A Day in the Life of a Military Hematology/ Oncology Fellow

Major Lindsey Graham, MD, MC, US Army
Published: Tuesday, Dec 30, 2014
Major Lindsey Graham,

Major Lindsey Graham, MD, MC

At 5:45 am, the alarm on my phone goes off. I have 20 minutes until my 2 boys wake up, which is just enough time to get ready for work and fix myself a cup of coffee. I get out of bed and walk to my bathroom, stopping at my dresser drawer to pull out a sand-colored T-shirt and green wool socks. In the large master bathroom, I flip the light on and change into the T-shirt and a pair of cargo pants in a block-like camouflage print. Stepping up to the mirror, my hands methodically pull back my hair and begin a task that they have performed nearly every day for the past 7 years. A few minutes later, the straight brown hair that falls about 2 inches below my shoulders is neatly French-braided and tucked under at the nape of my neck and secured with 4 large hair pins. My bangs, which moments ago were falling over my right eye, are now twisted off to the side and secured with their own hairpin. I then apply a very light coat of makeup to my face with just a dusting of blush for color. Most days, I don’t wear eye makeup because I do not feel as though the outfit demands it.

I walk out of my room into the kitchen at about 6:05 am. I pour water into my single-cup coffee maker and load the single-serving coffee pod and press the start button. While I am waiting, I walk to the other side of the kitchen where a stack of hematology and oncology journals and other similar publications sit neatly stacked at the edge of the shiny black kitchen island. I pick up one of the journals and flip through the pages, ripping out articles of particular interest.

As I am reading, I hear a door handle flip harshly and a door down the hall open. I then hear the familiar rapid thumping of 4 small bare feet on the hardwood floor coming toward me. A few minutes later, my husband is up. The next 50 minutes are spent in the living room wrangling a 2-year-old into his clothes and prompting my 4-year-old to dress himself, while taking breakfast orders and getting them out like a short order cook. I then sit down with them and drink my coffee while they eat their breakfast. My husband is shaving and putting on his own sand-colored T-shirt and camouflage cargo pants.

The last 10 minutes at home are spent as a family, all putting on our shoes. My husband and I pull on tan combat boots. I personally use the silky ties at the bottom of the pants to cinch them around the cuff of the boot, while my husband prefers to tuck his pants into his boots. I walk to the front door and pull a jacket-like shirt, or blouse, off the coat rack. The material and pattern match my cargo pants. I pull it on, pull up the front zipper, and secure the hook-and-loop closures over the zipper. In the middle of my chest is an embroidered gold oak leaf, symbolizing my rank, which is that of major.

I entered the Army as a second lieutenant, but never wore this rank much because I went to a civilian medical school, which is common for military doctors. Technically, I was in the Army Reserve, and spent the summer after my first year of medical school at a basic training course for medical officers. This is where I met my husband, who at the time was attending a medical school 500 miles away from mine. After graduating, I was commissioned on active duty as a captain. It is pretty standard that a doctor spends 6 years as a captain before being promoted to major. The first 3 of these years were spent in internal medicine residency at Walter Reed, which at that time was in Washington, DC. After that, I spent 2 years as an internal medicine staff physician stationed in San Antonio, Texas. I had always wanted to be an oncologist, but wanted to spend some time out of the training environment, so I didn’t apply for a fellowship right away.

Over my right upper arm is an embroidered square patch with an ivy leaf inside each corner, meant to signify the Roman numeral IV. Their stems are connected in the center by a circle. This is the insignia of the 4th Infantry Division.

Its position on my right arm indicates that this is the unit with which I deployed. Shortly after receiving orders to San Antonio, I was sent orders to deploy to Southern Iraq with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. I was officially stationed in San Antonio, but was essentially “loaned out” to the unit as part of a Professional Filler System (PROFIS). It was an incredible experience—while in Iraq, I cared for the general medical needs of an Army unit. I returned to my job as a staff internist in San Antonio 10 months later. On my left upper arm is an oval patch displaying a modified caduceus with 2 snakes entwining a winged sword. This is the insignia of the Army Medical Command, worn by those serving at most hospitals, and its place on my left arm designates this as the command under which I currently serve.

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