Audio Blog: Women in Medicine with Dr. Nicolau

September is Women in Medicine Month. We talked with otolaryngologist Dr. Yamileth Nicolau about her personal journey into medicine, why she chose her specialty, and why she loves working in the ENT field.

Shelby Stockton:
Welcome to the Texas ENT Audio blog. I'm Shelby Stockton and September is Women in Medicine month. I had the pleasure to talk with otolaryngologist, Dr. Yamileth Nicolau about her personal journey into medicine, why she chose her specialty and why she loves working in the ENT field.

Shelby Stockton:
Hi, Dr. Nicolau, thank you so much for joining me today.

Dr. Yamileth Nicolau:
Well, thank you for having me in the audio blog, Shelby. I appreciate it.

Shelby Stockton:
It's a pleasure. So I wanted to talk to you to today because it is Women in Medicine month and you're a woman in medicine.

Dr. Yamileth Nicolau:
That's exciting.

Shelby Stockton:
So I wanted to ask you a few questions about that. I want to know why did you decide to go into otolaryngology?

Dr. Yamileth Nicolau:
During medical school we go through, I think different phases. We get so enthusiastic about all the different specialties, but otolaryngology really marked me in a way that it would give me the opportunity to enjoy meeting patients in clinic, do in-office procedures, and do a wide variety of surgeries, while also have very young patients and other adult patients. So basically when I have a patient in clinic, I can do a endoscope, a laryngoscopy, I use a microscope, I do CT scans. I spend quality time with my patient, and I treat each patient like family.

Dr. Yamileth Nicolau:
And then also I can follow them and continue a plan of care, either surgery or medical, and the surgeries in ENT range from tiny, very, very small, delicate ear procedures that we have to see through a microscope to large cancer cases and head and neck. So we do a lot of sinus cases through the endoscopes, for example. So I think otolaryngology or head and neck surgery offers one of the most variety of surgeries and different procedures that we can do, while still being able to care for the patient in a very close manner, very close doctor/patient relationship, which is what I enjoy as well.

Shelby Stockton:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. It seems like a very diverse specialty.

Dr. Yamileth Nicolau:
Right. And also the anatomy and the complexity of the head and neck is so interesting, so that was another thing that really, really got me interested in the specialty.

Shelby Stockton:
Why do you love working in the ENT field so much?

Dr. Yamileth Nicolau:
Well, one of the main things I truly enjoy meeting my patients and seeing them in the office. I enjoy doing the surgeries and also going through the experience of getting my patients better. You know, is very rewarding as well when you start seeing their family and their friends and it's your practice just grows and it becomes your life, truly. I always strive to do the best for my patients, and I think that's where I really enjoy my job.

Shelby Stockton:
Yeah. So you're not only a scientist, you're also a people person, which is what people want in their doctors.

Dr. Yamileth Nicolau:
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Well, and to be able to offer the best that we can to our patients, we really have to stay up to date in all the procedures and surgeries and management and new technology, that we stay looking forward to and giving them the best opportunity.

Shelby Stockton:
Yeah, that's part of being a doctor in your field also requires you to continue to be a student, huh?

Dr. Yamileth Nicolau:
Exactly. It never ends, which keeps it interesting.

Shelby Stockton:
Yes, totally. So what kind of advice would you give to young women or young girls who are interested in getting into medicine, and maybe more specifically into otolaryngology?

Dr. Yamileth Nicolau:
Well, I think that you have to know at a point exactly what do you want. Have a goal and have a detailed pathway as to how you're going to reach the goal. You certainly have to, without saying it, work really hard. Otolaryngology, medicine in general is very difficult to get into, so it's very challenging. You are competing with very bright and good candidates, and all the phases, we face challenges throughout the whole career in medicine, where now there are more and more women that go into medicine and this is fantastic. Before it was so much more difficult.

Dr. Yamileth Nicolau:
So I think the compass is opening as to getting a lot more women in medicine, but then again, the surgical specialties tend to be, some of them, male dominated as well, but that is changing as well. I think that as, in general, not only women, but you have to really work towards your goal and excel. I think you have to be confident and work very hard, and you'll be surprised how much more you can give when you thought, "Oh my gosh, I've just done everything." But there's always something else you can give, just try your best and work hard for it.

Shelby Stockton:
Right. I mean, so have you noticed a significant increase just while you've been working yourself in the number of women in the doctor's offices?

Dr. Yamileth Nicolau:
I think there is an increase, probably as I'm in practice, probably during residencies, there are more women that are getting into the specialty, and I think that's very positive because it brings also another point of view on different matters. We need women in leadership positions. And I did a lot of research previously, I was at Harvard for a number of years doing genetics research of the ear, and these are things that are important to advance our specialty as well.

Shelby Stockton:
Right. Wow, that's amazing. That's very, very interesting. Thank you so much for spending time with us. Is there anything else you'd like to allow or tell us about what it's like to be a lady in the field or any advice to anybody?

Dr. Yamileth Nicolau:
Well, I think certainly we need to enjoy, right? What we do and always believe in yourself. Don't let anybody tell you different. As a young person having big dreams, you have to know that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to, and I think that's the most important thing. I remember even when I started, I trained in Panama and then I went to the U.S. and came here and spent time at Harvard, and I met my husband, tried a second residency as a foreign grad, and at that time it was ... What you would hear was, "Oh, this is impossible." Because you have a huge competition, but you can work hard and you can accomplish your dreams and work hard for it. So that's what I would say, you believe in yourself as a young student. Yes.

Shelby Stockton:
That's awesome advice. Thank you again so much for spending this time with me, Dr. Nicolau. I really appreciate it.

Dr. Yamileth Nicolau:
Well, it's my pleasure. Thank you.


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