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Hustle, Believe, Desire: Sports Mentality for Residency

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My mom was a phenomenal basketball player. My grandparents’ house is filled with mementos of her athletic dominance: newspaper clippings, trophies, photos of her suspended in air sinking the perfect jump shot. She played basketball in a time when women didn’t play basketball. It was pre-Title 9. There was no WNBA.

Basketball has always been a part of my mom’s life, which inevitably meant it was a part of my life. I grew up on the bleachers of a high school gym, watching my mom coach women to state tournaments. I knew how to spot a double dribble before I knew how to do long division. I was the unofficial team mascot, junior cheerleader, and water girl for all of her teams.  

But I never possessed her dominance on the court. My storied career ended as soon as it began: in the Fircrest Under-8 Rec League. I never competed for a state tournament; I never even tried out for my high school basketball team.

My mom had a motto for her players, which subsequently became a guiding principle in my life: Hustle, Believe, Desire — HBD for short. As I prepare to apply for Orthopedic Surgery residency, HBD has taken on new importance in my life.


Hustle means choosing to run back to play defense when it’s easier to walk. It’s finding the fire within yourself to be present, motivated, and engaged in every moment, even the monotonous ones. Hustle is a mindset that pushes you to always be the best version of yourself. Hustle is the determination to succeed, and the understanding that nothing worth doing is easy. Success is ultimately an accumulation of small moments wherein you didn’t give up. Don’t give up.


Believe in yourself. Believe that you deserve that interview. Believe that your story is important and valuable. Belief in yourself allows you to confidently make the first cut in surgery, just like it allows you to sink a free throw with the game on the line. The process of medical training can fill you with so much doubt, but don’t let it. Do whatever it takes to believe in yourself. You are valuable, and your contributions to medicine, both past and future, are critically important. Be liberated from fear.


Desire is the fundamental will to fulfill your dreams, whether that dream be raising a trophy or becoming a psychiatrist. Desire allows you to unrelentingly pursue your goals. It’s a will to win, and the basis of reaching your full potential. Define your goals, and then steadfastly pursue them.

At the end of a timeout, my mom’s team would stack their hands into the circle. “HBD on 3.” “One, two, three … HBD!” The whistle would blow and then it was back to the game. Whether they were winning or losing, her team was grounded in these three values. Now I am, too.

Whether it be seeing a consult at the end of a 24-hour call, waking up to your 3:30 a.m. alarm, or opening ERAS for the first time, take a deep breath and think: “HBD on 3.”  

Kate Gerull is a third-year medical student at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. Her research focuses on diversity and inclusion in surgical disciplines. She is actively involved with the American Medical Women’s Association, and she is the founder of 500 Women in Medicine. 

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