Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Finding Parallels


When deciding on a specialty in medical school, I looked for similarities between my passion for pottery and an area of expertise. I hope this helps me to connect more deeply with my work and find fulfillment in medicine.

“Mattea, I can see you are holding your breath. Breathe,” my pottery instructor said. 


Ok, just breathe. I tell myself as I delicately shape the walls of the first successful teapot that I’d ever thrown | As I grip the scalpel, preparing to make my first incision ever. 

Just breathe. As I place the 101st petal on a pinecone I’m making, one of many wrapping around my ceramic form | As I place another suture, one of many in a long line wrapping around a patient’s ear. 

Holding my breath. As I open the kiln, hoping the glazing combination I chose worked as expected | As I look up and gain perspective on the almost-closed incision, hoping I placed each suture correctly. 

I can breathe. Peering over my teapot, pleased with the result | Peering at the incision I sutured, satisfied for today. 

Breathing. Evaluating how I will improve next. | Evaluating how I will improve next. 

Pottery | Surgery 


Parallels exist everywhere in medicine. It’s impossible to separate our experiences before medicine and outside of medicine from who we are as doctors and doctors-to-be.  

As a third-year medical student, who, like many others, changed her mind about what kind of physician she wanted to be during clinical rotations, I found solace in the parallels. The parallels between pottery, which I’ve loved since I discovered it in middle school, and surgery, specifically otolaryngology. My newly found interest called out to me, beckoning me to further explore the field.  

What I love about pottery, working with my hands, visualizing the steps I need to take to achieve my vision, I found in head and neck surgery. Both are an art form, requiring precision to achieve your vision, and elegance during the process.  

My first day in the OR, I was apprehensive. That first day in the OR, I fell in love. The elegance of operating on the head and neck, removing a tumor, restoring function, improving patients’ quality of life, it brought me joy in medicine, much like pottery brought me joy in my personal life. I left that day beaming, excited that I had finally found a place where I belonged.  







This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.