Sanziana's Story (she/her)
I see the world through the lived experiences of my intersectional identities.
I am an immigrant. I came to the United States in the mid-1980s as a young teenager from Communist Romania. Before we left, my very enterprising mother procured a contraband $20 bill and hid it, carefully sewing it into her belt, and that is all we had when we entered this country.
I learned early on that all honest work was valuable. I worked my way through school as a motel housekeeper, cinema worker, cleaner, gardener, cafeteria worker, and secretary. Usually, I had more than one job at a time. I spoke five languages and tutored students in college. I had two great passions: medicine and music. I could not choose one over the other, so I chose to do them both. Over the years, they have woven together into a life that I feel is creative, surprising, and encompassing. The epitome of these passions came together during the pandemic as I had a chance to work with the professional opera world, and through my understanding of both science and music, I invented and tested a novel mask for singers that was put in practical use recently as the arts world re-emerged.
I am a woman and I am a surgeon. Working all my professional life in a heavily male-dominated world, I often felt like an outsider in my early career. This never worried me; it spurred me on to break down barriers for other women, to mentor and sponsor younger generations. It has given me purpose and drive. I do feel the world of surgery, medicine, and science is slowly changing, and women are gaining momentum to be who they can and want to be.
I am queer. This identity was the one I hid the longest. This is my only regret. Living in pretense is consuming and useless. The truth always wins, so we may as well not waste our precious time. I encourage all queer-identifying young people to live their truths with pride. There are those of us who provide a community that is temerarious and supportive. I am one of the founders of the new, national LGBTQ and Allies organization for surgeons. We have found our voice, our fellowship, and our goals. We advocate for our vulnerable, our queer, our gender non-conforming patients, colleagues, and trainees. We fight for equity and a future where we can all belong.