Name: Chee-Chee Stucky
Location: Houston, TX (but I’m a Kansas Jayhawk first & foremost)
Growing up, Dr. Chee-Chee Stucky wanted to be either a hair stylist, concert violinist, archaeologist, or interior designer. A running-theme of working with her hands was clearly present! As a chemical engineering major in college, she quickly realized that there was more to her future than the technical aspects of matter, methods, and production.
“I asked one of my engineering professors if I could work in her lab to get research experience,” she remembers. “She started me on a project evaluating the rate of drug dissolution in rats…the caveat was that I actually had to do surgery on the rats myself! I went along with it, and as I got deeper into the project, I realized I loved the surgical aspect of it. I had a natural ability for operating, probably from the seventeen years of classical violin training I was forced to take by my parents, and I actually looked forward to waking up early to get the surgeries started. When I realized how happy I was doing surgery, I did a lot of self-reflecting and at the beginning of my senior year, decided to apply to medical school!”
Dr. Stucky’s love of her field, and her specialized training in surgery, are clear. But her dedication isn’t all operating room smiles and Grey’s Anatomy-like storylines, her daily life is often infected with the low hum of physician’s anxiety.
“Our patients trust us completely to take a knife to their body, fix whatever problem we are there to fix, and then to bring them through the surgery and recovery without any harm done. I absolutely love being in the operating room, getting to work with my hands, and making a difference in people’s lives but keeping my patient’s trust is a huge responsibility that goes far beyond the technical aspect of surgery,” she explains. “If they have complications, I will also live with that devastation for the rest of my life.”
When it comes to giving ladies advice for how to succeed in a male-dominated field like surgery, Dr. Stucky has learned a few things.
“You will always have to do more work but do it more efficiently than your male counterpart. You will be tested by both your male and female bosses on your dedication to your craft. They will ask you to stay longer, come down on you harder, and place you in more difficult or stressful situations because they want to see if you are going to quit or break down. Women are often meaner to other women than men are to women. For women just starting out in a traditionally “male” field, I would say, let your dedicated work ethic speak for you. Don’t try to become one of the boys, but rather just keep doing your job well. Surround yourself with great support systems. Once you’ve established yourself as an irreplaceable member of your team, take other women under your wing and teach them how to succeed,” she says.
“Surgery is the only thing that has ever come naturally to me, and I firmly believe that this [is] because it is [a] gift from God. My husband and I are starting to become involved in international surgical missions but we also have roots ministering at our local church, so our options are wide open,” Dr. Stucky says. “The good part about having minimal spare time is that you never take moments with your friends and family for granted,” she adds.
For doing no harm and being all awesome, we think Dr. Chee-Chee Stucky is a really Cool Girl!