Caitlin Loseth is proof that the greatest limitations people face are those they place on themselves.
The 2008 Asotin High School graduate has grown from her small-town roots to receive her medical degree, complete a surgical residency and has recently started a two-year abdominal transplant surgery fellowship in Pittsburgh. It’s a path Loseth, 30, wasn’t certain she could handle 13 years ago as she left the safe confines of home.
“I think that the most important thing that I wish somebody would’ve told me growing up is that you need to make other people tell you no. You don’t have to say no to opportunities because nobody has ever done it before,” she said. “Put yourself in a position that other people have to say no; don’t say no to yourself before you try. I wish I would’ve known that earlier and kind of embraced that because your roots are your roots, but you can also grow from them as well, and that’s the most important thing is that it’ll keep you grounded, but it’s up to you to blossom from them.”
Craig Clohessy: When you graduated from Asotin High School in 2008, were you planning to go on to become a doctor?
Caitlin Loseth: I had it in the back of my head that I thought I maybe wanted to be a doctor, but I wasn’t really sure that I could. It just seemed so difficult at the time. When I started college at Whitworth University, I started in pre-med classes just in case I liked it, and I ended up really, really enjoying it, and it went from there.
CC: Why did you decide to specializein surgery and, as of late, more specifically, transplant surgery?
CL: One of the best things about being this far along in the training is you can finally just say simply why you want to be a doctor, and it really was just as simple as I really wanted to help people, and I liked science.
Surgery is very difficult — both technically demanding as well as intellectually stimulating. I like the idea that you can fix things with your hands, that you see a problem, and you can fix it. It’s immediate gratification, and it’s action all the time.
I just found it to be something that when the training is so long to get to this point, I never wanted to do something that I thought I could be bored with, and transplant is something that stretches every part of you. And again, it just hearkens back to I wanted to help the sickest people.
CC: Talk about one of the transplants you did earlier this week.
CL: Pittsburgh is ... kind of the birthplace of transplant surgery. The first person to do a liver transplant in America is named Thomas Starzl. He did that first at Colorado, but then Pittsburgh is where he really built liver transplant. The kind of specialty here, as we don’t have enough donors in America, is live donors. You don’t need two kidneys if you are healthy, and so if you are a match for a family member you can give one of your healthy kidneys to your family member. ... Earlier this week, I took a kidney from somebody and put it into his grandma.
Everybody wants to help their family member that’s sick, and it’s such a tangible way to do so.
CC: I think it was your dad who told me you were in surgery for 10 hours last Friday. How does that work? Do you take breaks, hydrate, or is it just a long, grueling stretch?
CL: I know it sounds kind of insane, but it really is all muscle memory and training. We have a joke in the operating room that there’s surgeon’s time. I always say, “Oh, we’ll be done in 30 minutes,” and that probably means at least an hour. ... Ten hours is not that much to us. It’s training. It’s why our education is so long, why you’re conditioned to do something — you just move to the next step. It’s almost like a long drive or something: You get through the next mile marker, and then you keep going. You can take breaks, but nobody wants to. It’s not good for the patient to keep them down longer than they need to be (so you) just keep moving.
CC: What’s next in your career?
CL: I have two years of transplant fellowship here at Pittsburgh, which is pretty grueling and considered to be one of the more grueling specialties to go into. Transplants happen at all times of the night; therefore I’m available (to operate) at all times of the night.
I’ll finish that, and then I’ll be looking for jobs.
CC: Any chance you’ll end up practicing medicine in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley?
CL: You know, life is a really long time, so I do not know. If I stick with transplant surgery, unfortunately the Lewis-Clark Valley is a little bit too small to support that. If I decide to go back to general surgery, which a lot of transplant surgeons do eventually in their life, I’d love to live in the valley again. All my family is there. I love the valley.
CC: What is your favorite memory of growing up and going to school in Asotin?
CL: Something about being from a small town is that you’re so deeply rooted, not only in the people in that community but the physical space. And being able to have the community that supported me and saw that I wanted to be something different, something hard, and they all kind of rallied behind me, and they stayed behind me. I’ve moved around and done a lot of things. I haven’t been home a lot, but I always feel supported by our community.
My favorite memory at Asotin (High School) is we’d go up on the hill — there’s an A — and we would change the date to ‘08. (The date is changed to coincide with the graduating class.) My older brother was in the class above me, and so we kept fighting back and forth. They’d change it, we’d change it and we’d go back and forth. ... Finally we built a blockade ... and that solved it for about 10 seconds until we remembered everybody had those giant trucks that could just go around.
Clohessy is managing editor of the Lewiston Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2251.
> Caitlin Loseth
City of residence: Pittsburgh.
Title/occupation: Abdominal transplant surgery fellow; surgeon.
Family: Grandparents John and Merle Loseth (deceased, Orofino), James (deceased) and Gloria Schlichtemier, of Omaha, Neb.; mother, Lori Loseth, Asotin; father, Chris Loseth, Clarkston; brothers David Loseth (deceased), Erik Loseth, Clarkston.
Education: Asotin High School 2008; Whitworth University, summa cum laude, Bachelor of Science in biochemistry, minors in peace studies and business, 2012; University of Nebraska Medical Center, medical degree, 2016; Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, general surgery internship, 2017; Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, general surgery residency, 2017-20; Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, chief resident general surgery, 2021.
Work history: Multiple teaching assistant/research jobs throughout education; small jobs around campus; Camp Spalding.
Hobbies/interests: Fashion, interior design, podcasts, hiking.
Do you have any hidden talents, or is there anything else that might surprise people about you?: Surprising: “I am good at making gravy. Specifically, Miss Merle’s gravy from scratch. I do not cook, so it surprises people that I can make that of all things. It is my only contribution to any sort of Friendsgivings. Hidden talent: “I remember everyone’s name. If I’ve heard it clearly and can see your face, I remember it — every time.”