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July 5, 2007

Five Women Redefine the Power Suit

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SARAH LENTZ, 36, Iraq War veteran and first female general surgeon at Carroll Hospital in Maryland.

THE JOB: "I joined the Air Force in 1993, and they paid for my education. By the time I got put on active duty, we'd finished the Gulf War, so I thought the worst was over. But soon, I was sent to the Middle East — and spent January through May 2006 in Iraq. I treated American soldiers, Iraqi soldiers, contractors, and civilians hurt during blasts. I saw devastating injuries, because the weapons tore people apart. I still jump at loud noises. Now, I'm at a 200-bed hospital in suburban Maryland. On a crazy day, I work from 7 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. and go back the next day from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. I perform about 10 surgeries a week."

THE REAL ME: "My interactions with patients are profound — especially with those who have cancer. I look young, and most patients need to see me dressed up or in a coat to realize I'm their doctor. In one week, I had two patients call me Sarah because I wasn't wearing my white coat. When patients are scared, as they usually are when they're sent to see me, my scrubs and credentials let them know what I am. But it's really up to me to let people know who I am. When you're a physician in combat circumstances, you just do your job. You know the weapon is there and it makes you feel a little safer, but you're there to help the injured, and that's what you focus on."

Blue hospital scrubs — "though they're all too big for me. I step on my heels and clip the V-neck so nobody can see down my shirt. In the Carroll Hospital O.R., I wear a scrub cap I got in Iraq that has skulls and roses on it. My scalpel is a tool that I was trained to use to help save lives. To me, the scalpel is a symbol of surgery."

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