A chief urology resident’s 7 lessons in leadership


"Learning from my junior residents means realizing that sometimes, maybe even oftentimes, they may know more than I do," writes Amy Pearlman, MD.

Amy Pearlman, MD
Dr. Pearlman


My scrubs have become a canvas. The powder blue is the background to a color palette of yellows, reds, and browns. This color palette has become the literal representation of the blood, sweat, and tears of both my patients and myself. The Betadine that once cleansed the skin of my patient now exists as a stain on my pant leg that passers-by on my way from the operating room to my office will assume is someone else’s stool. And it very well could be.

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My previous Urology Times blog posts on self-awareness, resiliency, and empathy painted only part of the picture. With just a handful of weeks left of residency, the final piece of this collage has to do with leadership. And, reminiscent of my struggle to create a masterpiece with acrylic paint, a brush, and a canvas, my journey into developing as a leader has proven equally difficult to master.

As I think about these last eleven months holding what I would consider to be my most significant leadership experience so far in life, I have developed a new understanding of what leadership entails. Just prior to my chief year, I pictured myself on the brink of greatness. I pictured myself leaving a urology legacy as one of the best chiefs to have gone through the program.

Next: "My new truth is humbling."


Now, as my time as a urology resident is winding down, I have come to realize that my sense of what being an effective leader entailed could not have been further from the truth. My new truth is humbling. My new truth comes from these seven lessons:

  • Humility, rather than arrogance, commands respect.

  • Seeking to understand others means allowing others to express their frustration and concerns, even if they are with me, and having the confidence not to have to explain myself every time someone does this.

  • Inspiring others means setting expectations, then providing opportunities to exceed them.

  • Learning from my junior residents means realizing that sometimes, maybe even oftentimes, they may know more than I do.

  • Self-improvement necessitates acknowledging my shortcomings, yet being OK with their existence.

  • Being a leader is about advocating for my team members without expecting anyone to advocate for me.

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One of the biggest lessons that I've learned, however, is that sometimes, legacies are not meant to be left. Come June 24th, my time as a resident will merely be remembered by some pictures hanging on the wall outside of the residents’ office. This coveted chair in which I currently sit will be replaced with someone else’s bottom. This revelation of understanding my replaceability initially hit me like a patient phone call at 2 a.m. mid-slumber. In this moment, however, it’s quite comforting.

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