at McGill University in physical therapy and that's when we we got to know each other's real data I
remember the first day that we met.
Yeah. So it's through sort of this group projects and and all the courses that we took together.
Sen Zhan 03:08
I remember the bars Oh my god.
Okay Imagine all the crazy thing we did back in the day. So that's when I had the pleasure to get to know us then and then afterwards, pursue medicine after graduation in physical therapy and then through sort of the normal kind of a pathway. I end up graduating from medicine got into orthopedic residency at university Montreal, and then eventually completed the residency and and I have completed my first fellowships in hand and wrist surgeries in Vancouver at UBC University and and now I'm completing my second year to fellowships, in sort of elbow and shoulder surgeries in Ottawa Yeah, so I am a orthopedic surgeons. So we are type of specialized surgeons who targeted musculoskeletal issues, namely fractures, but it can also encompass anything that goes from, you know, soft tissue damage in the hands or any soft tissues, issues, to sports medicines to oncology's to pediatric So, so the scope of practice is quite vast, but majority of the time we're dealing with some must muscular those. So anything that's related to bone to sort of soft tissues, issues, yeah, in medicine,
Sen Zhan 04:55
and sounds like you've done a lot of schooling.
Yes, that is correct. And still going and still going and still going.
Sen Zhan 05:04
How many years of schooling Have you done since you went into university for the first degree?
After the bachelor degree, I had an additional four years of medical school, and then followed by five years of fellowship, five years of residency training. So that amounts to nine years and then afterwards, two years of fellowship. So that's 11 years. So basically on my 11th year of training, after a bachelor degree,
Sen Zhan 05:39
what's what's one of the most interesting things that you've seen or or participated in, in orthopedic surgery?
I think the most memorable ones are are the traumatic cases where you know, because we are we work trained in a sort of tertiary centers for trauma, which means that all the big car accidents, all the sort of high velocity, injuries do get sent to our hospital and we're sort of the first where resident, you're usually sort of at the forefront of, you know, patient evaluations, especially orthopedic surgeries. The one that I could remember was, you know, car accident and woods, multiple sort of limb injuries, and sometimes you have to make really good decisions or quick decisions to, you know, save the limb or save the life of the patient. So there's a lot of chaos in terms of sort of managing a traumatic patience. So that's always a inexperienced to sort of interact with others. specialists and then in the same goal of saving the patient, and sometimes things can get pretty drastic. I can't really, you know, details any sort of particular injury or particular cases for patients confidentiality, but it's really not to sort of romanticize or sort of making a more sensational, and what is portrayed on the TV, but, but it is, you know, sometimes very gruesome as the patient walks in, and you kind of just have to stop the bleeding, making sure that, you know, there's IV axis, find out what the problem is and sort of sent the patient quickly to the door as quickly as possible. So there were some circumstances that we have to do that.
Sen Zhan 07:44
Yeah. Yeah, that sounds like it's, it's a very high stress, quick decision kind of process that you need to go through. You never know what you're going to get and how severe it's going to be.
Sen Zhan 07:55
You know, you were talking about how sometimes it's it's quite gruesome quite traumatic. These injuries, how do you keep that separate from your non doctor life? Or do you know how to how do you see these kinds of things day after day and not let it be disturbing to you?
That's actually a really good question. I think Yeah, as any. I think as any professionals we all have to learn or develop any sort of use for mature defense mechanisms to sort of ward off some of the most traumatic thing we see on a daily basis. And, and for me, one of the things that I find it's very useful to do, to dissociate sort of myself from that daily sort of stress, it's to meditate. I think that's something I I learned after having a mentor breakdown towards the end of my training. And I just find that you know, in the beginning, it's not as obvious as one might think, to sort of carry that burden after work. I think in the beginning, everybody wants to be strong. Everybody wants to sort of hold up that image of, oh, we're doctor, we're not supposed to be thick, especially when we're talking about, you know, mental illness or so it starts something that's, that's very talked about at least a couple years back now. I think there's more of a general awareness of physician well being back a few years ago, I think he wasn't really the case. So so I think I just accumulated a lot of those shadows if you want from seeing and and also experiencing a lot of sort of hardships through entering the worker environment, that I had a mental breakdown, and then that sort of pushed me to reevaluate A lot of things. And then luckily I discover a lot of other interesting activities. Like, you know, I, I started meditating, I find that a tremendous experience to be able to dissociate myself on a daily basis. So that's one thing. And then also, of course, being surrounded, sort of by a strong social support definitely helps, whether it's family or friends, and then also just physical activities in general. I think having those regular schedule activities, including, like a community, you know, like when we go to the gym or CrossFit gym or what have you or yoga, I think, I think intrinsically they come what's sort of a community or it's like similar people and a lot of them are not admitted. So that I think gives me the opportunity to step back to really be like, oh, okay, well, you know, I just did a CrossFit class with this awesome dude who's in finance, and then I get to learn a little bit about what he's daily stress, you know, versus daily life. It's and then that's, that's good.
Sen Zhan 11:23
You mentioned Yeah, you mentioned that you had to develop a more mature defense mechanism to how to react to the stressful situations. And part of that defense mechanism was to meditate and also be with people who were not in medicine. So to not always be bouncing the same kind of energy or the same kind of stories and problems back and forth, back and forth with without no way of letting it go somewhere else. What do you think is something that would help other doctors to also develop their methods of keeping themselves healthy?
I think Everybody, it's quite unique in the sense that I don't think there is one solution sort of the solution to an all, you know, physician stress coach, just because every, you know, stressors are so individual dependent, in the sense that they're so multifaceted, and I don't think there is one solutions that can be applied to all. So I think it's a sort of a difficult answer to give. I think one of the thing that I think regardless what the stressors are or what the challenges are, it's to sort of take a step back and you know, to give yourself space, whether it's taking a break from work, whether it's true Sort of reach out to either family, friends or even, you know, professionals such as psychologists or psychiatrists. I think giving the space will sometimes allow ourselves to have a more better understanding of or for stress in a way, for sure, if that doesn't work, there's always, you know, the professionals who can help us through, you know, all type of mental stress but, but that's sort of beside the point i'm saying is that I think for me, whatever that you can do to take a step back, whether that method, it's meditations, constantly, or simply just going on vacations, you know, as simple as that.
Sen Zhan 13:58
Yeah, to say The the constant barrage of working, working working being in this tunnel of always doing the same thing and looking in only one direction and and letting yourself be beyond break. Yeah. Which is difficult for doctors.
Sen Zhan 14:17
So I remember that you were telling me the story a couple of years ago and I thought this was a really good example of how you felt like you had to keep on working even though you yourself were not well and that you still push yourself to to work. Can you tell that story?
Yes, I had a partial minutes set me on my right knee during my residency. So basically too small surgery to shave a tear that had to happen in my meniscus, a secretary to probably a fall that I sustain to, you know, work out, sort of, it's a in the knee joint. So it's one of those cushion that the knee sort of it's caught the meniscus basically absorbs sort of all the energy it was you start, you know, walking in the knee joint, so small, relatively small surgery. And then I remember after the surgery, the day after I went back to work, I remember being back and then sort of limping a little bit just because I just had surgery the day prior. And then everybody was kind of joking around saying that Oh my God, that's surgery. It's so simple. Like for sure, you know, you have to come back to work. You don't have any pain right now. Even though they're saying kind of jokingly, I still felt the pressure to you know, basically keep doing what I do and and not taking any time off. But what ended up happening was that I think I went back to the activities to quickly and and I ended up having what's called the sino vo fistula. So what that is, it's it's really rare. It's actually really, really rare. But it happened to me. So what ends up happening is that those arthroscopy port-au did not close properly. And so my wound was still leaking about one week or one week and a half after the surgery, which is very non usual. And then on top of it, what end up happening is that I had a superficial infection of the skin, which is called the cellulitis. To put things in context, it's actually a very scary thing, just because if the infection were to propagate through the opening into the knee drying out, would have what's called this septic arthritis of the knee and, and which is can be quite catastrophic, you know, especially in a young person, because what that does is the bacteria can actually eat up the cartilage in a very fast timeframe and then I will basically have a very are sporadic In a very young age, luckily, I did not have that. But what ends up happening is that I was on call that weekend. So So I remember you was the schedule was done our day a month ago. So and then I'll top it away, it's I wasn't expected to have this kind of complications. So when we can have two weeks after the surgery, so so at that time, I was trying to see if there are other residents or anybody else who can sort of do the call for me, but then at the time, we're very short on staff. So I end up having to do my own shift by what's basically an IV pole because you know, I do have to get antibiotics and then that's has to be given IV. So I end up having to go to the eMERGE have the emergency doctor installed the IV line, hooking on a pole. And with that, I sort of treat the patients with any sort of fracture I have to reduce dead In the morning, he had to go in to, to check on the patients and then all the family members of the patient were like, Oh, are you the patient or the doctor while like no, I guess? Yeah. Did anybody believe you? Well, I have my you know, I was in scrubs and and I have my, my ID with me so, so you've been in touch. So that was I guess sort of condensing but, but I remember distinctively that I had actually had to go to the operating room, what's that IV line. So because it's all sterile, I like we even have to make sure that everything is sterile up until the elbow at the end of the surgery, which was like three o'clock in the morning. My IV line was busted and but I still have to get another dose of IV because I had missed it during the surgery, so I ended up having to call my friend. I remember having to call him in the middle of the night because at that Time I the nurse couldn't put the IV in. He had to come in, do an IV line. I think we still have a picture of that three o'clock in the morning in the hospital and then and then you know to have the antibiotics I it was kind of a surreal experience to be.
Sen Zhan 19:21
Well, you were you were a doctor and patient at the same time. Yeah,
absolutely. I just think I and I have so many other examples, not just me, but also other colleagues, who, almost when over and beyond sort of physical capacities to say, Oh, I'm a doctor, so I know what's going on in my body. I don't need to rest. Therefore I should keep going. Which is a very insane thing to even think about it right now.
Sen Zhan 19:52
Yeah, that is such a, an unbelievable story that first of all, the medical system Wouldn't even permit that kind of situation to exist, that not only were they not sending the doctor's home with rest, and not to return back to work immediately, but also that there was joking, you know that there was some kind of of a subtle implication that you should return, even though you just had a surgery, and then subsequently you develop these complications, you said that they were actually quite rare, but those complications might not have happened. If you had taken the rest of that you were supposed to take.
Probably I mean, we don't we don't know. Right. So
Sen Zhan 20:36
we don't know for sure. We don't know for sure. Yeah. But really just the image of of you walking around in your scrubs attached to an IV pole, seeing your patients and then going into the operating room operating on another patient while you yourself. were receiving an IV is just it's really surreal.
Just to bring a slight precision I had to go to the for sure in the operating room. There was no IV pull at all, I just had to maintain the IV access. So okay, you know, we have to unplug it anyway. But everything's sterile, but you know, busting out anyway. So the whole thing was a mess.
Sen Zhan 21:16
I hope that those situations are a thing of the past for you and for anybody else. Yeah, definitely would hope so. What would you say now today as a gang today to that gang some years ago, who was really struggling with the training was struggling with with burnout and feeling like you had to keep it up, even though you were getting quite tired and sick yourself.
That's a Yeah, that's actually a very good question. I think. If I were to go back in time, or even have the sort of the ability, I would tell I think two things to my
self. I think the first one is, it's just to be kinder to be be nice to your own self. I think that's, I guess one of the lessons that I've learned throughout the year, it's that I wasn't really kind to myself. And maybe that's another reason why I pushed myself so hard, because I felt that I need to prove something to other people or this need to please to other people. It's very strong. It's almost like a driving force in my own identity, to be accepted to feel to be validated by others. I think that sort of this need to, to to please to sort of to have other people saying especially people in authority be like, oh, Hank, I think You worked really hard and uh, you're a good resume. I think those are some of the words that I was looking for. And then unfortunately, I I think I did that this by sort of my own inner being, you know, whether it's physical or mental house. So I think looking back right now I would just tell myself to be kinder to myself instead of always trying to please others. I think that's one thing and then the second thing, it kind of always ties back to the first point it's also to it's to learn to be more of my own advocate. I think we just had a brunch with my old colleague in Toronto yesterday and then she really point out something that's quite obvious and and I have never sort of realized It's that she said that uh, like, you know, right now I don't have a job I'm looking for a job and yet all my colleagues in already find something that's, that's quite good. And then for me right now I'm sort of in this tricky situation to be like, Well, you know, I did so many years of training and yet I don't have a jobs available. And what she said was that I am someone who works really hard, but often forgets to be my own advocate to put myself out there in a way and and I think one of the biggest reason why it's that I often misunderstand the difference between being respectful and being obedient. So I think that's actually very true. I think throughout my residency once again, I almost had this pervasive need to be to be like, and then I also want to be respectful because that's what My culture says that's how I was brought up. So I always want to be, be respectful to people, especially to authority. But I think I over do it or in the sense that in my action we're sort of misinterpreted in a more sort of in a Western society when actually especially in surgery, people what's sort of a leadership skills are actually more applauded are actually rewarded. So so me being more sort of respectful towards each other and especially towards still sorting sometimes can make it seem that I'm more like a median person and then that's not a really good trait to to have a specially in a surgical field because in surgery feel we want you to leave and or we want you sort of to be in the UAE and then be the leader because you're the one cutting the patient knowing when the surgery is going to end the aneurysm. elegist, the nurses, they not that they all count on you, but they they want to know how long the surgery is going to last. When are we going to do the next surgery? So so there is a lot of responsibility. And if you don't take that physical space, and if you don't take that responsibility than being obedient, it's not gonna make the search go faster or go any smoother. So I think that's what I will tell myself. Yeah.
Sen Zhan 26:29
Yeah, that's a really interesting point that you make this very fine line between showing someone that you're, you're respecting them by doing your job the way that they expect you to, but also not as if you weren't thinking yourself. Yeah. You know, I think sometimes when I've run into this myself as well in my life, is that for the longest time, I didn't know how to interact with people who were older than me. Because when I was growing up I was always taught, you have to always listen and respect your elders. And for I would say, like the first, you know, five years or so after I left home for university, I didn't know how to have conversations with people who are older than me, like, you know, maybe around 10 years older than me, because I saw them as my elders. And I didn't feel like I was on even ground with him. Yeah. And it was, I think it may be comes from a similar place of wanting to show that I've always been told that you're more knowledgeable, more experienced in the world. And if I were to be too, too much, myself, I guess, to be too opinionated, to show that I had my own ideas. It would be not showing that I respected how they came to be in their life and why they had their own ideas. So I wonder for you right now in this in this very moment of your life, what is the difference between respect and obedience?
I think right now, I'm still struggling to understand sort of the difference. I don't think I have figured out the answer quite yet. But what I can say it's that I'm giving myself more of a voice in DLR. What that means is that when I do think that my opinions are valid, I'll make it a point to, to push it further, which What that means is that give you an example when I do do or before the moment, the slightest moment that I have sort of a hesitations, I tend to sort of hesitate in and sort of look around and then the staff would take the thing away because they find me to be too slow or they find me to be on decisive. But right now, you If those things were to occur, I wouldn't give the instrument away in the sense that I would tell the staff and and now I think I'm also having more confidence and having in a position more of authority to be I know I'm struggling. But that's what I'm here to do. Give me five minutes. Now, I think I have more understanding of my own abilities to actually say those things allow to be I know I'm struggling. But please do give me five minutes and five minutes, I still couldn't get it. And then when I'm doing it's not really dangerous, you know, like, I'm just trying to perform a basic safe shoulder arthroscopy. So sometimes I will say that for me, that's a concrete actions where I tell other people where things are and where I'm at and then it's, it's showing them also Way to respect me to be I know I'm struggling but give me five minutes. If in five minutes, I don't get it, I'll give the instrument back so that for me, it's sort of my way to, to short them. I still respect your inputs. By yet I'm not obedient. I'm not just like handing yourself the instrument without asking.
Sen Zhan 30:21
Mm hmm. Yeah. And it's also such a vulnerable thing to say, to let other people know that you see what they see that you may be struggling. Exactly. And as soon as we say that, often the people who might be looking at you in a judgmental way or thinking, Oh, How come he's not done to the instrument yet? As soon as you say it, it diffuses the situation. It makes you so much more human in that moment, to just be like, Look, we all know that it's not finished yet, but I want to finish it. It's not that I don't know what I'm doing. It's just that I need a little bit more time. Yeah. And I find that this this phrase that you just said, I know I'm struggling but please Five minutes can be adapted to so many different situations, you know, even outside of the or Yeah, in, in situations of everyday life. Yeah. I think that's really beautiful. Thank you. So we're talking a lot about specifics in your life as an orthopedic surgeon, what do you do when you're not in the car and not in the hospital?
I tried to travel I think traveling is definitely one of my passions definitely want to experience the world in a different way. And I remind myself that you know, whatever that I'm living through, it's only you know, it's only a glimpse of what this world really is and and there's so much out there, different cultures, different people different you know, world and I loved on and then I do like, experiencing other cultures in the sense that, you know, I love languages I love learning a new language. I personally speak you know, three and I would love to pick up my Spanish. Though I think outside of medicine, I will. Theoretically I guess it's still always a constant struggle, but to travel more to, to exercise more to read more. I think those are sort of the three goals I set for myself.
Sen Zhan 32:25
And of course, when we say what are you doing outside of being an orthopedic surgeon, you probably don't have that much free time. Yeah.
Yeah, exactly. How many hours a week do you work? Before you used to be quite a lot. He used to be almost 70 to 80 hours a week as a resident, but now that I'm a fellow, I think the clinical duties became a little bit less but he still has its, you know, busy moments. So when it gets busy for sure, it's around This 60 or 70 hour just because when you're on call, especially when you're on call once during the week, and as you know, you do 24 hours, so, so those days are very hard just because you're so sleep deprived that he does, you know, he almost makes the whole week. worthless, just because you're always tired, you almost have to catch up on your sleep and then you can only catch up about one hour per night, right? So if you didn't get to sleep on a 24 hour shift, then you almost have to take five or even six days to recuperate from that sleep deprived state. I think before I used to, you know, get back on the wagon quite quickly, but I think throughout the years, what's age, obviously I think that ability to sort of bounce back from a sleepless night it's it's harder and harder.
Sen Zhan 33:58
Yeah. You know, talking a lot About the very demanding nature of the work. What do you find is rewarding in the profession that you've chosen?
They think, I think the human action, human interaction, actually the human interactions, it's most rewarding things at the end. I think initially, I chose orthopedic surgery because of its gratifying sort of experience, especially in the clinic, because a lot of our clients are, what we see and what we treat, a lot of times they are reversible conditions. What I mean by that it's usually orthopedic injuries tend to be a fracture or some sort of musculoskeletal illness that that is reversible so we can actually make the patient feel better or achieve, you know, some sort of return to functions and then and and that's a very gratifying experience. Because it's not like we're saving their life but we are giving them the quality of life back It is a very gratifying experience. And then I do like the nature of my job which means you know it's a very concrete experience in the sense that you know, the bones are bulking you just have to put the bone back with the screws and plate. So so I think that part of my job being very manual being very sort of rely on your anatomic knowledge. I think that's my forte. And and I like to do things with my hand. So I think those two things are what makes the work and ultimately at the end all the worst. Well, yeah.
Sen Zhan 35:45
Yeah, it sounds like you can see directly the impact of what you do with your hands on the effect on the on the patient. Yeah. In some other medical professions. It's not so immediately powerful. Yeah, because we're working through different channels for you. It's really like I'm in this person's body. And through what I do with them, I can, I can resolve problems and help them feel better. Yeah. So we talked a lot about your professional life as an orthopedic surgeon and I wanted to ask you bet if you would talk about your journey in discovering the fullness of who you are as an individual.
So I am gay. In my personal life, it's I do consider this to be a very important facet of who I am, but it's not the only tray, you know, to wipe the site to sleep what's so I did my coming out in between second year to medicine to the third year to medicine. I do think that it was a it was particular difficult decisions. I think at the time, the cultural sort of pressure to basically have a son to You know, to have some sort of a lineage was very important to my family and then also, you know, to societal sort of pressure made things really hard back then and then, but I didn't make my come out to my friends and then to my mom, my dad, it's still in denial in the sense that he kind of refused to sort of talked about it or even sort of ask, Oh, are you seeing anyone so so he's pretty much just a voice that topic in general, which is something that that's very I guess that's kind of a Asian way of doing things is to just not talk about it and if we don't talk about it, then it doesn't exist. So So anyway, so I did my coming out really long time ago, but everything was was a was a very gradual process. I kind of expected in my head to be oh I'm out and now I get to live this like a very fabulous life and then all of sudden I out of sudden I achieved this ultimate understanding of myself and in my life was gonna be so much different but it turns out that everything was kind of the same I literally nothing really changed I still, you know, I'm I still remain friends with the people who used to be my friends and then nothing has really changed and then I I think I actually felt that it was a very isolating experience because because of the sheer nature of what I do professionally, I guess that just took on such a major role in my life that I didn't really get the chance to be out there and and be sort of be involved in the community and be available I guess, to all the, you know, because what happens when you came out I think part of the experience is to get to know people sort of a The same identity or sort of the same community and and I felt for for ones that I will I almost neglected that myself either it's because I was fearful or I was, once again, maybe I was subconsciously avoiding, you know, to interact with people have the same sort of sexual identity that's, that's left to be discussed. But for me, I think right away when I sort of came out automatically, I was like, I want to do work, though. As to why Yes, I think there are the professional sort of attractions. But also I think another aspect of that sort of residency was then Oh, you know what, I work about 80 hours a day. So I get to forget about my sexual preference, I get to forget about that sort of painful part of being gay in and what that what that is. So so I think residency was almost a gateway for me to escape.
Sen Zhan 40:07
Yeah. As if you know, by filling up your your time with something that was very demanding you needed to dedicate a lot of yourself to it. There wasn't that much energy left to explore this. This other question? Yes. Because maybe there weren't so many avenues that you connected to.
Yes, yes. And then I think that ultimately brought me to my burnout. Just because I remember distinctly when I had my burnout, it wasn't just about things not going well in the professional life. I think one of the hugest stressor at the time was that I almost felt very alone. I felt that I had nobody in my life that my sexual identity was, was not being left to the fullest. You know, I had a couple of sexual encounter, but I wasn't living my life. How I saw I would, you know, even after coming out I, I don't I didn't have a community. I didn't have any friends who were gay. And then I don't see any sort of possibility. I think that's what's really distressing at the time was that I had no hope to be ever, you know, be involved in sort of happy sort of relationship with another man at the time anyway, at the time. That's how I sort of saw side everything sort of just came crashing down because the professional life didn't work. And then my personal life was a disaster. So what the hell was I doing?
Sen Zhan 41:46
Yeah, it was like when I when I try so hard to do something. It should work out even if it's something that I might, I'm not really sure if it's the thing. Yeah, but, but when everything doesn't work, then you're really forced to re examine what are the primary
Yeah, and then also I think, not that I think I'm in my fellowship years I do have more free time and and that actually allowed me to explore a little bit of my sexuality by going on dates, you know, now always stressing about work, and then just be finally able to put myself out there. It did take a long time for me to finally sort of be comfortable in my own skin, but also be comfortable in my skin at work. I do think that that's something that's really important just because I do think we can sort of use the word straight passing, which means that uh, you know, I don't have a lot of sort of feminine behaviors, not that it's, I don't want to put any sort of negative connotation on it. It's just that I in sort of my working space, I don't come across as Someone who is gay, which is something really stupid when you think about it, and there's nothing wrong with feminine quality, there's nothing wrong with you know, being more empathetic. I think those are in fact the essential quality of being a doctor. But what I distinctly remember was that I was actually given a price twice during my residency or for being the most empathetic resident towards patients or the most sort of well rounded so they actually give it a worse like that and and i think well that's good to hear people thought that I deserve it so I got it twice and then I remember the first time when I got the award one of my staff actually made it kind of a backside comment being like, Oh, well, you know what, and good for you but those are worse are usually given to girls. Yeah, wow. Yeah. So I think was damaging in a way and if For sure they're, you know, other circumstances that we can you know, if we have more time, I definitely had it. I can share, but that circumstances was the one that I was, oh, maybe my sexual orientation will not be accepted in this community, as small as that sort of little sentence men. But these little things make a big difference. They stay with you. Absolutely. Yeah. I think that's what what for me was like, oh, okay, so maybe, you know, things aren't that rosy. People are not as accepting, but maybe, you know, but nowadays, I don't really care. To be honest. I think at the time, I think I was also sort of searching at the same time I wasn't getting any partners also, I think I was still searching or now I do have a boyfriend or in a stable relationship. And then right now I don't I don't hide in the workplace when they said What did you do last weekend? Why, when to turn Was my boyfriend and and that was the truth.
Sen Zhan 45:03
That is the truth. Yeah, yeah. And how was the response to that?
A valuable people didn't really? blink. Yeah. Nice. Oh, how was Toronto, though it was great away had dinner. Okay, carried on.
Sen Zhan 45:18
It's interesting. It's kind of like another instance of you coming out and nothing changing.
Yeah, absolutely. But I think one of the things that's meat deciding that it's all right, I think a lot of time. Once again, I think I give a lot more credit to other people than I should have given those credits to myself. I think it's one of those circumstances that if I'm okay with it, then who cares about what others are going to say? I think also times are changing. I do feel that the whole LGBT issues are more I guess why? Come in the sense that, uh, right now people, you know, have more sense understanding towards the LGBT community and especially even those orthopedic surgery or or even just medicine I guess in general, it's a little bit of still has a lot of work to do, I would have saved that, that they're all dated, but but in some community, they are still very sort of have this patriarchy, values. But I guess things are changing. And then, you know, people right now it's 2020. And I think the LGBT issue shouldn't be. I think it's still relevant. I think we're still fighting for a lot of these qualities, but, but I do think that right now people are more accepting.
Sen Zhan 46:51
Yeah, you were talking a little bit a bit about not feeling like people were identifying you as gay. Do you find that there are other People who are who are visibly outwardly queer in the medical community that makes it a little bit more of a normal thing. What's your experience of feeling like you've been represented?
Yeah, I do think that there are definitely other colleagues or gay colleagues who are sort of paving the way towards a more understanding community. Unfortunately, I have yet to find my way to sort of contribute in a significant way. But I do see my other colleagues, being very assertive in America being very forward about who they are and and I do think that it's shaping how people see us in a way, but I also want to stress that, you know, there's no way one way of being gay right, like, I mean, people are so multifaceted, not just because I like football, that I cannot be gay. Right. I do think that there are Sexual orientation is just one part of who we are as, as people. So I don't think that we should corner people into one characteristics. But just to give you an example, actually, last year, when I was at UBC, I had the pleasure to get to know this resident who's in ortho, who is gay, and then who is in his final year of graduations, and then he successfully completed all the examiners, you know, to graduate and during the graduation dinner, he got to give a speech in front of all the graduating class, all the staff, and then he brought his boyfriend and then during his speech multiple times, he thanked his boyfriend for being there for being sort of his moral supports. So that's actually a very sweet moment. So anyway, so so he Did sank his boyfriend in a very non pathologizing kind of way. And and I find it to be very, very heartwarming to witness that to to, you know, to be part of it also. Yeah.
Sen Zhan 49:16
And just the idea of someone standing up and speaking in front of everyone in front of colleagues in front of hundreds of people who who know you professionally, and to, to be very open about exactly who you are, and then have the members of the audience, whomever connect with connect with that to see someone taking what they might feel like the step that they're not ready to take. It sets an example. Yeah, absolutely. It shows you that this person did it and then everyone was fine with it, and so I could do it too.
Sen Zhan 49:51
And how has it been for you now, being in a nice stable relationship and getting more comfortable in your position, as As an orthopedic surgeon being more willing to be your own advocate, what are your next steps? What do you hope for yourself?
That's, uh, yeah, I think right now I, I like to have a, basically I like to have a stable positions in which I can fulfill sort of my professional duties. And then I think having that stability or that certainty of, you know, sort of, I can build towards a more stable relationship, and then also more of, you know, stable gold. I just think that right now, I'm still living in this transitional period, where I'm still sort of looking out for the next sort of jobs and if I don't have a job, or should I find a temporary one, so so I think right now, although I Am gaining more insights into who I am and what my abilities are in whether those abilities are professional or personal. I do think that the circumstances are still very uncertain. So so I do like to have more certainty say in my life, but this moment in order to almost implant, you know, all those all those skills if you want that, acquire that anon ready I'm finally ready. I think I've learned sort of a lot of coping skills, coping mechanisms to be like, Okay, you know what, now I'm ready to settle down, you know, to to move on to the next step. Yeah.
Sen Zhan 51:53
So first of all, finding a stable position that will solidify a lot of things and And but that a lot of other opportunities will come for you to fully show the world what you've been acquiring and practicing and gaining expertise in all these years. Yeah, absolutely. Wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me today for sharing these really intimate, vulnerable details about yourself and your life. And finding a job that is one of the bane of everyone's existence. But I, I have full confidence that you're gonna be there and what's the highest position that orthopedic surgeon can have?
Oh, please, no, there's no harm, just get a job. Just get a job at a job.
Sen Zhan 52:41
Well, I'm certain that you're gonna find your place in the medical world and also in the world at large.
Oh, thank you so much, then I love it. Thank you.
Sen Zhan 52:51
Thanks for listening to beyond Asian stories of the third culture. I hope you enjoyed this episode. We have a preview of our next episode coming up for you Before we roll it, you can find any resources referenced today in the show notes. If you resonated with what you heard on the show today, follow our Facebook page to get updates and what we're working on and our Facebook group to add your voice to the conversation. Got the perfect third culture Asian guests for us, get in touch on our website beyond asian.com or simply email us at beyond Asian firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be back with another story soon. In the meantime, you can subscribe to our show on Spotify, Apple podcasts, spreaker, and nearly all your regular podcast watering holes. We are a growing podcast and therefore need your support and reviews to keep bringing you more stories like this. I'd like to thank Mulan soon our creative strategist and lead designer ciccio Coppola, our 3d designer, Remy fresh poor, our developer and Alexandra Heller, our Director of Marketing for helping to bring this podcast to life. Most importantly, I'd like to thank our growing community of courageous guests who have generously shared their stories with us. Beyond Asian stories of a third culture is hosted and produced by me Your Chinese Canadian third culture kid in Berlin. Send john. Here's what we've got in store for you next time.
It was absolutely terrifying to interview my parents because we have never talked about these topics before. Do you have to be vulnerable with me? And that's something that is extremely difficult for them because it's not really usual to talk about your feelings.
Sen Zhan 54:31
After so much unimaginable trauma from the Vietnam War, how does a young Dutch Vietnamese woman began healing the emotional rifts in her family. In Episode Six, I'm speaking with Danny Lee and oriana calcine is in the Netherlands about their documentary, The scars of war and how their third cultural perspectives helped them to find each other and embrace their identities as global citizens.
You know, I made this documentary to start the conversation with my parents and He'll our family Somehow, I never would have imagined that it would have this big of an impact on on everyone.
And he was very nervous to talk to her parents, but I was very nervous just making sure everything went well. You don't really get a lot of shots at this.
I'm gonna own this because this is my story. And this is who I am. And as difficult and as ugly as sometimes was. This is who I am and I can't deny it. I think that's one of the most beautiful things about having this third culture thing. You You get to decide what that means to you.
Sen Zhan 55:43
To get the most out of the next episode, go to the show notes to watch this 27 minute documentary