This week’s “Working Girl” is the baby-faced, yet highly respected, Dr. Monique Farrow – an OBGYN Resident at New York University’s (NYU) Langone Medical Center.
Name: Dr. Monique Farrow
Location: Brooklyn, NY
How did you get started?
I was probably about 12 years old… my step-mom was a nurse and she kind of introduced me to the medical field. Going to the hospital with her and seeing her work got me interested in medicine, but I wanted to be a doctor and not just a nurse and she encouraged that goal. In high school, I took an EMS First Responders class and I guess that sort of solidified it. I then proceeded to go to school for the next 12 years. I did four years of college at NYU as a Psychology and Spanish major and also took pre-med classes. Next it was on to medical school for four years at Washington University in Saint Louis. Medical school was interesting because it was my first time in the mid-west. I was definitely prepared to work hard and basically spent every day either studying in class or in the library. The nice part about living in Saint Louis was that there wasn’t so much going on so if I had to stay home and study on a Friday night, that was OK and I didn’t feel like I was missing out on too much. Now I’m in my last few months of a four-year residency at NYU (June 14th is my last day). I have to admit I did not do it alone; I found many mentors and advisors to help me along the way.
What’s an average working day like?
I wake up at 5:30am, put on quick make-up (eyeliner & bronzer) and have breakfast on the go! Once I get to the hospital I usually change into scrubs and make rounds on the patients that were admitted to the hospital. Then it’s off to to deliver babies or to the operating room to perform some sort of surgery til about 5 or 6pm. The “OB” part of what I do is Obstetrics which involves: delivering babies and taking care of pregnant patients. The “GYN” part is Gynecology which involves any type of surgery or care of the reproductive organs: in the office doing pap smears, performing a hysterectomy or identifying a cyst on a patient’s ovary that needs to be removed. I then organize the schedule for the following day, see a few patients in the ER then I’m back home by 8 or 9pm.
Why you do it?
It is EXTREMELY rewarding!! I love taking care of other women and helping to empower them about their health, their bodies and their sexuality. Although I get very tired and would say, “oh my goodness I can’t believe I worked such a long day”, every morning when I wake up to go to work the next day, I know that I’m going to be challenged in an exciting way. I have great people that I work with and my patients are very grateful. It’s a very immediate satisfaction. You see a patient, you take care of them, do their surgery, deliver their baby and get to be an intimate part of their life for that short period of time and that’s very rewarding. Also – there’s a lot more than just science that comes with being a doctor. Interpersonal relationships play a huge part; dealing with families, dealing with patients, dealing with other physicians and nurses and just coming together for the greater good of the patients.
Ups and downs you sometimes face on the job:
Balancing work and a personal life is very difficult when you work five days at an average of 80 hours per week, and 24 hour shifts two weekends out of the month. The amount of responsibility that comes with taking care of patients is a blessing and a curse. When I come to work each day, nothing in my life matters; I leave all my own problems at the door and know I must focus only on the patients and giving the best possible care that I can provide. Another challenge would be delivering bad news to families and patients. I had a patient come in and she was having abdominal pain while 25 weeks pregnant. I did an ultra sound and there was no heart beat so I had to tell her that her baby was no longer alive. Or you do a procedure and send the specimen off to pathology and it comes back that they have endometrial or cervical cancer. The upside I guess is although we do have to deliver bad news, it’s not as often as other areas of medicine because with OBGYN we generally care for young healthy women, so bad news is few and far between.
What’s your greatest achievement so far? Following my dream and becoming a doctor.
What singular piece of advice would you give a young woman looking to get into your field?
I’m the first doctor in my family so it was something I had to navigate becoming from scratch. I think the most important thing that I did each step of the way was to identify someone that was doing what I wanted to do, contact that person and say “hey I want to do this.” I started working in a doctor’s office in college and started talking to the doctors I worked with, asking what sort of things I needed to do to go to medical school. Once I was in medical school, I identified another mentor who was an OBYGN and she gave me a lot of pointers on decision-making. If you don’t have someone that’s been a trailblazer in your family and can tell you exactly what you have to do, you HAVE to identify mentors and never be afraid to ask for help! In college I realized I had a lot of different interests but in college you don’t have to be a biology major or chemistry major to do pre-med before going off to medical school. Do something you truly love.
What might be next for you?
My personal life is no longer taking a back seat to my work. So, my next steps will hopefully involve getting married and having a family. After residency, I’m doing a fellowship here in New York, which is two years of additional training where I’d be specializing only in GYN surgery doing laparoscopic (aka minimally invasive surgery) and robotic surgery. Ultimately, I would want to work in an academic center as the division director of minimally invasive gynecology surgery which I hope to achieve in the next 5 years post residency.
What are your top 5 hair tips?
- I LIVE for Aveda Emollient Finishing Gloss. You only need a dime size amount so it lasts a long time. It keeps my hair looking shiny & fresh even when I haven’t done anything to it, especially when I am wearing a scrub cap all day in the operating room.
- I cut my hair very short a year ago and it was the best thing I ever did. I wash my hair once a week and wrap it with Carol’s Daughter Macadamia Heat Setting Foam. Then I pretty much don’t do anything else.
- I’m pretty lazy about doing my hair so my go-to styling tools are just a mini flat iron and a wide tooth comb.
- There isn’t much to do with short hair so when I want to spice things up I pin my bangs back and slick the sides with pomade to create a faux-hawk look.
- Never be afraid to take a chance…it’s just hair!
Dr. Monique Farrow was a Psychology and Spanish major in college and then lived in Mexico for half a year before going to medical school. She now speaks fluent Spanish which surprises many people, especially her Hispanic patients who assume she is a native speaker.