FastWave interview with Dr. Kellie Brown

Interview with Dr. Kellie Brown

Learn from Dr. Kellie Brown's journey from a nervous newcomer to earning a national reputation for vascular surgery education.

FastWave interview with Dr. Kellie Brown

Interview with Dr. Kellie Brown

Learn from Dr. Kellie Brown's journey from a nervous newcomer to earning a national reputation for vascular surgery education.

FastWave interview with Dr. Kellie Brown

Interview with Dr. Kellie Brown

Learn from Dr. Kellie Brown's journey from a nervous newcomer to earning a national reputation for vascular surgery education.

FastWave interview Dr. Kellie Brown
FastWave interview Dr. Kellie Brown
FastWave interview Dr. Kellie Brown

Dr. Kellie Brown is a tenured Professor of Surgery specializing in vascular and endovascular surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. She’s a distinguished fellow of the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS), a past President of the Midwestern Vascular Surgical Association, and currently serves as the Chair of the Vascular Surgery Board. She’s the Fellowship Program Director for the MCW Vascular Surgery Fellowship and the Division Chief of Vascular Surgery at the Zablocki VA Medical Center. In this interview, Dr. Brown offers invaluable advice on networking, building relationships, and the one message she wants to share with every single resident and fellow.

Shortly after you completed your fellowship training, was there a therapy area or subject matter you wish you were taught or had more experience in?

There are two answers to that question. When I completed my fellowship in 2000, endovascular techniques were just coming out. I wish I had learned more about those techniques during my training. I think many of my contemporaries had to pursue additional training in this area, too. It wasn’t a shortcoming of my fellowship, just a matter of timing. Today, I believe this is no longer a major concern for most fellows. 

The other area – and this is still relevant – is wound care and managing an outpatient clinic. How to handle patients, manage clinic flow, that's a skillset fellows don't get much exposure to. But once you're in practice, the outpatient side is really important. Being able to talk to patients, answer their questions, manage the flow of a visit, be efficient, but also connect with them – there’s an art to it. Then there’s the wound care aspect. As vascular surgeons, we deal extensively with wound care. Honestly, it was a big gap in my knowledge when I finished my fellowship and I learned a lot about it from the nurses in my clinic. They really helped me understand how to treat wounds effectively.

For current fellows, what's the next step they could take to bridge these gaps?

Yes, it’s tempting for residents and fellows to avoid the clinic, as it's not the most exciting part of our job, but it's crucial. Actively seeking out that knowledge while in the clinic is really valuable. And there are people with deep expertise in this area. In my setting, it's mostly the nurses and nurse practitioners who have a really thorough understanding of these protocols. Spending time with them, learning their treatment algorithms – that's incredibly important. 

It's a little bit like theater in a way. I don't mean we're pretending, but there’s a performative aspect. You need to meet patient expectations. If you don’t appear confident, you might lose credibility quickly, which can be especially true for women. You have to manage that appropriately. What I did early on was review all the imaging and everything beforehand. I'd see the patient, get their history, do a physical exam, and then if I had any uncertainty in what to recommend I would tell the patient, "I'm going to review your images and come back with a plan.” Then, I'd consult a partner. This helped me look at the images again, talk it through with someone, and return to the patient with confidence. Then I would pull up the images and say, “This is what I see. This is the plan.” 

Later in my career, once I had a little bit of gray hair, I could more easily say, "I'm not entirely sure, let me consult someone." But that is less frequent now. When you're young, especially as a woman, you need to manage expectations a bit differently. 

Of course, straightforward cases were easy – it's the challenging ones where you need that extra support. And those happen a lot in the first few years. 

I gave a graduation speech the year before last for a class of residents who were all women. For this speech, I put together a top-ten list of things I wish I had known early in my career. It included a lot of those practical things, like hiring a financial advisor and how to best compensate them—don't settle for commission! I really reflected on what would have helped me most coming out of training and tried to cover all those bases.

Here’s the list I shared: 

  1. In the immortal words of the ‘Life is Good’ T-shirt people, “Do what you love, love what you do”. Over time, surgery will change. Technology will advance. Therapies will evolve. Things that are the surgeon’s bread and butter now will be uncommon in 10 years. So, you must evolve along with surgery. 


  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is not a weakness; not knowing your limits is a weakness. And when you go into practice, make sure you have partners who will come in to help you at 3 am, even if they are not on call, and not be angry with you or think you’re an idiot. You will run into things you haven’t seen or dealt with before, and your partners should be there to help you. 


  3. Hang on to the compliments. It is human nature to pay more attention to criticism and discount compliments, although you need constructive critical feedback to continue to improve. But throughout your career, you will have patients that compliment you, or send you cards or notes. They are truly grateful, and they are letting you know. Each time that happens, take some time to reflect on that and internalize it. It is so much easier to listen to the criticism, but if you don’t listen with the same attention to the compliments, you can really start to get burned out. 


  4. Be nice. Surgeons often don’t realize how intimidating we are, particularly in the OR. This can be a tough balance, because you have to be in charge in the OR, and you have a patient’s life directly in your hands. That can lead to anxiety and frustration if things aren’t going your way. But if you are short, sharp, sarcastic, or loud, you will intimidate the people working with you. In the long run, that doesn’t help you get people to work well with you and doesn’t do your patients any good. 


  5. When it comes to family and your personal life, do what’s important, and pay someone to do the rest. Your job is going to take a lot of your time, so you have to make your free time count. Take the time to bake cookies for your kid’s bake sale, show up to the game, make the costume for the play, attend your spouse’s work event, make his or her favorite meal, or whatever it is that you and your family value. Pay someone to clean the house, mow the lawn, cook the meals, etc… so that when you do have free time you are spending it doing what you find important. 


  6. Make sure you keep your family front and center, and not an afterthought. You have spent residency and fellowship just getting through one day at a time. At least that’s what I did. It would have been overwhelming to think about all those years up front, when I had so little control about how those days would go. So, just getting through each day worked well, but don’t live the rest of your life that way. You need to plan – vacations, regular weekly time with your spouse, solo time with kids and family. Your job will intrude at every opportunity, but if you make regular plans, even if you break some of them, your family will know they are important to you, which is critical to their happiness and yours. 


  7. Get your financial house in order. You need to arrange for several things, sooner rather than later, that aren’t fun but are critical. You need life insurance, and you absolutely need disability insurance. You now have a lot to lose. Your knowledge and ability is an asset, and you need to protect against its loss. That’s what disability insurance is. You need a trust, or at least a will, especially if you have a spouse and/or children. You need to start paying your student loans, your mortgage, and your car, and you need to figure out in what order to do that. 


  8. Never neglect to save for your retirement. Having that nest egg gives you freedom. You’ve spent the last decade or so becoming an expert in surgery, but most of you are not financial experts. You need to hire one. My recommendation is to hire a financial advisor that you pay based on how well your investments grow, not one that sells you products. Think of it like getting advice from a doctor rather than a drug rep. They can help you map out your financial future, set aside funds for your family’s future and security. How do you find a good financial advisor? I don’t claim to know the answers, but I found one by asking around. Ask your partners and friends. Interview several advisors, and choose the one that fits your needs the most. It’s not very philosophical or inspirational, but it is very important that you take care of your financial future.

Many residents and fellows leave training with a sense that they aren’t fully ready for clinical practice. Do you remember a time when you felt like you weren’t ready for “prime time”? How do you coach your fellows to help overcome that fear?

That's a real challenge. Some of it is just facing it head-on. I vividly remember my first open aneurysm surgery. Back then, that's how we did them all. I was working with a fifth-year surgery resident – it was a real gut check moment! There's anxiety, but you just have to do it. What helped me in those situations – and this is what I tell my fellows – was having support. 

During that first surgery, a senior trauma surgeon, not even a vascular surgeon, just popped in to check on me. We were at the VA hospital, where we often didn't have a backup surgeon. He simply asked how I was doing. I later realized it was actually his way of letting me know he was available if I needed help. That was incredibly thoughtful and reassuring. 

So, I tell my graduating fellows to always have a safety net. If something's not going well, get help. That first month or two sets your reputation in a hospital. You need some quick wins and straightforward cases to build confidence. And if things get complicated, absolutely loop in another partner. Things don't always go perfectly –not due to something we did wrong – but because of the patients’ circumstances or something else. But early on, you want to make sure that people don’t think the complications are because of you. Get support, even if it’s just to discuss the case beforehand. Of course, there's a balance. You need independence, but you gain that with experience. So don't go way out on a limb and then saw the branch off. Be cautious about which cases you tackle alone. If you take on the biggest, baddest case you've ever seen in your first six months, you better have help.

Considering your extensive experience in medical research, how would you recommend a fellow get involved with clinical trials and/or establish collaborative research with other specialists?

The first thing to do is to pick questions that interest you. Every day as physicians, we encounter clinical situations where we don't have all the answers. You see an occluded graft – what's the best way to open it? Once open, what's the optimal anticoagulation strategy? Be curious about these gaps in your knowledge. 

Like many others, I was able to get some additional research training at the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Fellowship. But, if that's not an option, you can partner up with someone who has statistical and trial design expertise. Even for retrospective chart reviews, it’s important you understand the methodology. Also, be prepared to invest the time. Even the simplest paper published represents countless hours of work. 

Now, if you want a focused research career, you need to choose an area to specialize in. This is not advice I particularly followed because I'm primarily an educator, so my clinical research has been more opportunistic. People often advise against this now, but I built my career by saying "yes" to opportunities, even those outside my immediate interests, and then gave them my all. You'll get asked to do more if you prove yourself to be reliable and capable.

The key is this: if you say "yes" to a project, follow through and deliver quality work. That's how you build a reputation in research.

Dr. Kellie Brown is a tenured Professor of Surgery specializing in vascular and endovascular surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. She’s a distinguished fellow of the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS), a past President of the Midwestern Vascular Surgical Association, and currently serves as the Chair of the Vascular Surgery Board. She’s the Fellowship Program Director for the MCW Vascular Surgery Fellowship and the Division Chief of Vascular Surgery at the Zablocki VA Medical Center. In this interview, Dr. Brown offers invaluable advice on networking, building relationships, and the one message she wants to share with every single resident and fellow.

Shortly after you completed your fellowship training, was there a therapy area or subject matter you wish you were taught or had more experience in?

There are two answers to that question. When I completed my fellowship in 2000, endovascular techniques were just coming out. I wish I had learned more about those techniques during my training. I think many of my contemporaries had to pursue additional training in this area, too. It wasn’t a shortcoming of my fellowship, just a matter of timing. Today, I believe this is no longer a major concern for most fellows. 

The other area – and this is still relevant – is wound care and managing an outpatient clinic. How to handle patients, manage clinic flow, that's a skillset fellows don't get much exposure to. But once you're in practice, the outpatient side is really important. Being able to talk to patients, answer their questions, manage the flow of a visit, be efficient, but also connect with them – there’s an art to it. Then there’s the wound care aspect. As vascular surgeons, we deal extensively with wound care. Honestly, it was a big gap in my knowledge when I finished my fellowship and I learned a lot about it from the nurses in my clinic. They really helped me understand how to treat wounds effectively.

For current fellows, what's the next step they could take to bridge these gaps?

Yes, it’s tempting for residents and fellows to avoid the clinic, as it's not the most exciting part of our job, but it's crucial. Actively seeking out that knowledge while in the clinic is really valuable. And there are people with deep expertise in this area. In my setting, it's mostly the nurses and nurse practitioners who have a really thorough understanding of these protocols. Spending time with them, learning their treatment algorithms – that's incredibly important. 

It's a little bit like theater in a way. I don't mean we're pretending, but there’s a performative aspect. You need to meet patient expectations. If you don’t appear confident, you might lose credibility quickly, which can be especially true for women. You have to manage that appropriately. What I did early on was review all the imaging and everything beforehand. I'd see the patient, get their history, do a physical exam, and then if I had any uncertainty in what to recommend I would tell the patient, "I'm going to review your images and come back with a plan.” Then, I'd consult a partner. This helped me look at the images again, talk it through with someone, and return to the patient with confidence. Then I would pull up the images and say, “This is what I see. This is the plan.” 

Later in my career, once I had a little bit of gray hair, I could more easily say, "I'm not entirely sure, let me consult someone." But that is less frequent now. When you're young, especially as a woman, you need to manage expectations a bit differently. 

Of course, straightforward cases were easy – it's the challenging ones where you need that extra support. And those happen a lot in the first few years. 

I gave a graduation speech the year before last for a class of residents who were all women. For this speech, I put together a top-ten list of things I wish I had known early in my career. It included a lot of those practical things, like hiring a financial advisor and how to best compensate them—don't settle for commission! I really reflected on what would have helped me most coming out of training and tried to cover all those bases.

Here’s the list I shared: 

  1. In the immortal words of the ‘Life is Good’ T-shirt people, “Do what you love, love what you do”. Over time, surgery will change. Technology will advance. Therapies will evolve. Things that are the surgeon’s bread and butter now will be uncommon in 10 years. So, you must evolve along with surgery. 


  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is not a weakness; not knowing your limits is a weakness. And when you go into practice, make sure you have partners who will come in to help you at 3 am, even if they are not on call, and not be angry with you or think you’re an idiot. You will run into things you haven’t seen or dealt with before, and your partners should be there to help you. 


  3. Hang on to the compliments. It is human nature to pay more attention to criticism and discount compliments, although you need constructive critical feedback to continue to improve. But throughout your career, you will have patients that compliment you, or send you cards or notes. They are truly grateful, and they are letting you know. Each time that happens, take some time to reflect on that and internalize it. It is so much easier to listen to the criticism, but if you don’t listen with the same attention to the compliments, you can really start to get burned out. 


  4. Be nice. Surgeons often don’t realize how intimidating we are, particularly in the OR. This can be a tough balance, because you have to be in charge in the OR, and you have a patient’s life directly in your hands. That can lead to anxiety and frustration if things aren’t going your way. But if you are short, sharp, sarcastic, or loud, you will intimidate the people working with you. In the long run, that doesn’t help you get people to work well with you and doesn’t do your patients any good. 


  5. When it comes to family and your personal life, do what’s important, and pay someone to do the rest. Your job is going to take a lot of your time, so you have to make your free time count. Take the time to bake cookies for your kid’s bake sale, show up to the game, make the costume for the play, attend your spouse’s work event, make his or her favorite meal, or whatever it is that you and your family value. Pay someone to clean the house, mow the lawn, cook the meals, etc… so that when you do have free time you are spending it doing what you find important. 


  6. Make sure you keep your family front and center, and not an afterthought. You have spent residency and fellowship just getting through one day at a time. At least that’s what I did. It would have been overwhelming to think about all those years up front, when I had so little control about how those days would go. So, just getting through each day worked well, but don’t live the rest of your life that way. You need to plan – vacations, regular weekly time with your spouse, solo time with kids and family. Your job will intrude at every opportunity, but if you make regular plans, even if you break some of them, your family will know they are important to you, which is critical to their happiness and yours. 


  7. Get your financial house in order. You need to arrange for several things, sooner rather than later, that aren’t fun but are critical. You need life insurance, and you absolutely need disability insurance. You now have a lot to lose. Your knowledge and ability is an asset, and you need to protect against its loss. That’s what disability insurance is. You need a trust, or at least a will, especially if you have a spouse and/or children. You need to start paying your student loans, your mortgage, and your car, and you need to figure out in what order to do that. 


  8. Never neglect to save for your retirement. Having that nest egg gives you freedom. You’ve spent the last decade or so becoming an expert in surgery, but most of you are not financial experts. You need to hire one. My recommendation is to hire a financial advisor that you pay based on how well your investments grow, not one that sells you products. Think of it like getting advice from a doctor rather than a drug rep. They can help you map out your financial future, set aside funds for your family’s future and security. How do you find a good financial advisor? I don’t claim to know the answers, but I found one by asking around. Ask your partners and friends. Interview several advisors, and choose the one that fits your needs the most. It’s not very philosophical or inspirational, but it is very important that you take care of your financial future.

Many residents and fellows leave training with a sense that they aren’t fully ready for clinical practice. Do you remember a time when you felt like you weren’t ready for “prime time”? How do you coach your fellows to help overcome that fear?

That's a real challenge. Some of it is just facing it head-on. I vividly remember my first open aneurysm surgery. Back then, that's how we did them all. I was working with a fifth-year surgery resident – it was a real gut check moment! There's anxiety, but you just have to do it. What helped me in those situations – and this is what I tell my fellows – was having support. 

During that first surgery, a senior trauma surgeon, not even a vascular surgeon, just popped in to check on me. We were at the VA hospital, where we often didn't have a backup surgeon. He simply asked how I was doing. I later realized it was actually his way of letting me know he was available if I needed help. That was incredibly thoughtful and reassuring. 

So, I tell my graduating fellows to always have a safety net. If something's not going well, get help. That first month or two sets your reputation in a hospital. You need some quick wins and straightforward cases to build confidence. And if things get complicated, absolutely loop in another partner. Things don't always go perfectly –not due to something we did wrong – but because of the patients’ circumstances or something else. But early on, you want to make sure that people don’t think the complications are because of you. Get support, even if it’s just to discuss the case beforehand. Of course, there's a balance. You need independence, but you gain that with experience. So don't go way out on a limb and then saw the branch off. Be cautious about which cases you tackle alone. If you take on the biggest, baddest case you've ever seen in your first six months, you better have help.

Considering your extensive experience in medical research, how would you recommend a fellow get involved with clinical trials and/or establish collaborative research with other specialists?

The first thing to do is to pick questions that interest you. Every day as physicians, we encounter clinical situations where we don't have all the answers. You see an occluded graft – what's the best way to open it? Once open, what's the optimal anticoagulation strategy? Be curious about these gaps in your knowledge. 

Like many others, I was able to get some additional research training at the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Fellowship. But, if that's not an option, you can partner up with someone who has statistical and trial design expertise. Even for retrospective chart reviews, it’s important you understand the methodology. Also, be prepared to invest the time. Even the simplest paper published represents countless hours of work. 

Now, if you want a focused research career, you need to choose an area to specialize in. This is not advice I particularly followed because I'm primarily an educator, so my clinical research has been more opportunistic. People often advise against this now, but I built my career by saying "yes" to opportunities, even those outside my immediate interests, and then gave them my all. You'll get asked to do more if you prove yourself to be reliable and capable.

The key is this: if you say "yes" to a project, follow through and deliver quality work. That's how you build a reputation in research.

Dr. Kellie Brown is a tenured Professor of Surgery specializing in vascular and endovascular surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. She’s a distinguished fellow of the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS), a past President of the Midwestern Vascular Surgical Association, and currently serves as the Chair of the Vascular Surgery Board. She’s the Fellowship Program Director for the MCW Vascular Surgery Fellowship and the Division Chief of Vascular Surgery at the Zablocki VA Medical Center. In this interview, Dr. Brown offers invaluable advice on networking, building relationships, and the one message she wants to share with every single resident and fellow.

Shortly after you completed your fellowship training, was there a therapy area or subject matter you wish you were taught or had more experience in?

There are two answers to that question. When I completed my fellowship in 2000, endovascular techniques were just coming out. I wish I had learned more about those techniques during my training. I think many of my contemporaries had to pursue additional training in this area, too. It wasn’t a shortcoming of my fellowship, just a matter of timing. Today, I believe this is no longer a major concern for most fellows. 

The other area – and this is still relevant – is wound care and managing an outpatient clinic. How to handle patients, manage clinic flow, that's a skillset fellows don't get much exposure to. But once you're in practice, the outpatient side is really important. Being able to talk to patients, answer their questions, manage the flow of a visit, be efficient, but also connect with them – there’s an art to it. Then there’s the wound care aspect. As vascular surgeons, we deal extensively with wound care. Honestly, it was a big gap in my knowledge when I finished my fellowship and I learned a lot about it from the nurses in my clinic. They really helped me understand how to treat wounds effectively.

For current fellows, what's the next step they could take to bridge these gaps?

Yes, it’s tempting for residents and fellows to avoid the clinic, as it's not the most exciting part of our job, but it's crucial. Actively seeking out that knowledge while in the clinic is really valuable. And there are people with deep expertise in this area. In my setting, it's mostly the nurses and nurse practitioners who have a really thorough understanding of these protocols. Spending time with them, learning their treatment algorithms – that's incredibly important. 

It's a little bit like theater in a way. I don't mean we're pretending, but there’s a performative aspect. You need to meet patient expectations. If you don’t appear confident, you might lose credibility quickly, which can be especially true for women. You have to manage that appropriately. What I did early on was review all the imaging and everything beforehand. I'd see the patient, get their history, do a physical exam, and then if I had any uncertainty in what to recommend I would tell the patient, "I'm going to review your images and come back with a plan.” Then, I'd consult a partner. This helped me look at the images again, talk it through with someone, and return to the patient with confidence. Then I would pull up the images and say, “This is what I see. This is the plan.” 

Later in my career, once I had a little bit of gray hair, I could more easily say, "I'm not entirely sure, let me consult someone." But that is less frequent now. When you're young, especially as a woman, you need to manage expectations a bit differently. 

Of course, straightforward cases were easy – it's the challenging ones where you need that extra support. And those happen a lot in the first few years. 

I gave a graduation speech the year before last for a class of residents who were all women. For this speech, I put together a top-ten list of things I wish I had known early in my career. It included a lot of those practical things, like hiring a financial advisor and how to best compensate them—don't settle for commission! I really reflected on what would have helped me most coming out of training and tried to cover all those bases.

Here’s the list I shared: 

  1. In the immortal words of the ‘Life is Good’ T-shirt people, “Do what you love, love what you do”. Over time, surgery will change. Technology will advance. Therapies will evolve. Things that are the surgeon’s bread and butter now will be uncommon in 10 years. So, you must evolve along with surgery. 


  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is not a weakness; not knowing your limits is a weakness. And when you go into practice, make sure you have partners who will come in to help you at 3 am, even if they are not on call, and not be angry with you or think you’re an idiot. You will run into things you haven’t seen or dealt with before, and your partners should be there to help you. 


  3. Hang on to the compliments. It is human nature to pay more attention to criticism and discount compliments, although you need constructive critical feedback to continue to improve. But throughout your career, you will have patients that compliment you, or send you cards or notes. They are truly grateful, and they are letting you know. Each time that happens, take some time to reflect on that and internalize it. It is so much easier to listen to the criticism, but if you don’t listen with the same attention to the compliments, you can really start to get burned out. 


  4. Be nice. Surgeons often don’t realize how intimidating we are, particularly in the OR. This can be a tough balance, because you have to be in charge in the OR, and you have a patient’s life directly in your hands. That can lead to anxiety and frustration if things aren’t going your way. But if you are short, sharp, sarcastic, or loud, you will intimidate the people working with you. In the long run, that doesn’t help you get people to work well with you and doesn’t do your patients any good. 


  5. When it comes to family and your personal life, do what’s important, and pay someone to do the rest. Your job is going to take a lot of your time, so you have to make your free time count. Take the time to bake cookies for your kid’s bake sale, show up to the game, make the costume for the play, attend your spouse’s work event, make his or her favorite meal, or whatever it is that you and your family value. Pay someone to clean the house, mow the lawn, cook the meals, etc… so that when you do have free time you are spending it doing what you find important. 


  6. Make sure you keep your family front and center, and not an afterthought. You have spent residency and fellowship just getting through one day at a time. At least that’s what I did. It would have been overwhelming to think about all those years up front, when I had so little control about how those days would go. So, just getting through each day worked well, but don’t live the rest of your life that way. You need to plan – vacations, regular weekly time with your spouse, solo time with kids and family. Your job will intrude at every opportunity, but if you make regular plans, even if you break some of them, your family will know they are important to you, which is critical to their happiness and yours. 


  7. Get your financial house in order. You need to arrange for several things, sooner rather than later, that aren’t fun but are critical. You need life insurance, and you absolutely need disability insurance. You now have a lot to lose. Your knowledge and ability is an asset, and you need to protect against its loss. That’s what disability insurance is. You need a trust, or at least a will, especially if you have a spouse and/or children. You need to start paying your student loans, your mortgage, and your car, and you need to figure out in what order to do that. 


  8. Never neglect to save for your retirement. Having that nest egg gives you freedom. You’ve spent the last decade or so becoming an expert in surgery, but most of you are not financial experts. You need to hire one. My recommendation is to hire a financial advisor that you pay based on how well your investments grow, not one that sells you products. Think of it like getting advice from a doctor rather than a drug rep. They can help you map out your financial future, set aside funds for your family’s future and security. How do you find a good financial advisor? I don’t claim to know the answers, but I found one by asking around. Ask your partners and friends. Interview several advisors, and choose the one that fits your needs the most. It’s not very philosophical or inspirational, but it is very important that you take care of your financial future.

Many residents and fellows leave training with a sense that they aren’t fully ready for clinical practice. Do you remember a time when you felt like you weren’t ready for “prime time”? How do you coach your fellows to help overcome that fear?

That's a real challenge. Some of it is just facing it head-on. I vividly remember my first open aneurysm surgery. Back then, that's how we did them all. I was working with a fifth-year surgery resident – it was a real gut check moment! There's anxiety, but you just have to do it. What helped me in those situations – and this is what I tell my fellows – was having support. 

During that first surgery, a senior trauma surgeon, not even a vascular surgeon, just popped in to check on me. We were at the VA hospital, where we often didn't have a backup surgeon. He simply asked how I was doing. I later realized it was actually his way of letting me know he was available if I needed help. That was incredibly thoughtful and reassuring. 

So, I tell my graduating fellows to always have a safety net. If something's not going well, get help. That first month or two sets your reputation in a hospital. You need some quick wins and straightforward cases to build confidence. And if things get complicated, absolutely loop in another partner. Things don't always go perfectly –not due to something we did wrong – but because of the patients’ circumstances or something else. But early on, you want to make sure that people don’t think the complications are because of you. Get support, even if it’s just to discuss the case beforehand. Of course, there's a balance. You need independence, but you gain that with experience. So don't go way out on a limb and then saw the branch off. Be cautious about which cases you tackle alone. If you take on the biggest, baddest case you've ever seen in your first six months, you better have help.

Considering your extensive experience in medical research, how would you recommend a fellow get involved with clinical trials and/or establish collaborative research with other specialists?

The first thing to do is to pick questions that interest you. Every day as physicians, we encounter clinical situations where we don't have all the answers. You see an occluded graft – what's the best way to open it? Once open, what's the optimal anticoagulation strategy? Be curious about these gaps in your knowledge. 

Like many others, I was able to get some additional research training at the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Fellowship. But, if that's not an option, you can partner up with someone who has statistical and trial design expertise. Even for retrospective chart reviews, it’s important you understand the methodology. Also, be prepared to invest the time. Even the simplest paper published represents countless hours of work. 

Now, if you want a focused research career, you need to choose an area to specialize in. This is not advice I particularly followed because I'm primarily an educator, so my clinical research has been more opportunistic. People often advise against this now, but I built my career by saying "yes" to opportunities, even those outside my immediate interests, and then gave them my all. You'll get asked to do more if you prove yourself to be reliable and capable.

The key is this: if you say "yes" to a project, follow through and deliver quality work. That's how you build a reputation in research.

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World's Brightest Physicians

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Successfully transitioning from research to educating other vascular surgeons requires a specific skill set. Any particular strategies that have contributed to your success in peer-to-peer training?

Training people in the operating room and being a good teacher took me a while – I guess you'd have to ask my trainees if I'm successful at it. But here's what I try to do: I think out loud. Early on, I realized if I wasn't explaining my thought process, trainees missed the reasoning behind my actions or misinterpreted my frustration. Sometimes I'd be annoyed with myself, but they'd think it was directed at them. 

I’ve learned to talk a lot in the operating room about my decision-making process. Every step is a choice: where to clamp, patch or repair, stent or balloon, etc... I verbalize these options to explain my thought process. This encourages questions and helps trainees follow along. It also enabled them to understand that we don’t always know whether we’re doing the right thing while we’re doing it. I often second-guess myself, constantly weighing options and decisions during vascular surgery, and speaking out loud provides a window into that thought process. 

Endovascular is a little different, since you need the equipment and a detailed plan beforehand. But in open surgery, so much is decided on the spot because conditions aren't fully known until you're in there. Even something as basic as a femoral endarterectomy with profundoplasty – how are you reconstructing the profunda? Are you going to create your arteriotomy onto the profunda? Are you going to create a separate arteriotomy? Are you going to do an interposition graft? It's a series of choices during the operation. 

I talk through all that, engaging the learner in the decision-making, and discussing pros and cons. If I just do it, they might not realize there were other options or why I chose a specific one.

You've been involved in so many societies, have led them and built numerous relationships throughout your career. What’s been crucial to networking or building relationships, whether it's within vascular surgery or across disciplines?

I’ll always remember my first vascular meeting – walking those hallways, so many people, and they'd glance at my name tag and move along after a simple ‘hi’. It can be tough and I would say persistence is key. Keep showing up, introducing yourself, and finding common ground. For me, that meant connecting with other women surgeons. Back then, there weren't many of us, so we naturally gravitated toward each other. Then that opened up further networks. 

But honestly, volunteering for committees was the biggest way of getting my foot in the door. I volunteered for about ten years at the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) before I was selected for a committee. It takes time for people to get to know you. 

Another way is through research. Submit case reports, studies, and get those podium presentations. That's how people start recognizing your name. 

Now, I understand how intimidating the initial introductions can be. I was there at some point, so I understand. But, as someone who's now "on the other side," let me tell you: coming up and saying hello, introducing yourself, and having a question about something is a totally fine thing to do. Most of us at these meetings are genuinely happy to connect, you just have to be a little brave.

Let’s move on to some rapid-fire questions. When operating, if you had to choose 3 songs to play on repeat, what would they be?

I have a whole playlist that's my OR playlist, and it's very eclectic. Lots of singer-songwriters you probably haven't heard of, big hits across genres – '70s, folk-rock, all the way to rap. But for a top three, and this changes all the time since I'm a music lover, I'd go with “Memories” by Maroon 5. I lost my mom in the past year, so that one brings a lot of nostalgia. “Silver Hair" by Michael McNevin. He's a lesser-known singer-songwriter, but this song is about growing old with someone you love. It's really beautiful. And “All I Know So Far” by Pink. I like it because we're all learning as we go. And I can impart only what I know so far. It's an incomplete book of knowledge.

How about movies – what are your top 3 favorites of all time?

So, around Christmas time “It's a Wonderful Life” is always a must-watch. And sometime around Christmas, or maybe Easter, they always show “The Sound of Music”. That was one of my mom's favorite movies, so I watched it with her a lot. And then there’s “Bridesmaids” – it’s hilarious! If I'm flipping channels and it’s on, I'm definitely stopping to watch.

If you could reach every single resident or fellow with one message, what would it be?

It's easy to get caught up in the daily grind, how hard you're working, and how tough this job can be. But always remember: however difficult things are for us, it's harder for our patients. We're here to serve them. The good we can do, the lasting difference we can make in their lives – that's the mission we need to stay focused on. 

Whenever I get frustrated about something – reimbursement issues, hospital bureaucracy, whatever – I try to shift my focus back to patient care. When they say ‘thank you’, it's easy to brush it off. When they give a gift, it's easy to just put it aside. But don't. Take that in and keep it, because you'll need it in those times when you're feeling overwhelmed. I have a folder of thank-you cards that patients have given me over the years. Honestly, I don't look at it often, but there are days when I really need to. When you think about things that didn't go well, you need that reminder of why we do this.

Lastly, are there any events, congresses, clinical research, etc. you’d like to raise awareness for?

 Yes! The Women's Vascular Summit, which was recently held in Chicago, is worth checking out.

Successfully transitioning from research to educating other vascular surgeons requires a specific skill set. Any particular strategies that have contributed to your success in peer-to-peer training?

Training people in the operating room and being a good teacher took me a while – I guess you'd have to ask my trainees if I'm successful at it. But here's what I try to do: I think out loud. Early on, I realized if I wasn't explaining my thought process, trainees missed the reasoning behind my actions or misinterpreted my frustration. Sometimes I'd be annoyed with myself, but they'd think it was directed at them. 

I’ve learned to talk a lot in the operating room about my decision-making process. Every step is a choice: where to clamp, patch or repair, stent or balloon, etc... I verbalize these options to explain my thought process. This encourages questions and helps trainees follow along. It also enabled them to understand that we don’t always know whether we’re doing the right thing while we’re doing it. I often second-guess myself, constantly weighing options and decisions during vascular surgery, and speaking out loud provides a window into that thought process. 

Endovascular is a little different, since you need the equipment and a detailed plan beforehand. But in open surgery, so much is decided on the spot because conditions aren't fully known until you're in there. Even something as basic as a femoral endarterectomy with profundoplasty – how are you reconstructing the profunda? Are you going to create your arteriotomy onto the profunda? Are you going to create a separate arteriotomy? Are you going to do an interposition graft? It's a series of choices during the operation. 

I talk through all that, engaging the learner in the decision-making, and discussing pros and cons. If I just do it, they might not realize there were other options or why I chose a specific one.

You've been involved in so many societies, have led them and built numerous relationships throughout your career. What’s been crucial to networking or building relationships, whether it's within vascular surgery or across disciplines?

I’ll always remember my first vascular meeting – walking those hallways, so many people, and they'd glance at my name tag and move along after a simple ‘hi’. It can be tough and I would say persistence is key. Keep showing up, introducing yourself, and finding common ground. For me, that meant connecting with other women surgeons. Back then, there weren't many of us, so we naturally gravitated toward each other. Then that opened up further networks. 

But honestly, volunteering for committees was the biggest way of getting my foot in the door. I volunteered for about ten years at the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) before I was selected for a committee. It takes time for people to get to know you. 

Another way is through research. Submit case reports, studies, and get those podium presentations. That's how people start recognizing your name. 

Now, I understand how intimidating the initial introductions can be. I was there at some point, so I understand. But, as someone who's now "on the other side," let me tell you: coming up and saying hello, introducing yourself, and having a question about something is a totally fine thing to do. Most of us at these meetings are genuinely happy to connect, you just have to be a little brave.

Let’s move on to some rapid-fire questions. When operating, if you had to choose 3 songs to play on repeat, what would they be?

I have a whole playlist that's my OR playlist, and it's very eclectic. Lots of singer-songwriters you probably haven't heard of, big hits across genres – '70s, folk-rock, all the way to rap. But for a top three, and this changes all the time since I'm a music lover, I'd go with “Memories” by Maroon 5. I lost my mom in the past year, so that one brings a lot of nostalgia. “Silver Hair" by Michael McNevin. He's a lesser-known singer-songwriter, but this song is about growing old with someone you love. It's really beautiful. And “All I Know So Far” by Pink. I like it because we're all learning as we go. And I can impart only what I know so far. It's an incomplete book of knowledge.

How about movies – what are your top 3 favorites of all time?

So, around Christmas time “It's a Wonderful Life” is always a must-watch. And sometime around Christmas, or maybe Easter, they always show “The Sound of Music”. That was one of my mom's favorite movies, so I watched it with her a lot. And then there’s “Bridesmaids” – it’s hilarious! If I'm flipping channels and it’s on, I'm definitely stopping to watch.

If you could reach every single resident or fellow with one message, what would it be?

It's easy to get caught up in the daily grind, how hard you're working, and how tough this job can be. But always remember: however difficult things are for us, it's harder for our patients. We're here to serve them. The good we can do, the lasting difference we can make in their lives – that's the mission we need to stay focused on. 

Whenever I get frustrated about something – reimbursement issues, hospital bureaucracy, whatever – I try to shift my focus back to patient care. When they say ‘thank you’, it's easy to brush it off. When they give a gift, it's easy to just put it aside. But don't. Take that in and keep it, because you'll need it in those times when you're feeling overwhelmed. I have a folder of thank-you cards that patients have given me over the years. Honestly, I don't look at it often, but there are days when I really need to. When you think about things that didn't go well, you need that reminder of why we do this.

Lastly, are there any events, congresses, clinical research, etc. you’d like to raise awareness for?

 Yes! The Women's Vascular Summit, which was recently held in Chicago, is worth checking out.

Successfully transitioning from research to educating other vascular surgeons requires a specific skill set. Any particular strategies that have contributed to your success in peer-to-peer training?

Training people in the operating room and being a good teacher took me a while – I guess you'd have to ask my trainees if I'm successful at it. But here's what I try to do: I think out loud. Early on, I realized if I wasn't explaining my thought process, trainees missed the reasoning behind my actions or misinterpreted my frustration. Sometimes I'd be annoyed with myself, but they'd think it was directed at them. 

I’ve learned to talk a lot in the operating room about my decision-making process. Every step is a choice: where to clamp, patch or repair, stent or balloon, etc... I verbalize these options to explain my thought process. This encourages questions and helps trainees follow along. It also enabled them to understand that we don’t always know whether we’re doing the right thing while we’re doing it. I often second-guess myself, constantly weighing options and decisions during vascular surgery, and speaking out loud provides a window into that thought process. 

Endovascular is a little different, since you need the equipment and a detailed plan beforehand. But in open surgery, so much is decided on the spot because conditions aren't fully known until you're in there. Even something as basic as a femoral endarterectomy with profundoplasty – how are you reconstructing the profunda? Are you going to create your arteriotomy onto the profunda? Are you going to create a separate arteriotomy? Are you going to do an interposition graft? It's a series of choices during the operation. 

I talk through all that, engaging the learner in the decision-making, and discussing pros and cons. If I just do it, they might not realize there were other options or why I chose a specific one.

You've been involved in so many societies, have led them and built numerous relationships throughout your career. What’s been crucial to networking or building relationships, whether it's within vascular surgery or across disciplines?

I’ll always remember my first vascular meeting – walking those hallways, so many people, and they'd glance at my name tag and move along after a simple ‘hi’. It can be tough and I would say persistence is key. Keep showing up, introducing yourself, and finding common ground. For me, that meant connecting with other women surgeons. Back then, there weren't many of us, so we naturally gravitated toward each other. Then that opened up further networks. 

But honestly, volunteering for committees was the biggest way of getting my foot in the door. I volunteered for about ten years at the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) before I was selected for a committee. It takes time for people to get to know you. 

Another way is through research. Submit case reports, studies, and get those podium presentations. That's how people start recognizing your name. 

Now, I understand how intimidating the initial introductions can be. I was there at some point, so I understand. But, as someone who's now "on the other side," let me tell you: coming up and saying hello, introducing yourself, and having a question about something is a totally fine thing to do. Most of us at these meetings are genuinely happy to connect, you just have to be a little brave.

Let’s move on to some rapid-fire questions. When operating, if you had to choose 3 songs to play on repeat, what would they be?

I have a whole playlist that's my OR playlist, and it's very eclectic. Lots of singer-songwriters you probably haven't heard of, big hits across genres – '70s, folk-rock, all the way to rap. But for a top three, and this changes all the time since I'm a music lover, I'd go with “Memories” by Maroon 5. I lost my mom in the past year, so that one brings a lot of nostalgia. “Silver Hair" by Michael McNevin. He's a lesser-known singer-songwriter, but this song is about growing old with someone you love. It's really beautiful. And “All I Know So Far” by Pink. I like it because we're all learning as we go. And I can impart only what I know so far. It's an incomplete book of knowledge.

How about movies – what are your top 3 favorites of all time?

So, around Christmas time “It's a Wonderful Life” is always a must-watch. And sometime around Christmas, or maybe Easter, they always show “The Sound of Music”. That was one of my mom's favorite movies, so I watched it with her a lot. And then there’s “Bridesmaids” – it’s hilarious! If I'm flipping channels and it’s on, I'm definitely stopping to watch.

If you could reach every single resident or fellow with one message, what would it be?

It's easy to get caught up in the daily grind, how hard you're working, and how tough this job can be. But always remember: however difficult things are for us, it's harder for our patients. We're here to serve them. The good we can do, the lasting difference we can make in their lives – that's the mission we need to stay focused on. 

Whenever I get frustrated about something – reimbursement issues, hospital bureaucracy, whatever – I try to shift my focus back to patient care. When they say ‘thank you’, it's easy to brush it off. When they give a gift, it's easy to just put it aside. But don't. Take that in and keep it, because you'll need it in those times when you're feeling overwhelmed. I have a folder of thank-you cards that patients have given me over the years. Honestly, I don't look at it often, but there are days when I really need to. When you think about things that didn't go well, you need that reminder of why we do this.

Lastly, are there any events, congresses, clinical research, etc. you’d like to raise awareness for?

 Yes! The Women's Vascular Summit, which was recently held in Chicago, is worth checking out.

See How You Can Invest in FastWave

We oversubscribed our last round of financing in just a few weeks, so don’t miss out on the next opportunity to invest.

IVL is an impressive therapy with an attractive market and I’m very excited about FastWave’s prospects.

Dr. Puneet Khanna

Interventional Cardiologist & Medtech Investor

See How You Can Invest in FastWave

We oversubscribed our last round of financing in just a few weeks, so don’t miss out on the next opportunity to invest.

IVL is an impressive therapy with an attractive market and I’m very excited about FastWave’s prospects.

Dr. Puneet Khanna

Interventional Cardiologist & Medtech Investor

See How You Can Invest in FastWave

We oversubscribed our last round of financing in just a few weeks, so don’t miss out on the next opportunity to invest.

IVL is an impressive therapy with an attractive market and I’m very excited about FastWave’s prospects.

Dr. Puneet Khanna

Interventional Cardiologist & Medtech Investor

Mailing Address:

FastWave Medical
400 S 4th St, Ste 410
PMB 21892
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Phone:

(833) 888-9283

Email:

team@fastwavemedical.com

© 2024 FastWave Medical Inc.

Follow FastWave’s Journey

Mailing Address:

FastWave Medical
400 S 4th St, Ste 410
PMB 21892
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Phone:

(833) 888-9283

Email:

team@fastwavemedical.com

© 2024 FastWave Medical Inc.

Follow FastWave’s Journey

Mailing Address:

FastWave Medical
400 S 4th St, Ste 410
PMB 21892
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Phone:

(833) 888-9283

Email:

team@fastwavemedical.com

© 2024 FastWave Medical Inc.

Follow FastWave’s Journey