Tiffany Anderson, M.D.
"No matter where you came from, at the end of the day you’re here because we wanted you."
What made you want to become a surgeon?
My parents were very supportive. They were a cop and social worker. At first, I wanted to be a vet. Then, a parasitologist. Ultimately, however, medicine was the only thing that held my interest. It’s ever-changing. I went to medical school here, and UF did a good job of sprinkling in a lot of clinical opportunities that solidified my interest in medicine.
Surgery was my very last rotation. At first, I was daunted by the hierarchy of the OR, as well as the long hours. Even putting your hands into someone takes getting used to. My biggest concerns were the long hours. And, frankly, putting your hands in someone! But I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out how I fit in, and there was always something to learn. There still is.
The decision to go into medicine, and perhaps surgery especially, is inherently challenging. My family is a significant source of my support, and there’s a kind of security in knowing you’re making your loved ones proud. I also get along well with the residents, program and staff members. Choosing UF made a lot of sense to me.
What was one of the most memorable moments of your residency?
One of the most impactful and eye-opening moments was the time that I advocated for a patient who needed to go to the OR. He was acutely decompensating, and needed his chest cracked. Although I did three years of a general surgery residency, one of my research years involved a critical care fellowship at UF. When you start on nights, you have to make a lot of clinical decisions. After all, the attending isn’t always available, you’re working with a skeleton crew, and you’re acutely aware of how much you still need to learn.
What advice would you give other residents?
I often tell our new interns: Look this as both a job and an education. Your goal is to learn things well, but not every day will go well. Every day won’t be sunshine and roses. Just learning how to manage difficult family members, or interacting with case management, or managing attendings, can take time. There are many things to observe–especially with surgery, and especially in an academic institution. Each year builds on those before it. If you get great at managing patients first year, it’ll make the uncertainty of second year more manageable. And some rotations are a huge learning curve. If you’re just coming out of the lab, that can be harder. Your fifth year tends to be junior attending. You’re running the services, delegating, and beginning to identify the things that are important to you as you transition into practice. But if you learn the finer things in your first year, then build upon those in your second year, and so on, you have a solid foundation.
How do you balance life with the demands of residency?
Wellness ultimately depends on whether or not you see this as work. Sure, we’re very busy. It can be overwhelming. You’re often on nights and often on call. But I’ve never dreaded going into work because everyone was great. And even the overwhelming parts, I think: This too will pass. You learn to set boundaries.
What is your biggest takeaway for future residents?
No matter where you came from, at the end of the day you’re here because we wanted you.