In November of 1973, yes 40 years ago, I was a third year medical student at the Medical College of Virginia. I was assigned to the delivery suite at Alexandria Hospital. During that month my life changed.
Third year medical students are rotated to various medical departments to “try out” if you will. Hopefully by the end of that year most have picked an area of medicine to focus on for their final year and then on to internship, residency and private practice… or so the plan expects.
I had rotations in Medicine and Obstetrics and then Psychiatry already that year, which had begun July 1st– again as dictated by the medical education system. My father had died suddenly form a heart attack in October 1973 leading me to ask for my elective month to be served in Alexandria Hospital’s delivery suit. I had delivered a baby or two in Richmond. I thought this would be a good chance to have a closer look at OB-GYN and stay closer to home for a month.
Sometime that month, I strolled into a laboring patient’s room with the nurse because the patient was “uncomfortable”. The nurse was to assess her condition and notify her doctor who was working in his nearby office- again the custom of the time. As we entered, the patient made a ferocious noise that I now recognize as “stand by the baby is coming”. At the time, it was as terrifying as it was compelling. As I stood by the bedside frozen, the nurse (God love all nursing staff, and Labor & Delivery nursing staff even more) pulled down the sheet and put some gloves on my hands.
Indeed the baby did come, and I suppose some would say that I delivered the baby. To this day I can’t tell you who did, but I suspect it was a whirling combination of the patient and the nurse and me. At any rate as the baby cried and at least my terror stopped rising the patient looked directly into my eyes and gushed “thank you, Doctor.” A baby was born, BUT an Obstetrician was also born that moment on that day.
I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank that first patient and the many that have followed, for your smiles, thank-yous and memories. You have made my professional life a true joy, as you have accorded me the rare privilege of sharing your private lives with me.
Again thank you,
David C Giammittorio MD, MCV Class of 1975