Katherine Ehresmann, M.D.
"Where I was asked to be was exactly where I wanted to be. It just felt right, and you don’t forget that feeling."
What made you want to go into medicine?
I first shadowed a neurosurgeon and neurologist and was able to get a broad overview of medicine versus surgery. In the end, I liked the complexity and challenge that surgery provided. As I matured and refined what I wanted my adult life to look like, I found that surgery would fill a lot of those niches. Helping people in hard times; developing a knowledge basis and corresponding technical skillset; challenging myself both personally and professionally; working with teams extensively. As a medical student, I saw the day-to-day dynamics and liked them.
Why did you choose UF?
UF feels like home to me. I was born and raised in Florida and attended UF for undergrad and med school. I felt at home with the UF Health family and completely supported by the mentors and senior residents who have been a part of my education. I enjoy being challenged to think beyond my own perceived limitations. Here, at UF, there are a lot of cheerleaders willing to push me beyond what I think I’m capable of.
How did your background affect the type of surgeon you are training to be?
Truthfully, there are a lot more parallels between aviation and surgery than one would initially think. There’s the need for clear communication; the need for seamless teamwork, too. As an aviator, I have to understand the anatomy of the aircraft so that when things go wrong in flight I know I can make the decision that gets my crew to safety. It’s not just about the excitement of performing maneuvers in air–it’s also understanding mechanics, aerodynamics, engines and rotors, and how my decisions affect each of them. You also need to be able to trust your team and communicate with them well. It’s a challenge and a skill that took some time to develop, but I see it frequently in well-oiled surgical teams.
I did a lot of humanitarian missions as an aviator, which helped me identify as a humanitarian: a person who provides aid and relief, as well as the goodness and wellbeing. I got to work with exceptional humanitarian health workers who were capable of taking patients from the point of injury to safety and definitive care with very efficient systems.
How do you cope with the demands of residency?
A central piece to finding balance is just keeping my family and my home close to heart. Wherever I am, that sense of family is grounding. After a tough day at work, it’s other residents who can bolster me in a way unique to surgery. Being able to lean on my peers, my colleagues, and senior residents who can demonstrate an understanding of yes, I’ve been there, provide both that reassurance and instruction.
At the end of the day, the struggles and residency stressors are temporary. I’ll grow from them, and when it gets especially challenging I reinvest in my husband and kids, and focus on our time together.
What is your advice to future residents?
Be open and honest with yourself and your peers–especially at the very beginning of residency. You can feel quite alone–all the initial mistakes and knowledge deficits that stem from learning the system go away with time. Focus on broadening your network and having reliable, trustworthy people who teach you the little tricks that can make life easier. Additionally, don’t sweat those moments of stress where you can’t sleep. Get up and do something on your to-do list instead of lying awake and stressing yourself out.
What was your most memorable moment thus far?
My first time scrubbing in as a resident. It was very exciting…I was finally participating in the patient’s care as a resident training to be in the field that I wanted to be in. Where I was asked to be was exactly where I wanted to be. It just felt right, and you don’t forget that feeling.