In her search to be “burnout proof” Dr. Licata makes sure to keep herself mentally and physically fit. She enjoys spending time in her kitchen experimenting with hearty seasonal recipes. Now that she is home in Westchester she loves having the ability to share a glass of wine with family and friends on a more regular basis. Her small dog, Da Vinci, loves going for long walks at the local preserves. Distance running is not his forte so Dr. Licata heads out for long training runs with friends. The physical and mental energy required to complete half and full marathons is good preparation for the arduous demands of a busy surgical day.
Dr. Licata finds surgery a good fit for her because it engages her head, heart and hands. There is no “routine” surgery because every patient is a unique. The challenge of figuring out what operation will help the most and cause the least amount of suffering for the patient is what Dr. Licata is excited to take on.
1) Why Surgery?
Surgery fits in nicely with my goals to go into medicine. A patient comes to you with a medical issue, you diagnose it, then you can perform a concrete action to correct the problem. It is very satisfying to be able to directly help someone feel better.
2) Are there times that surgery is not as “satisfying?”
Sadly, yes, sometimes no matter how well the operation went the patient may not recover well. It is very painful to talk with patients and their families when healing does not go as expected.
3) Do you remember your first surgery?
Wow, that is going back quite a ways! I was shadowing a GYN whose patients were gracious enough to allow us into the delivery room. As I watched my first C-section the junior surgeon in the room had to poke me, reminding me to breathe.
4) Is there really such a big deal having a female as your surgeon?
There have been recent studies that say female surgeons are more caring, less short tempered, and have better outcomes than their male counterparts. At the end of the day, really, the “best” surgeon is the one you as the patient feels comfortable with.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The ability to be there for a patient at their most critical, vulnerable moment and provide care is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.
What do you like most about being a surgeon?
I like being fully engaged as a physician. I can use my head, hands, and heart to treat a patient.
What do you like the least about your job?
I do not like having to give bad news, no physician does. Sometimes a surgery goes poorly. Worse, sometimes I know that before I go in but the family wants me to try anyway because “there is always a chance.”
How do you maintain your focus after working such long hours?
I know what I need to recharge and make sure to spend even a few minutes a day on those items. For example, when faced with a busy day I make time for at least a single meal with family/friends.
How else do you spend your time when not in the hospital or office?
My two passions are food and running/exercise. I think I love to eat so I need to love to work out!
How do you maintain proper nutrition when you work such long hours?
I make sure to keep a protein, fat, and carb around. Eating all of one food group is a good way to make your exhaustion worse. I keep lots of small snacks in my lab coat, locker, bag and car. These include dried fruits, power bars, nuts, beef jerky, and small chocolate treats.
What do you think of the limitations on surgeon work hours?
I have mixed feelings on this and it is not an easy question to answer. You have to know your limitations and when you are too tired to go on. Sometimes in the course of a call night or even a regular day you may be pushed to your limits. This is what my training was for. Studies do support the technical ability, judgment, and hand/eye coordination of experienced surgeons like myself are minimally affected by sleep deprivation because these are the conditions under which my skills were honed.
What is the most fun surgery to do?
I think that a simple lipoma is a lot of fun to do. It is a deeply satisfying feeling to free up this soft tissue mass, repair the skin, and give the patient a nice, small scar.
What is your favorite surgery?
Strangely enough I really enjoy doing what is called a “lysis of adhesions.” Small intestines that are blocked by scar tissues can sometimes be like untangling a big knot. It requires a gentle, steady hand and a lot of focus to carefully free the scar tissue without hurting the intestines. At the end of the case you can physically see the intestines moving more normally when the blockage is relieved.
How do you stay on top of all the latest medical knowledge?
It can be overwhelming so I use my updates from my medical and surgical societies as a guide for which paper/topic to study up on. I also read the general news, such as the NYT and WP, plus I listen to NPR. If you as my patient has heard of something on the news I want to be able to answer that question. For that reason I am also active on social media so I can follow what issues are trending across my field.
Are you active on social media?
Yes and no. I am active on twitter- llsquared79 is my handle. I follow many physicians, medical societies, and journals for updates in medical care. I do follow other closed surgical groups so that I can discuss the latest innovations, patient care, and operations in real time. At times you feel as if you are able to step into the surgeon’s lounge in any part of the world. I have been given great advice/feedback on cases from surgeons across the world quickly. It makes me feel I am providing the best care for my patients.
What is the longest surgery you have ever done?
18 hour liver transplant. It was AWESOME!! I was allowed to take some breaks, we did actually work in teams, and I did eat. The end product was AMAZING- when the liver we put in started to make bile you wanted to do a DANCE.