Career Speaker Series: El Camino Hospital OB/GYN


Karen White, an OB/GYN at El Camino Hospital speaks in the MAC on March 1 for the fifth day of the Career Speaker Series. Photo Credit: Kaahini Jain

Kaahini Jain and

Karen White, an OB/GYN at El Camino Hospital, speaks in the MAC on March 1 for the fifth day of the Career Speaker Series. White emphasized her high school experience and how you do not need to have a career path in mind right away. Photo: Kaahini Jain

Despite having just worked a 36-hour shift at El Camino Hospital, OB/GYN Karen White came to Palo Alto High School’s annual Career Speaker Series to present to students on Friday about her career.

OB/GYN is a specialty in medicine that incorporates obstetrics as well as gynecology.

White talked for the duration of lunch about everything from her high school experiences to what a day in the life of an OB/GYN looks like.

White, whose specialty is surgery, discussed new innovations in medicine.  One such innovation is robots that perform advanced, minimally invasive surgery.

White, who uses da Vinci Surgical System robots to perform surgeries on her own patients, played a video of the robots in action during her talk.

White compared using the robot to playing a video game when explaining how to use and maneuver them.

According to White, she did not know she wanted to go into medicine when she was in high school. In fact, she anticipated a career path in law.

“You don’t need to know what you want to do right now,” White said.

White said that although her days are very busy, she enjoys her daily tasks

“It’s exciting,” White said.  “You get an adrenaline rush, and you’re not bored in an office staring at a computer all day long.  It’s actually physical and very taxing […] and I like that part of it.”

White also talked about the harder parts of her job, including the long hours and emotional stress.

“When you have a patient die, it’s pretty horrendous,” she said.

In terms of salary, White said that the overall salary of a doctor is decreasing.  That being said, she also stressed the value of being able to get a job she loves pretty much anywhere in the world.

For White, that flexibility was a big selling point.

“There’s no average day for my particular profession,” White said.  “I usually start in the hospital in the morning seeing patients I operated on … get pulled out for C-Sections and maybe have some surgeries in the afternoon.”

According to White, each day is a surprise, something she values in her job.

White also emphasized the competitiveness of medical school.  She said that the smartest people in high school find themselves surrounded by students smarter than them in college, and the same pattern applies for medical school and residency.

However, White said that while she wouldn’t do it again, all the schooling that she went through to get where she is today was worth it.

The Career Speaker Series is continuing this week in the MAC and PAC, with the last speaker presenting on March 8.