Your top questions about medical writing.
By Alex Evans, PharmD, MBA
I am a community pharmacist by trade and fell into medical writing somewhat by chance. To be honest, I was completely happy working in community pharmacy and never even knew medical writing existed for at least the first 4-5 years of my career. I wrote a couple of articles for peer-reviewed journals, but since they don’t pay anything, I assumed there wasn’t any money in it.
I managed the Safeway in Kihei, HI for about two years, which is a beach town on Maui where there are probably more tourists than residents at any given time. Even many of the residents live there only part of the year and as a result most of the time my job felt like crisis management: “I left my warfarin at home, I live in New York, and it’s 10PM there now,” “I dropped a pill down the sink and now I’m out,” “I’m from Canada and forgot to bring my inhaler,” etc.
I finally decided to write Drug Topics and pitch a piece for their magazine giving pharmacists tips to help their patients prepare for vacation. Because I wasn’t expecting to get paid for it, I was shocked when they offered me $350. I quickly realized I was on to something. In July 2019, I went part-time as a pharmacist and haven’t looked back since.
In addition to a much better lifestyle than community pharmacy offers me, I feel like I diversified just in time. It’s no secret that with mail order pharmacy, financial pressure from PBMs, a drastic increase in the number of pharmacy schools, and other factors that working conditions, salaries, and demand for community pharmacists are all deteriorating rapidly. My dad is a retired family practice doctor, and I’m fortunate to work with great doctors, so I have at least an appreciation for the pressure medicine faces now as well.
In this post, I wanted to answer some of the most common questions that I get asked from folks I meet interested in medical writing:
What is a typical day like for a medical writer?
This is one of my favorite parts of the job. Because writing is project-based work, and not shift-based work, you can do it anytime you want. This means I can have a date with my wife on a weekday (when I would have previously been at work), I can take my son to preschool in the morning, or I can go biking in the middle of the day if I want. If I want money to buy something nice, I can pick up more work; if I want more time, I can decide not to take as much work.
What type of work is available?
Medical writing encompasses a wide variety of jobs, and I’ve seen too many people get caught up trying to define medical writing, which will only hold you back. In my opinion, if I’m getting paid well to write then it doesn’t matter what you call it.
I’ve written about diving in Hawaii for a healthcare staffing firm, for example, and guess what? Their money spent just as well as anyone else’s. Blogs, trade journals, and continuing education are all great places to get started. Any and every website that has articles is a possible client, so the key is finding where you fit in best.
Are there any downsides?
Medical writing is a sweet gig, but there are downsides. Here are my top two:
Requires excellent time management: To make significant money as a freelancer, you’re likely going to need to juggle multiple clients, each with their own projects and deadlines. Missing deadlines is a surefire way to lose work, so you must have a system in place to manage your work (and emails).
Vacations are hard to schedule: You might want to take a vacation during your child’s school break, for example, but it overlaps with a writing deadline. When this happens, you could be stuck working a lot of hours the week before or writing to some extent on your vacation. It can be difficult as a freelancer to take a full week off without any writing needing to be done.
How can I get started in medical writing?
If I had to give just one piece of advice, it would be this: when pitching to clients, focus on your clinical background and experience.
There might be other experienced writers out there, but magazines and websites focused on clinical practice (or even consumer health) want clinicians, not researchers, to write their articles. They need relevant, well-written, and concise articles on the biggest topics in the field, and that comes best from those who work in that field.
If I were a dermatologist, for example, I might target Dermatology Times, Medscape Dermatology, The Dermatologist, and Dermatology World. I might also target cosmetic blogs; Clinique, for example, has a skin care blog and clearly has dermatologists contributing regularly to it.
Partially out of my frustration at the lack of resources to allow excellent clinicians to break into medical writing and get paid to share their knowledge with the healthcare community, I also created a course called Medical Writing for Healthcare Professionals.
About the author: Alex is a pharmacist and medical writer in Jacksonville, FL. He is also an Assistant Dive Instructor and lived in Hawaii for five years, barely getting dry before his next shift at the pharmacy.
Joanne Jarrett, founder of
Joanne Jarrett MD has been working for several years on launching her own loungewear apparel company. She has long been sewing as a hobby, but starting a business took almost as much work as becoming a doctor.
Dr. Jarrett graduated from the University of Nevada School of Medicine in Reno and trained in family medicine. She loved the breadth of family medicine and the opportunity to treat multiple members of a family. She says that her favorite part of medicine was having the chance to alleviate her patients’ concerns. And she still misses that aspect of the job. After her kids were born, she took time off from her work as a family physician, and has been away from patient care for 17 years. But she says that she still considers the possibility of going back to medicine one day.
She started formulating the idea for her clothing company in 2017. Between helping her husband, and endodontist, run his practice, raising her family, and moving across the country, she learned about how to get started in the clothing business, designed the product, and opened shop.
Dr. Jarrett’s was looking for comfortable and stylish loungewear but couldn’t find something she loved. So, she started designing her own. She came up with a prototype design and set out to learn about commercial clothing manufacturing and production.
“I took an apparel production course online that was a multi-unit, in depth education in product development, materials procurement, and manufacturing, as well as marketing,” she explains. She also took several in-person classes to learn more about fabric, quality assurance, and the specifics of working with pattern makers and factories. She recommends that anyone looking into entering the apparel field take a comprehensive apparel production course tailored to those who have no formal fashion education.
She also invested in the process of product development. She found a pattern maker who designed a pattern of each product in multiple sizes with specifications so the factory could eventually produce larger volume. But before sending an item in for production, she would examine the samples, and they weren't always exactly right—so sample revisions were sometimes necessary.
Dr. Jarret explains that it is hard to find a factory to produce apparel for a new company. And there were staffing issues with the first factory she had contracted with—so she had to find a new factory, which delayed the product launch.
When it comes to the financial investment, she provides a snapshot of the cost. “The investment depends on how many pieces the first collection will have. I would say to expect the initial investment to be about $3000 - $5000 per style. The temptation is to start off with a big collection with multiple styles, but I think you can learn the business and test the market with three or four styles and save initial investment.”
The steps that cost money are
Marketing is another challenge that has been a learning curve. An attractive website that displays the products takes time and money to create. And Dr. Jarrett has also been pleased with the popularity of her product among breast cancer survivors.
You can check out her designs at www.ShelfieShoppe.com. And you can contact Dr. Jarrett at Joanne.firstname.lastname@example.org
By Tadeh Vartanian
On Sunday, May 3, 2020, my wife and I just dropped off our one year old son at my in-laws so that we can take a much-needed weekend getaway trip to a beautiful campsite near Temecula, CA. It was smack in the middle of the COVID lockdowns, and we desperately needed to get away and recharge. Camping sounded like a good compromise.
Little did I know that that camping trip would open me up to a new idea, which would then sprout into a new business. This is usually the case when you have long trips of silence and are in an environment where you can actually think. How many of us get that on a routine basis?
I’m a pharmacist by trade, having been one for over a decade up to that point. I went through that training so that I can practice pharmacy for essentially the rest of my life, but my wife and I noticed that people in medicine were dropping out of it like flies.
We have awesome resources like this one that teach us how to be free financially. We have resources like this one where we have honest discussion on burnout and steps we can take to avoid it. We even have coaches that’ll make us accountable to being healthy and well. But we didn’t have a physical product, something that we can hold in our own hands, that will be a piece of the solution.
In came the idea of completeblue, a health and wellness company whose primary mission is to clean up the supplements industry. We intend to do this with our TTT values of Trust, Thoroughness, and Transparency, something unique in the world of supplements.
I’ve been on this journey for less than a year, and it’s been exhilarating. I’m bummed out when the day ends and I need to stop working on this. I’ve never felt anything like this, even at the prime of my career. What keeps me going are the people I impact and the knowledge they will then have. Now that’s power, when your product influences the people who don’t even use it.
I noticed that if you want something, the world conspires to get you there. I reached out to colleagues and set up a team of four pharmacists! That led to more connections and pretty soon we knew Amazon experts, product formulators, medical writing companies, and more. The team at completeblue is even part of an awesome Amazon sellers group of like-minded experts who push each other to our next level.
And what will we be making? One of the biggest challenges facing our society right now is poor sleep. Prescription sleep medications have dependency issues, among many others, and over-the-counter sleep aids simply don’t provide the quality of sleep needed. The supplements are also not that great from what’s on the market. Finally, we in the healthcare industry work long hours, work into the night, and have varying shifts from day to day. That alone wreaks havoc on your sleep cycle. So poor options, a big demand, and growing demand for the foreseeable future. Boom, we found my first product.
Getting the product made was pretty straightforward, actually. We all love reading articles and finding the evidence behind each of the ingredients. That’s what I did as the Director of Operations, when I identified 12 ingredients and narrowed it down to the top three that have the most evidence behind it. As pharmacists, we also formulated the product. Manufacturers, packaging companies, fulfillment centers, label designers, and more were on the list, and those were found as well.
How are we doing it?
We had a Chief Talent Officer who worked with virtual assistants and our audiences on Facebook and Instagram. We are set to launch and bring all of these important members together.
Finally, our Director of Sales and Chief Strategy Officer will be intimately involved in the sales of our product. Having a great product is one, but getting it selling to make the biggest impact on the world is another.
Now comes the fun part, creating a brand that really resonates with our ideal customer. We were not going to put a product on Amazon, bid ourselves down to extinction, and be at the mercy of competitors coming in with bigger budgets. We want to create a brand, a following, an audience who will resonate with the company’s message. And that is the key to success everyone, when you have a customer that you are serving, not a product that you’re showing off.
As a pharmacist, I never knew I would go into the physical products space. I’m here to tell all the readers, though, that it’s completely possible. Having a product that changes people’s lives and enables them to continue the long, hard journey they are on is very rewarding. After each day that passes, our company is that much closer to impacting people around the country in this high-intensity and self-less profession known as medicine.
And of course, take time to unwind, leave your surroundings, and give yourselves time to think. You’d be amazed with what you can accomplish doing absolutely nothing than by punching the keyboard away for hours.
Can I reach out to you for advice?
I love helping people in the medical field. You can reach us at email@example.com and I’d be happy to connect with anyone who is passionate about physical products, dietary supplements, medicine, and more.
Deven Sharma MD talks about certification in lifestyle medicine.
Having completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1994 and a Law Degree in 2005, the field of medicine appealed to me. In 2014, I decided to explore MD study. At my stage of life, I preferred to do an MD without an intern/residency requirement, and I got my MD at Blue Marble University Medical School -Dominica, which did not have a clinical/residency requirement and could be completed entirely online. I started my MD in 2014 and completed it at the end of 2016.
I had an interest in lifestyle medicine, so I contacted the International Board of Lifestyle Medicine (IBLM). Based on my qualifications, I had to do a health-related master’s level degree from an accredited educational institute. I completed a Masters in E -Health & Telemedicine Management (METM) from UCAM University in Spain. This allowed me to sit for my board certification exam with IBLM in 2020 and I am now a Certified Lifestyle Medicine Professional, which allows me to practice lifestyle medicine. The program took 1 year for the master’s degree and then around 4 to 5 months self-study for IBLM certification exam.
I am also a certified health coach with American Council on Exercise (ACE) and I completed further training in Medical Laser Therapy for Pain Management and Rehabilitation. Here are the ACE health coach certification requirements.
As for medical laser therapy, the prerequisites vary. However, you generally need some health background like an MD, DO, RN or PA. For low level laser, which I use for pain management, there is no licensing requirement. However, without recognized training you are likely to have problems with insurance payments.In 2020 I completed my Lifestyle Medicine Certification with European Lifestyle Medicine Organization and act as the ELMO Ambassador in New Zealand (Oceania). ELMO is The European Lifestyle Medicine Organization. At the moment I am the sole ambassador in New Zealand.
I have completed my fellowship training with the Australian Society of Lifestyle Medicine (ASLM) and am now designated FASLM.
In mid-2020 I purchased a specialist practice that had already been established for 25 years. I am the CEO of this practice and I am now adding lifestyle medicine to this practice. My MD provides tremendous scope in practical terms for non-clinical work, and the job of CEO is much easier with an MD education.
Deven P Sharma MD is the owner and CEO of The Ellerslie Clinic (formerly Kilpan & Associates) in Auckland New Zealand. The clinic is a practice of specialist psychiatrists, psychologists and other health professionals. The practice is an accredited supplier of health services to private health insurers, government agencies, and private paying patients. Dr. Sharma also has professional qualifications and training as a lawyer and a Chartered Accountant.
Nerissa Kreher MD, MBA has always been true to herself, and that has kept her focused when it comes to career decisions. Her patience, and a restraint that has kept her from jumping at every job offer she has received over the years, has certainly paid off. She loves her position as Global Head of Clinical and Medical Affairs at Zafgen, a biopharmaceutical company. When doctors find out what she does for a living, she is typically flooded with requests for information about how she got her job. Dr. Kreher generously shares her experiences as well as her tips and advice for other doctors who want to work in the pharmaceutical industry.
Even when she was still a resident in Pediatrics, Nerissa Kreher knew that she wanted to focus on clinical research. She completed a Master’s Degree in clinical research as part of an NIH grant during her pediatric endocrinology fellowship. Then, she stayed on as junior faculty for one year, while also interviewing for jobs because her husband, who was finishing up his residency, was in the process of interviewing for a fellowship position.
But finding what she wanted- a clinical research job- was not easy. And this is where her perseverance and dedication to clinical research came in to play. As many doctors know, clinical research positions are few and far between in comparison to full time patient care positions. Things were falling into place and Dr. Kreher was set to move for her husband’s fellowship, pleased that she received an offer for a clinical research position in the same city. Until it fell through. She was offered an alternative position at the same hospital with 80% clinical time. This would give her no funding or time for research, which was what she really wanted. She was disappointed, and continued looking for the right fit, applying at another local hospital. She was offered a position there too, but again, not for the type of work she wanted to do.
At this point, networking and friendships served her well. A pharmaceutical representative, who was also a friend, encouraged her to send a resume to Serono, a pharmaceutical company. This time, the job worked out. She explains that she felt lucky to receive an offer for a position that was in line with what she had in mind all along. The position was Medical Director in Medical Affairs for the company’s recombinant human growth hormone product. She has worked in industry for over ten years now, having worked at several companies, both small and larger biotech, focusing on rare diseases and endocrinology. She also managed to get an MBA along the way, which was supported by one of the companies.
One of the approaches that Dr. Kreher has taken throughout her industry career is to concentrate on both medical affairs and clinical development, areas that are sometimes separated in the pharmaceutical industry. She explains that combining the two has been a good move for her, helping her to advance and to keep her options broad.
She encourages doctors who are interested in working in the pharmaceutical industry to network and to be creative with networking, She suggests connecting with people who have business experience and with medical directors and recruiters as a way to learn about the industry and as a way to build relationships and to make your name known, which can put you one step ahead. She explains that there are positions for doctors in several facets of industry. Medical Science Liason (MSL) positions usually require travel, but make it possible to live anywhere. Office based roles are more likely to be on-site, and are more available in major pharma and biotech regions such as New York City, New Jersey, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Diego and North Carolina. And there are contracting roles from home, which can expand potential options.
Dr. Kreher has been happy with her industry career, loves her job and describes her day-to-day work as intellectually challenging in a different way every day.
Nerissa Kreher MD, MBA is a pediatric endocrinologist and Global Head of Clinical and Medical Affairs at Zafgen. She runs The IndustryMDCoach www.industrymdcoach.com and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
An interview with Lindsey Ball MD, creator of Painted Hearted Art.
Dr. Ball, an emergency room physician and artist, talks about her inspiration and love for for medicine and art.
What made you decide to be a doctor?
I did not always know I wanted to be a doctor. In college I had a wide variety of jobs from barista to bike messenger, and I actually majored in English. I thought of literature as a way to study people and human behavior. I enjoyed creating and did a lot of writing and painting. I soon realized these were hobbies I could and would continue to do on my own without a class or assignment, but if I was going to study something, it should be something I cannot accomplish and learn on my own that takes me from outside myself.
I am very goal oriented and I desired a career that took an amount of commitment and training I had not experienced yet. Science and biology fascinated and amazed me with how naturally creative life on earth is. Medicine then seemed to be a natural fit that combined both science and the humanities. I ended up going back to school to get a post baccalaureate to obtain the medical school requirements, and I have never regretted my decision. I enjoy medicine because I am constantly learning and being challenged while getting to provide a service for others. I also enjoy the teamwork involved in the emergency department. I liked the tangible aspect of directly having a daily impact in caring for patients and the constant communication and interactions required with my colleagues.
It is also very rewarding to have a job where I continue to learn and grow on a daily basis, even three years after my residency training and mostly likely until the end of my career.
My specialty is Emergency Medicine. I practice in a community hospital setting in Southern California, with quite a variety of patients and pathology. My emergency department also has EM residents from two local programs rotating through in addition to PA fellows, so there is an opportunity for teaching as well. It’s a nice mix.
How long have you been interested in art?
I have always been interested in art since childhood but never formally trained in it. My favorite class in college at UC Berkeley was a beginning painting class taught by Katherine Sherwood. The class had a large impact on me and actually made me consider changing to an art major. I had never taken a painting class, and I initially felt like I had no idea what I was doing. Our first assignment was a still life of a vase and some fruit in black and white. I brought a list of required supplies to the art store and bought a bunch of oil paint and other supplies.
I found the oil paint challenging, because it took such a long time to dry that you had to work on your painting very slowly and in small steps. After painting a layer, you had to wait until the next day to continue to the next layer. When we had to present our painting, mine was the absolute worst in the entire class. The vase was droopy and the greys all blended together. I was mortified and felt defeated. For a moment I wanted to throw in the towel. I then tried to assess what went wrong...and correct it.
I went back to the store and bought some acrylic paint to replace my oil paint. This dried much faster and allowed me to work at the pace that was natural for me and fit my personality. If I wanted to make a change in the painting, I only had to wait 20 minutes for it to dry, not 24 hours. (Can you tell why I work in emergency medicine)? Our next assignment we were allowed to use color. This time it was a still life of a woman on a stool. This time I played with color, texture, and abstraction. I was very self conscious but I tried to follow my natural intuitions, and this time my painting stood out as the best in the class and I was approached by other teachers about it.
Our third assignment was open ended. I had just written a story in my creative writing class about a girl who was counting sheep to sleep, and when she fell asleep, the sheep escaped and traveled the world. So I started to paint a series of these two sheep in various settings, a potentially ridiculous idea that paid off and was well received. I spent all my spare time in the studio working on these paintings. I learned what techniques worked for me and experimented. I sometimes used fine tip pen.
For the class I made three of these paintings, but on my own afterward I made a series of over 30 that I used to illustrate a children's book I self published later on my own. This class taught me a lot about my self, and I do think it changed my life.
How did you get started and where do you see your art work heading?
In medical school, the idea of EKG paintings was sparked in my mind but I never actually attempted until mid way through my intern year in residency. I was feeling pretty burnt out that winter, very overworked, and I missed my family, who was on the opposite coast. I needed some inspiration.
I actually initially thought people might think I am crazy when I began the paintings. I started slowly showing them to friends and family and got a very positive response, so I kept going! I never initially intended for it to go as far as it has but it became a major outlet for me and was just too fun to stop. That part was not hard. I had many colleagues and friends asking to purchase the paintings and that was the part that was hard for me to start up figuring out how to implement this.
Life was busy and I moved back to California after residency and put the project to the side for several years. Finally I met with a fine art printer and he helped me digitize all my work and now makes the giclee prints. I needed a lot of help and had to learn how to make a website and start up an actual side gig business. None of that was intuitive for me, but it has been a good learning experience.
I don't really have an end destination in mind. I hope to share my work with as many people who appreciate it as possible and continue to add to the collection. Recently, I have been getting some requests for commissioned EKG pieces and I have started to agree to some. I do also like the idea of turning the project into a picture book of EKGS when I am finished with the paintings.
I hope to always be lucky enough to have the opportunity and time to create art in some way or form. It might not always be in the form of EKGS. I don't expect to stop working my "day job" (or actually mornings, overnights, afternoons...).
You can see more of Dr. Ball's artwork at
Leann Poston MD, former Assistant Dean of Admissions and Career Advancement at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, has a depth of career experience in education, course design, medical school admissions, and medical writing. She shares her insights about teaching, medical school admissions, writing, and course design.
Dr. Poston taught high school before accepting a position as an assistant dean of Medical School Admissions. She has gained a variety of skills and attributes throughout her career that she applies to each new opportunity.
Why did you decide to go to medical school and what made you decide to go into your specialty?
I wanted to be a doctor since I was in grade school. Science was always one of my favorite subjects. I was the first in my family to go to college and to medical school. It was a challenge I was really excited about. I really did not consider any other profession. Medicine is a profession in which you help others. This, of course, also appealed to me very much. I loved medical school. I found that I felt more comfortable working with women and children. I interviewed for residency programs in OB, psychiatry, and pediatrics. I was worried about psychiatry because I have a hard time not taking other people's problems personally and would have brought home a lot of my patients. I liked OB, but not enough to sacrifice my family life, so it was pediatrics for me. When I finished medical school nearly everyone was in general pediatrics, not specialties. A specialty would have a better choice for me as I really enjoy the academics of medicine.
Were there any steps you had to take to qualify for a job as a teacher?
The job I was approached about was at a Catholic high school, which happened to be the one I wanted my children to go to. I was hired as a long-term substitute to teach anatomy and physiology. For a private school, the principal can request a non-tax certificate for a teacher who is uniquely qualified to teach a subject and another qualified teacher has not been found. I did take the Praxis exam in Biology to prove I knew the content, but it was not required.
What skills do you think are valuable for a physician who wants to work in medical school admissions?
You need to be a people person and like working with many different people. You need to be very sure of yourself to enforce the policies the committee votes on and to maintain the integrity of the system. You also need to be able to deal with the inherent politics found in any system that has more people who want to get in there are spots available.
How did you find jobs in medical writing?
I find most of my jobs now come from word of mouth. I have seven clients that I have done multiple jobs for. This keeps me pretty busy. Most of my writing is either writing courses in higher education, acting as an SME, reviewing textbook questions, and writing articles for websites and other medical communication articles. I am much more likely to accept a job that is interesting over any other qualification.
What is the lifestyle and pay like in medical writing?
I can work as much or as little as I want. I find that I get bored easily so I take on my projects because they appeal to me. Currently, I am a course reviewed for a major company that produces online courses and MOOCs. I love the work because I learn new things every course I review. The pay is less than in medicine. I have enough contracts to work at least 40 hours per week. I do not need to spend my time doing the unpaid work that consultants and freelancers sometimes need to do when their business has a low-point. I do keep my website up-to-date. I get many proposals through either my website or LinkedIn, but most are word-of-mouth. I think that anyone going into medical writing with the qualifications and the desire to succeed can make at least $100,000. If money is a major motivator for you, I recommend that you do not jump from subject to subject as I do. You can become specialized and request a higher fee if you stay in one field.
What tips do you have for doctors who want to get into medical writing?
First, make sure that you like to write. I write between 6-8 hours every day. It takes a lot of mental energy. Take the time to interview others in the field to ensure that your expectations meet reality. Choose a niche and verify that you are qualified for that niche. You may find that having an M.D. alone does not qualify you for some work. You may need to maintain your license or even be practicing clinically. I earned my M.Ed and M.B.A. which combined with my M.D. has opened doors for me in areas that I do not think my M.D. alone would have.
Leann Poston is a licensed physician, medical writer, and instructional designer. She graduated from Wright State University and completed a residency in Pediatrics. In 2018, she earned her M.B.A. and M.Ed and opened her own freelance business. She enjoys writing in the fields of medical communications and higher education. She lives with her family in Dayton, Ohio. To learn more about Dr. Poston, visit her website.
Sylvie Stacy MD, author of 50 Nonclinical Careers for Physicians and founder of Look for Zebras shares her insights about non clinical careers and how she helps doctors who are looking for a career transition.
What has your career path been? Is it what you imagined when you were a medical student and resident?
After completing a preventive medicine residency, I started out my career as the Corporate Medical Director for a health services company that has contracts with facilities across the country. I oversaw the medical aspects of the services provided by the company. It was a broad role, including policy and procedure development, provider education, clinical informatics, utilization management, and patient care. I was also involved in provider staffing and business development efforts. I really enjoyed the multifaceted nature of the role. I learned a lot in a short period of time and felt like my work was an important part of the company’s overall ability to deliver high quality healthcare services.
I ultimately decided that I wanted to focus more on utilization management and took my current position with another health services company as a physician reviewer.
I also do some medical writing, primarily by working with pharmaceutical companies and CME providers to evaluate the impact of their educational efforts and assess ongoing clinician educational needs.
Though most of my current work is nonclinical, I do spend a portion of my time practicing clinically.
What motivated you to start your website?
I’ve always liked having some sort of “side gig” in addition to my job or training program. This started with freelance medical writing when I was a resident. Since then, it’s also included offering support for EHR implementations, clinical document improvement consulting, telemedicine, and other types of freelance and consulting work.
What both my side gigs and full-time jobs have all had in common is that they’ve utilized my medicine knowledge and skills. I never felt like I was wasting my medical training or degree.
It struck me that many physicians are either unaware of the opportunities to use their expertise outside of clinical medicine or feel that they are obligated to use all their professional time for patient care. For some doctors, this ends up leading to burnout or dissatisfaction.
So, I was motivated by a desire to spread the word to other medical professionals about all the opportunities and tools available to help us feel truly fulfilled by our careers, find work that compensates fairly for the value we offer and achieve work-life balance.
I wanted to provide a resource that would assist doctors in curating an ideal career path for their own interests, goals, and personal situations. I wasn’t sure where this desire would take me, but I figured that blogging was a good place to start.
What motivated you to write the book?
Once my blog started gaining traction, I saw that the topic of nonclinical careers seemed to be of particular interest to a lot of readers. Many physicians who are interested in pursing a nonclinical job, though, are uncertain of what options are available to them or where to start in their search. To address this, I began developing the Nonclinical career quiz which aims to match respondents with a nonclinical job type that might be a good fit for them based on certain personality characteristics, passions, and professional objectives.
As I researched nonclinical careers to develop the quiz, I found that easily accessible, reliable, and useful information about many nonclinical career options is hard to come by. Moreover, after all the time I spent learning about nonclinical careers and my personal experience with several nonclinical job types, I felt like I could write a whole book about them. So I did.
How do you help physicians in their transition?
I run a job board on Look for Zebras. It is mainly comprised of nonclinical, remote, consulting, and otherwise unconventional job opportunities for doctors. Some openings have a clinical component but are primarily administrative. Others are telemedicine or have a flexible location or schedule. I also try to include pertinent internship and fellowship opportunities for physicians wanting more training in an area that lends itself to nonclinical work.
I also offer resume writing services as well as cover letters and LinkedIn profile development, for physicians transitioning their careers. Many doctors coming from nonclinical roles are used to having only a CV. For those who have made a resume, it is typically focused just on clinical experience. When I write a resume for a transitioning physician, I take that client’s experience – even if it’s all been clinical – and present it in a way that effectively displays how he or she is a great candidate for a nonclinical job.
What do you see as the most important change happening in medicine today?
I see the advancement of health technologies as pretty huge. We’re faced with the challenge of how to effectively use health care innovations as a tool, rather than an impediment.
Growth in this field of digital health – including telehealth, mobile health, and wearable devices – has been swift, especially compared to that of traditional health care delivery. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are also being applied to the health care industry for numerous processes, such as assisting providers in making diagnoses and choosing treatments, selecting appropriate drug dosages, and even decision-making during surgical procedures.
These areas represent opportunities for physicians to have incredibly interesting and rewarding nonclinical careers while helping to improve the health of individuals and entire populations.
Tony Reina MD is the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Architect for Health and Life Sciences at Intel Corporation. In his day-to-day work, Dr. Reina is part of a team is discovering new ways of implementing the emerging technology of AI to patient care. Interestingly, Dr. Reina’s path to healthcare technology has not been straightforward and included a 12 year break from medicine as a stay at home dad.
When Tony Reina was an undergraduate biomedical engineering major at Boston University, he worked on neuroscience research at the NIH during the summers. He enjoyed the research, which was focused on building a visual prosthetic system.
After completing medical school at The University of Maryland, he began an internal medicine residency at Mercy Hospital in San Diego. Within just a few months, Dr. Reina realized that patient care was not right for him. He recalls rushing through his patient log and documentation to get through the tasks assigned to him each day. After admitting to himself and to his program director that a future in patient care was not a good fit for him, he reconnected with his mentor from the NIH, who helped point him to a post doctorate fellowship in San Diego. A few years into his post doc, when the lead researcher of the lab accepted another job at the University of Pittsburgh, Tony Reina moved to Pittsburgh.
Once Dr. Reina completed his post doc fellowship, his wife, a navy physician, was stationed in Sicily, Italy. Shortly after Dr. Reina and his wife, a psychiatrist, moved to Italy, their two young sons were born and he became a stay at home dad. While in Italy, he taught undergraduate science courses at the University of Maryland extension college part time and co-edited a book about C++. After four years in Italy, when the family came home to the US, Dr. Reina continued as a stay at home dad.
The family moved back to San Diego a few years later, and Dr. Reina started to think about working in the field of healthcare technology. He explains that a physician trying to find a way into industry can be seen as a square peg in a round hole. Because industry internships are generally available to full time students, he enrolled in a masters program in data science. After an internship at Intel, he was offered a job at the company and has been there in his current role for almost three years. Dr. Reina explains that he learned a lot about AI on the job as well as on his own. He says that the application of AI in industry is currently ahead of academia, and that much of it has to be self taught.
He advises doctors to think about where they are now and whether the path they are heading down seems like where they would like to be in three years. He says that if staying where you are will not lead to something better in three years, that it is time to pivot.
Tony Reina MD explains that the tuition cost of a master’s degree pays off because it can help you get your foot in the door. And if a doctor who wants to transition into the field of technology isn’t offered a job right out of internship, Tony Reina advises to do another internship and keep trying. “Eventually you will get an offer,” he says. And in the areas of technology and AI, Dr. Reina says that it isn’t necessarily the degree that sets you apart as an expert. Instead, he’s explains that leadership and expertise are built from the drive, ability, and courage to find out how to do things you don’t know how to do.
You have probably seen Dr. Jennifer Caudle in television or come across her articles on major media outlets. A health expert who has become a popular on-air presence, Dr. Caudle didn’t always know that she wanted to become a doctor or that she wanted to be in the media.
As a serious young student, Jennifer was devoted to playing cello and also had a strong interest in science. When she was accepted to music conservatory and to Princeton University, she chose to go to Princeton and to study both music and science. During college, she decided to become a doctor, and after finishing all of her undergraduate pre-med requirements, she took some time off after college, in large part to seek funding for medical school. She won scholarships through the Miss America organization as Miss Iowa 1999 and competed in the 1999 Miss America Pageant. She reflects on her year of competing and traveling in the pageant world, explaining that she developed speaking skills and media experience through her appearances as Miss Iowa.
Shortly afterwards, Jennifer returned to her plan to become a physician, took her MCAT, applied to medical school and went to UMDMJ School of Osteopathic Medicine with the idea that she might become a dermatologist. She loved all of her rotations and really enjoyed becoming a part of patient’s lives, ultimately deciding that family medicine would be the right specialty for her. During her last years of medical school, a senior student mentioned a medical broadcasting elective. Intrigued by the idea, Jennifer called the television station to arrange for an elective. During that rotation, she realized that there was such an important need for medical communication. Later, during family medicine residency, she did a month long internship at ABC news, with the support and encouragement of her faculty.
Now, Dr. Caudle has taken her media experience to another level. With regular appearances on CNN/ HLN, Fox News, The Dr. Oz Show and others, she also has been featured on radio shows, writes for The Daily Beast, Huff Post and CNN, among others. In fact, she had just finished taping a segment at Time Warner Center when we spoke for this interview. She is an Assistant Professor in the department of Family Medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine where she is the clerkship director for the 3rd year Family Medicine clerkship, she teaches residents and she sees patients. In addition, she frequently travels for her media appearances.
Dr. Caudle has some very down to earth advice for those aspiring to work in media. She says that she looked for people who were doing what she wanted to do and learned their path by watching them, even contacting them for advice and mentorship if they were reachable. She says that she has had many mentors- some who were not directly doing media work, but who gave her good advice and encouragement her along her path. She also suggests to look for opportunities in media and to consider healthcare communications fellowships, which are emerging through non-profit organizations and universities. Dr. Caudle shares more details about her journey here in this video.
Dr Caudel's website is www.drjencaudle.com
Follow or contact Dr. Caudle on twitter at @DrJenCaudle, or on Instagram drjencaudle or follow on her Facebook page
Emman Hussny MD is a primary care physician who incorporates wellness coaching into her practice. Dr. Hussny knew that she wanted to be a doctor since she was in high school. She grew up with the example set by her father, a hard working and well-respected immigrant obstetrician and gynecologist, who was happy in his busy career of taking care of patients.
A competitive student, she graduated from Cornell University before going to Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. After completing her family practice residency, she joined a group practice in Virginia. Over the years, as an employed physician, she saw her allotted time with patients shrink. But she was also convinced that patients needed more than 15 minutes of her time, and that a number of their medical problems were related to lifestyle habits and diet. She knew that many of her patients would be in better health if she took the time to counsel them on how to improve their health rather than quickly writing a prescription.
When she finally decided that she had to practice medicine in the way that was best for her and her patients, she took a huge leap and opened her own solo practice in Virginia. With two young kids and a supportive husband, she worked hard to find office space, buy equipment, and hire staff.
Dr. Hussny remained driven to educate herself about the latest developments in medicine. She attended a conference called ‘Food is Medicine,’ which detailed the evidence-based impact of diet on health, and increased her motivation to teach her patients how to prevent illness through healthy living. In her new practice, she gave herself the time to schedule patients so that she could listen to their concerns, talk to them about their daily lives, and help them with dietary strategies to improve their health.
In 2015, she was invited to an Arbonne party. Although skincare and makeup were not her thing, she was intrigued. She had been looking for a program to help support her patients outside the office, but she was having a hard time finding the right program. It seemed like a good fit. With her rigorous academic background, she carefully studied the ingredients of the products and examined the research studies. Once she was convinced of the products’ safety and efficacy, she decided to try the program herself.
Dr. Hussny was drawn to the program because the philosophy was based on the same functional and integrative principals she was teaching her patients in the office. She says that it is based on an elimination diet and clean eating, gut and liver healing-focused, and that all of the supplements are plant based. She had a strong feeling that she had found something valuable that she could offer her patients.
She also felt that it was a good business opportunity for her. With worsening insurance reimbursements and an environment not very supportive of solo practitioners, Dr. Hussny had been looking for a plan B that would allow her to continue to provide her patients adequate time during office visits; she did not want to reduce the time patients received during office visits to increase patient volume and generate more money, nor did she want to sell her practice because no one will provide her patients the same level of care.
Dr. Hussny was already very busy with her practice and her plate was very full at the time with a litigation attorney husband and two boys playing travel soccer. However, she explains that the assistance she received from Arbonne was amazing. She explains that because her initial investment was minimal, she felt comfortable knowing that it was not going to cost her much financially if it did not work out. Her investment was less than $100; she did not need to keep inventory, it’s all internet-based. As she explains, this initial investment included her own virtual store, where she can send your clients to purchase products they are already buying at other retailers. “All of Arbonne’s products are formulated in Switzerland, and thus abide by the European Union’s strict ingredient policy, plus they are third party certified gluten free, vegan, Non-GMO, Lowglycemic index, and PETA friendly just to name a few,” she says.
Currently Dr. Hussny has a thriving and busy practice and enjoys her time with her husband and two growing boys. She herself uses the products and creates wellness videos to teach patients and friends about clean eating, balance in their diets and ways to avoid lifelong illness caused by nutritional problems. And she is seeing that many of her patients have had great success with weight loss, lowered blood sugar, cholesterol, health improvement, and an overall sense of well being. Dr. Hussney says that she is "building an asset, something that will generate money even when I'm not working." She says that the website was already built for her when she started and that Arbonne gave her a ".com" to ship from. She adds that "each consultant may create their own business page in Facebook."
She considers this aspect of her practice an extension of her vision of teaching people about a healthier lifestyle through nutrition and products that people are already using. She loves that she can help others outside her office live a fuller life, because they are in better health and have the energy to be limitless. Dr. Hussny feels that she is building a business that will allow her the time and financial freedom to participate in her other passions, like providing health care and coaching healthy living to people who cannot afford medical care. Dr. Hussny says that it will be so rewarding to her to have that kind of positive impact on society.
You can contact Dr. Hussney at Emmanhussny@comcast.net
Nora Hanna MD knew that she wanted to be a doctor and an artist ever since she can remember. A high achiever from a young age, she was admitted to a 6-year medical program right out of high school. It was a busy and intense program of study, leaving her little free time to pursue her interest in art. But throughout her college and medical school years Nora Hanna dabbled in crafting, always with a focus on acquiring new techniques. She made homemade birthday cards for her friends and family and learned how to work on cross-stitch. She remembers that each project took her a long time to finish, but it was the process that was the most interesting part for her. She learned how to make jewelry, and while she always tried to explore different methods in her creative endeavors, she humbly says that she “wasn’t extremely good at any specific type of art.”
After medical school, Dr. Hanna specialized in pediatric psychiatry, worked full time, and was busy with her young and growing family. Over the years, she always found ways to incorporate her love of art into her life and work. When she ran group therapy for children, she used crafting as a way to help kids cope with their difficulties and express themselves.
Then, when her own life became stressful, she leaned on art as a type of self-therapy. Her husband was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, and she explains that art was an escape from the anxiety and uncertainty that she was facing at the time. She carved out a studio for herself in her home and immersed herself in projects for brief periods of respite from her many responsibilities. Now, three and a half years after his diagnoses, her husband is doing well. And she has made some changes in her own work schedule. She went from working full time in an employed position to running an independent part time child psychiatry practice.
Dr. Hanna continues to dive into different types of art, always open to using new medium and materials. She started painting and has explored a variety of types of paint. She recently discovered alcohol ink and the material fascinated her. “You can’t control where the ink goes or how much it will spread. It has a mind of its own,” she says. Using alcohol ink, she explains that she doesn’t use a brush to spread the colors, instead using gravity or straws. After she completed one of her paintings, she casually posted a photo of her work on a social media page. She was astounded at the number of comments it received—over a thousand—within just a few days. Dr. Hanna explains that she never thought that her art was exceptional. But after so many people she didn’t even know encouraged her to sell her work and go into business as an artist, she started thinking about the idea.
She is now working with a vendor to get started on the process of listing her paintings and selling them. After all of these years, Dr. Nora Hanna is thrilled that she achieved her dreams of being both a doctor and an artist. Dr. Hanna still loves the process of working with different styles, textures and materials. She has noticed that artists tend to be very critical of their own work. But she encourages other aspiring artists to pursue their interests and dreams. “If an artist enjoys the time spent working on a piece, that in itself is worthwhile,” she says.
You can see more of Nora Hanna's work by following @NoraHannaFineArt or visiting her Facebook page Nora Hanna Fine Art
Shaun McKee MD is a Neuroradiologist and athlete who has found a unique way to combine medicine, a busy family life, and her passion for wellness and helping others. Dr. McKee has always sought ways to be as healthy as possible and to help others achieve their optimal vitality. From an early age, she has been on the cutting edge of performance and wellness. She ran her first full marathon as a high school student, and while her classmates were working at fast food restaurants, Shaun’s earliest part-time job was working as a wellness instructor at a health club. In college she supported herself by teaching fitness classes at multiple wellness facilities and college campuses, continued running marathons, and was a consistent age group winner in triathlons well before “aero bars and clipless pedals”.
She has always encouraged others to join her in her quest for optimal wellness, and this passion for health and helping others naturally led her to a career in medicine. Her fascination with finding the root cause of her patients’ symptoms was what drew her to the field of diagnostic radiology. During her residency, she became interested in the intricacies of the human brain and this led to her advanced fellowship training in Neuroradiology at Boston’s Tufts University (New England Medical Center), where she performed complex and life-saving intravascular brain interventions.
While serving in the Air Force as Chief of Neuroradiology, Dr. McKee completed two full 140.6 mile Ironman Triathlons, qualifying in 2002 for the ITU World Championships in Ibiza, Spain. She has also competed in dozens of marathons and several Ultra-Marathons throughout her medical career. Needless to say, doing so while working full time, and being a wife and mom required Dr. McKee to be at her best.
This interest in optimal health and wellness sparked her to seek advice in 2012 from an anti-aging physician about what else she could do to “biohack” her body and slow the “rusting” that comes with age. Her doctor offered her a natural supplement to reduce “cellular rusting,” and Dr. McKee explains that it could cut her aging by almost half in just 30 days. She learned all she could about the oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction that come with age, and she explains that flipping certain epigenetic switches can mitigate these effects. In 2016, she read a National Institute on Aging report, which included results of a federally funded study on the product she had been using, and it convinced her that this intervention could extend the healthy lifespan of mammals.
Dr. McKee states, "This was a problem in search of a solution, and I’d found it. This is quite simply something people need to know about”. Fast forward almost 7 years from her first introduction to supplements, and she says that she has worked with nearly 10,000 families by guiding them through the use of the product. She reports that her clients have experienced improvements in focus, vitality, energy and recovery. After years of hard work, Dr. McKee has become a sought-after expert in nutrigenomics as The Vitality MD.
Although Dr. McKee’s side-venture has thus far been a part time adjunct to her practice, in less than 7 years, she’s built her side income stream to a high six figure level and is considering announcing her retirement from the practice of medicine.
You can follow Dr. McKee at The Vitality MD facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/theVitalityMD/ or connect with Shaun personally on her facebook profile, https://www.facebook.com/shaun.w.mckee or reach out to her via messenger at https://m.me/shaun.w.mckee or text message at 228-424-3935. More info: www.NowAgeless.info
Susan Summerton MD is a radiologist who has seen her hobby of artwork grow into a business. Dr. Summerton is a general diagnostic radiologist who has always loved her work as a physician. She lives in Philadelphia and works both in Philadelphia and in Scranton in the Poconos.
Her journey to becoming a working artist began slowly. She recalls that when she was raising her children, she had a poster at home on which the entire alphabet was made from photographs of colorful butterfly wing patterns. At work, she started noticing the letters of the alphabet in some of the diagnostic images that she read. She thought it might be fun to collect all of the letters of the alphabet found on imaging studies and started to collect them.
After almost 20 years, she found that she had collected all of the letters of the alphabet and made her first piece as an entry to a contest for radiologists sponsored by the Radiologic society of North America on the occasion of their hundredth anniversary. The piece was entitled “LETTERS TO THE RSNA” and spelled out “RSNA 100, a century of transforming medicine”. Her entry didn’t win first place but did receive honorable mention, and as a result was displayed in Chicago at their annual meeting where over 50,000 attendants congregate from around the world.
After the meeting, friends and colleagues saw this first piece, they asked her to spell names of friends, colleagues and family members to give as gifts. She began to receive more requests, and decided to form an LLC called Xray Artistry. She attended Wharton School of Business’s Small Business Development City where she learned the basics of running a business. Soon after, she hired a web designer, a marketing specialist and a graphic designer to build a web site to feature her projects.
As her requests increased and the pieces became more popular, she wasn’t sure if she needed to get formal consent from patients to use their imaging studies. After consulting with the legal team at the hospital, she realized that, while it is a grey zone, she probably could not use patients’ images. Her solution was to recreate the images instead. She hired a graphic artist to draw the letters using photoshop.
She has been building a library of letters for different medical specialties. For orthopedics, for example, she has an entire alphabet created from images of bones, muscles and joint, while she uses images of the heart and blood vessels for her cardiovascular alphabet. With this personalized collection for each specialty, she is expanding to medical office art and interior design, often creating custom designs for medical centers and private offices.
Currently, Dr. Summerton has no plans of quitting radiology, but her art business is booming. She has a staff for graphic design, web design, marketing, and accounting. She goes to art shows and medical conferences to display her work and to network and share ideas with other artists.
To see more of Dr. Summerton’s work, you can visit her website http://xrayartistry.com/
Kate Tulenko MD, founder of Corvus Health, has had an interesting road on the path to entrepreneurship. She definitely is proud of the company she has built, but she doesn’t sugar coat anything about the hard work that it took to get there.
As a college student, she was strong in the sciences, and also had an interest in Global Health. She received her MD and MPH from Johns Hopkins. During her medical school years, her interest in public health continued, and she decided to pursue pediatrics. She focused on a future in public health by applying to pediatrics residency programs that were attached to public health programs. During her last year of residency, she spent time at the World Bank, where she ended up staying on for a job.
Dr. Tulenko spent 10 years at the World Bank, and for 3 of those years she was coordinator at the World Bank Africa health workforce program. Even with her busy position she did not want to completely let go of patient care. So she kept her clinical skills up to date by doing locums work. After 10 years at the World Bank, she left for a position at IntraHealth International, where she led the US Agency for International Development’s global health workforce project, a $60 million project focused on improving healthcare labor markets and healthcare workforce in developing countries. During that time, she noticed that the private sector was a growing area that could provide even more opportunity to make a difference in emerging markets. And that is where the idea for starting her own business was born.
When Dr. Tulenko left IntraHealth International to start her own company, she says that her networking and contacts throughout the world helped her find clients in need, but that she still needed to continue to do locums and chart review work to pay the bills as she was building the business from the ground up. Corvus Health is a global health workforce company, which helps healthcare facilities, such as clinics, hospitals and pharmacies plan and build their workforce.
Almost all Corvus Health clients are located internationally, in developing nations. A recent project involves setting up the first locums service in Kenya. Dr. Tulenko explains that developing nations have a great need for this service, and she feels good knowing that her company makes a huge difference in the lives of patients who need high quality healthcare. Her company is also beginning to partner with agencies that improve quality of care, such as surgical care.
Another interesting aspect of working with developing nations can be working through the regulations- which often differ from country to country. She has clients in areas as widespread as Latin America, Asia and Africa. Overall, Dr. Tulenko explains, there tends to be less regulation in developing countries than there is the US or in Western Europe when it comes to staffing healthcare systems. For example, medical malpractice expenditures are lower or even non-existent in some countries, which makes hiring doctors and nurses much less costly for healthcare systems.
Currently, Corvus Health has about 20 employees, including doctors, professionals with public health degrees and human resource specialists. Dr. Tulenko explains that, for practical reasons, staff is located all over the world to facilitate relationships with clients.
Kate Tulenko has some advice for entrepreneurial doctors. She says that because physicians are perfectionists who are used to being at the top of their classes, the uncertainty of starting a business can make it seem intimidating. She says that she felt intimidated when she started out as well, but that her confidence grew largely out of knowing that there was such a need. She also says that the time between pitching a service to a client and receiving payment can take months. And, while some business owners take out loans to get their business of the ground, she dealt with the financial risk by continuing to take locums work, despite her busy schedule. Overall, Dr. Tulenko says that it takes patience to build and grow a company, but she feels that the process is well worth it.
Michael Wolfe M.D., a busy orthopedic surgeon at New York City’s Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Hospital, finds time to apply his meticulous hands-on skills to one of his favorite hobbies, which is baking. One of 10 contestants competing on the 2016 season of the Great American Baking Show, Dr. Wolfe shares interesting behind-the-scenes facts about his journey to becoming a television show contestant and the exciting and exhausting experience of filming the show’s episodes.
Michael Wolfe grew up assisting his mother, who ran a wedding cake business in the small town of St. Mary’s, Ohio. When his mother passed away a few years ago, he got back into baking. As he grieved the loss of his mother, he discovered the Thomas Keller Bouchon Bakery Cookbook, which inspired him when it came to French pastries.
Dr. Wolfe explains that a few years ago, he came across a show called The American Baking Competition, which featured professionals who loved baking and who baked amazing creations. He followed the show and was disappointed to see it cancelled due to low ratings. Dr. Wolfe looked deeper to learn about the show, and found out that it came from an extremely popular British show called The Great British Bake-Off, which is the highest rated show in UK history.
When Dr. Wolfe found out that ABC was reviving the American version as the Great American Baking Show, he started subscribing to a casting agency service online. When The Great American Baking Show was looking for contestants, he got information about how to apply. In February, he applied, providing the required bio and photos of items he had baked. Then ABC called him back to chat, and it turned out that the ‘chat’ was actually an over the phone 30 minute exam on baking. Dr. Wolfe aced the exam and was invited for auditions. ABC held auditions across the country and he went to 2 auditions. Auditions attended by executive producers included tasks such as baking sweet and savory dishes that were often tasted and judged by professional pastry chefs. A screen test and an on camera interview were sent to ABC. For one audition, he was given ingredients for a cake, timed and interviewed on camera. Dr. Wolfe describes the audition process itself as enjoyable, but also grueling when combined with his life as a surgeon back in New York City. He says that he explained his work demands to the shows’ producers and that they were completely understanding and supportive throughout the whole process.
In July, Dr. Wolfe was told that he was selected as a contestant on the show. And, it turns out that the hard work was about to begin. He had 6 weeks to provide the show with a detailed list of requested ingredients and equipment he would need to use at the filming location, which is a tent at England’s famed Pinewood Studio. Filming was scheduled for 2 separate 2-week 4 episode shoots with a 10-day break back in the United States in between. The contestants flew to England for the first 4 episode shoot with days starting at 6am in the morning, just as early as Dr. Wolfe’s usual early morning surgery start times. Dr. Wolfe explains that the first two-week run of filming was fun and stressful at the same time. With hot temperatures outside and even hotter temperatures inside the tent, many carefully constructed cakes started to melt. Baking while being filmed adds to the stress. And since the tent is not a ‘real kitchen,’ he says he didn’t always have all of the cooking tools he was used to, and that sometimes, ‘the surgeon in me came out.’ Nevertheless, he says that the production crew was great throughout all of it, putting everyone at ease.
Unfortunately, he became ill before the filming of the season ended, and was not able to compete in all episodes, leaving the show before the season ended.
When it came to working with the other contestants, Dr. Wolfe truly enjoyed working with the crew and with the other contestants, who he describes as outstanding bakers and great people. He loved baking alongside people who all took baking seriously and took such pride in what they did. The group quickly became friendly with each other and remain in contact. In addition to gaining 9 new friends, Dr. Wolfe feels that being on the show was a wonderful way to honor his late mother, who would have been so proud of him.
By Sanjana Vig MD/MBA
As a newly minted attending physician, I decided to start a blog. This past year I’ve realized how many voices are out there on the Internet. However in regards to physicians, most of the content I noticed was from men and related solely to financial independence, paying off loans, and of course medicine. All of those topics are amazing and you should definitely read those blogs, however, I felt that a woman’s voice was lacking. Especially one that addressed LIFE, in general.
Yes our careers are multi faceted and blogging about that alone will supply you with enough content. However, our lives and experiences are just as important. Especially as a female, and a minority, I feel that my experiences and my perspective is one that many others share. Yet, there’s no one out there to express this point of view, and I believe many women feel alone in their situations. So that’s where my decision to start a blog came from. I wanted to provide a point of gathering for single, female physicians (or professionals) to share stories and experiences, and essentially a sense of support for each other.
As a result, my blog doesn’t have any one particular focus. I write about all kinds of topics, from my travel adventures, to struggles as a female leader, to dating and just life events in general. As an example, one of my first posts discussed moving to a new place and having to start over. Excerpt below:
“When you're unhappy, you have a tendency to make all kinds of stupid decisions. Date the wrong person just because you are lonely; work too much because you feel like you have to as the new guy; force yourself into situations for the sake of "putting yourself out there". For anyone currently in this boat, DONT DO IT. As miserable as this time period is, it will pass. I think the biggest thing people forget, is to just enjoy BEING.
Be you--figure yourself out. Likes/dislikes, focus on whatever you feel like. Trust your gut. If you want to go somewhere: GO. If you don't want to hang out with people: DONT. If you can't stand the guy you're on a date with : GO HOME.
Be alone (its ok).--I've gone through multiple periods of loneliness where I was starting over, struggling to make new friends. Each time I learned new things about myself that I wouldn't have if I hadn't been alone.”
How did I do it?
Google search. You’ll find plenty of sources out there for starting and creating a blog. I chose Wordpress as my site builder. Through them you can choose to do it for free, with limited options, or pay a yearly fee, which gives you access to more privacy, spam filters, and templates for building and protecting your site. I’m completely website illiterate and I was able to put together my website in one evening. Very easy to use.
A few things I’ve learned from building my own blog:
1. Let the words come naturally
When I have to force myself to think of the words, it ends up coming out all wrong. Let the topics come to you naturally and then sit down and write what you’re thinking. Let it flow. The result will be a blog post that sounds like you and is true to your thoughts.
2. Be authentic
This relates to #1. As long as you sound like yourself, you’ll be more likely to attract those that truly feel the same way and are more likely to be loyal followers.
3. Trust your gut
Don’t question what you write about. Sometimes a topic may seem really personal, or controversial, however don’t let that stop you from putting it out there. We need more serious conversations to happen and once one person speaks up its much easier for others to do so. Plus, letting people in to your more personal stories will only help them connect with you better.
4. Use visuals
Pictures, pictures, pictures. Words will start to blur on the page after a while, but pictures will stand out and grab your crowd.
5. Figure out your theme
For me it was life in general; for others its only about travel, or work, or a hobby. It doesn’t matter what you choose, but you need to choose. Your theme for your blog will help guide what your posts are about and give it some consistency.
6. Don’t forget to have fun
I’ve spoken to some people who’ve tried to blog and just found it stressful. However, for me, having a blog not only serves as an outlet for my thoughts, but also provides me with a way to express myself in a way that I don’t feel I can always do in everyday life. And I thoroughly enjoy that. My focus isn’t to gain the most followers, it’s just to be me and to see what happens.
Leslie Latterman MD is an entrepreneur, a mom, and a busy hospitalist. When Dr. Latterman came home after a long shift at the hospital with neck pain, she looked for solutions. After a while, she started noticing that her white coat wasn’t as functional as it could be, and realized that solving that problem could make a big difference in terms of comfort and practicality.
She decided to talk to other doctors about it. As it turned out, the women physicians she spoke with agreed that their white coats weren’t utilitarian or comfortable. The coats weren’t equipped to carry all of the items needed for patient care. She was even surprised to learn that some white coat details- such as the holes on the sides that seemed to her like they led to nowhere- are actually positioned so that men can reach items that are placed in their pant pockets.
With no background in design or business at all, Dr. Latterman began considering the idea of crafting a white coat to make women physicians’ lives’ easier. She started the process by searching for fabrics. By chance, she found a winter jacket made of a fabric that seemed perfect. She purchased the jacket and studied every detail of the fabric. She discovered that the luxurious fabric was quite pricey and could only be sourced in Italy.
She then visited Cotton Incorporated in in North Carolina, a site that is dedicated to cotton and fabric research. There, she was given a free consultation and learned more than she had ever known about fabrics. She made another trip, this time to The Fabric Institute of Technology in New York, where a scientist helped her identify the properties of the fabric she wanted.
Ultimately, she selected a fabric that was antimicrobial, anti wrinkle, stain resistant and enzyme treated for softness. She made sure that the fabric could stretch to accommodate the physical demands of patient care. She eventually met with a designer and a pattern maker. She selected buttons and created her own logo. And, after carefully adding special features such as a zippered pockets a functional shoulder epaulette attached with Velcro to hold a stethoscope. She sourced the fabric in China because it was not available elsewhere.
Finally, Dr. Latterman was able to make the coats available - and quickly received orders, depleting her supply. The next time around, she made sure to order a bigger supply. She explains that most of her customers order coats with a touch of pink under the collar
The self taught designer, who started in the clothing industry from the ground up, explains that as a mom with a full time job, the project took her 4 years to get from idea to reality. After several surprises and a few bumps along the way, the admitted perfectionist is proud of the final product.
Find the coats at designerlabcoats.com or follow designsbydrleslie on Facebook or Instagram
Deborah Hughes Nowak MD is a surgeon who has filled a missing gap in patient care. She has created a new company that provides outpatient surgery kits for patients who are discharged from the hospital after surgery. During the postoperative recovery, there are special medical and practical needs that can’t be met with items that are routinely found at home or even with a short trip to the neighborhood store. Her kits include necessities such a toiletries, cleanup materials and a few commonly desired medical items.
But this knack for helping recovering patients didn’t always come naturally for Dr. Nowak. She went to medical school because she wanted to do something with her life that had a greater purpose. Drawn to the pace of surgery and the satisfaction of doing lifesaving procedures with her hands, she thought the practical ‘lifestyle’ issues associated with a career in surgery would eventually work themselves out.
Yet, after 7 years training and 9 years of practice as a busy general surgeon with a husband and children, she began to feel like a cog in the wheel. She spent years feeling that she should be able to handle anything, not really feeling entitled to getting out of her unsustainable situation. Eventually, she ceased to feel that she was contributing to the greater good anymore, and burned out. Unable to find more balanced work options as a general surgeon, she finally left practice completely, without a definite plan in place.
She used her time off to reconnect with herself, her marriage and her kids. Shortly afterwards, Deborah’s sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer. Having always been interested in putting together crafts, and having worked as a surgeon for years, Dr. Nowak had the creative and the practical know-how to put together a care package that she felt could make her sister in law’s recovery a little easier. She used her common sense to put together a collection of items such as adhesive remover and ‘good tape.’ Her sister-in-law absolutely loved the care package, and Dr. Nowak realized that there is not enough care for outpatients during the surgery recovery phase. Even when recovering patients are physically able to leave the hospital, Dr. Nowak still sees that they have medical and practical and comfort needs that are not currently being met.
So she felt that there had to be a way to make postoperative patients feel more cared for to decrease their stress during recovery. When she couldn’t find post-op care packages on the market, she started shopping, calling medical supplies and honing her list. She found boxes, set up accounts and launched her company, Post-Op Provisions in July 2016. Currently, she has put together an outpatient surgery kit with necessities that include toiletries, bathing supplies, and help in dealing with problems such as lack of sleep and narcotic induced constipation. She also has a compartment that can include procedure specific postoperative needs, such as drains. The items in the gift pack last for up to a year, which is convenient for patients who might not use everything right away. She also has started offering gift cards and added wish-list capability so that patients can tell their loved ones what they would like.
And, she offers maternity packages too.
Dr. Deborah Hughes Nowak explains that once patients become medically stable after surgery, they still need a type of care that is not easily accessible in the community. And she is doing her part to bridge that gap.
More information about Post-Op Provisions can be found here.
Michael LeWitt MD practiced as an ER physician and helped set up two Emergency Medicine residency programs during his years of patient care. He has now replaced the fast pace of emergency medicine with a woodworking craft that has grown into a business that he takes pride in.
Dr. LeWitt had been collecting kaleidoscopes for years. His wife and daughter were on a vacation in Arizona when they visited a small shop looking for a souvenir kaleidoscope to buy for him. They were directed to another store, about an hour away. It turns out that the other shop is the largest kaleidoscope retailer in the US. They bought a few souvenir kaleidoscopes and also learned of an event sponsored by the shop, Nellie Bly week. This event, held with a different theme each year, allows amateurs to build kaleidoscopes along with skilled artisans. Dr. LeWitt had no experience in woodworking, but was intrigued by the idea. He attended the event a few years in a row, and then decided to attempt to work on his own.
Back home in Philadelphia he discovered an open woodshop that holds classes. He joined and took about 15 courses in woodworking. Over time, Dr. LeWitt worked on learning how to craft a variety of pieces, most of which he would give to family and friends as gifts.
Eventually, he started selling a few of his hand made designs. He began by directly pitching to retailers that carried high quality, unique handmade items. He started taking orders for pieces and has expanded the number of shops that he works with. Dr. LeWitt explains that, while he works at a fairly leisurely pace and does not produce in high volume, his profits have netted enough to cover the cost of the woodworking courses he took and all of the materials that he purchases.
Dr. LeWitt now has an Etsy page, and he is truly having fun in his retirement. This work is a complete change of pace, and he says that the challenge of his artwork has replaced medicine for him. Some photos below and Etsy page is MikeLWoodcrafts, FWIW
Mary Claire Haver MD is an OBGYN whose passion for taking care of patients has led her into the world of aesthetic skin care. She didn’t initially know that she would consider work outside of medicine, but unexpected events have helped her think outside the box.
After graduating from residency in 2002, Dr. Haver stayed in Houston and joined a busy private practice. Covering more than one hospital and driving all over Houston, she was exhausted. After three years, she left her position and went back to work at the hospital where she had trained. She explains that academics was a better fit and that her work life was saner.
But, soon a hurricane hit, destroying her family’s home and literally putting the hospital under water. After she and her husband and children moved three times in one year, her husband was offered a position in South America. Dr. Haver enjoyed her time as a stay at home mom during their stint in Venezuela, where she also did some work as a tutor.
When the family moved back home to the United States, she felt ready to go back to working as an OBGYN in the academic world. While she loves her practice, she explains that, between electronic medical records, call, and other hassles, sometimes it feels like, “the magic is gone.”
It wasn’t long before Dr. Haver discovered another opportunity. Her best friend had been selling Stella and Dot, and doing very well. But, Dr. Haver says, “I didn’t know she was doing as well as she was because it isn’t polite to talk about money.” Dr. Haver liked the jewelry, and when she learned that the company was launching a skin care line called EVER, she was interested in becoming part of it.
Having previously been involved in launching the aesthetic center at the hospital where she worked, she already understood some aspects of the aesthetic business. She explains that she jumped on the skincare line and says that she is matching her salary as an OBGYN. She loves the flexibility of her skincare business, enjoys the work, has made friends, has built up a health and wellness page with thousands of followers and she offers group coaching online.
Dr. Haver still enjoys her work as an OBGYN, however, and explains that she tells her residents, some of whom are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, that they also need to think about finding a side gig besides medicine in order to stay afloat financially.
When Dr. Jennifer Bickel talks about her creative approaches to taking care of headache patients, her humble nature is refreshing, particularly in light of the fact that that what she has built in terms of pediatric headache resources is truly unique and valuable.
Dr. Bickel is a neurologist who specializes in headaches. She noticed gaps in awareness of pediatric headaches, and realized that taking good care of children with headaches goes beyond the clinic. She is generous with her advice, sharing her successes and failures, and often attributing her accomplishments to collaborations and strong networking connections.
Dr. Bickel realized that good headache care for children required her to reach into and connect with 2 places, one being the school and the other being the Internet. She initially did not have a way into the school system to connect with the school nurses, who are ultimately the first health care providers that most children with headaches encounter. But then when Dr. Bickel started talking with the mother of one of her patients, she learned that not only that the patient’s mother was president of the school board, but that she was enthusiastic about connecting Dr. Bickel to legislators -who eventually wrote letters of support to the school board, which convinced the district to adopt new approaches to dealing with headaches during the school day.
And as her outreach in regard to headaches grew, Dr. Bickel was encouraged to apply for a grant designed to improve headache care and awareness. She won the grant and used it to build a website and to create videos geared towards helping pediatric headache patients. Dr. Bickel explains that the name she initially used for the website, pediatricmigraine.com did not show up as a top search result for patients, who are her target audience. As she re-evaluated her audience, she realized that the name of the website was not patient friendly, and sounded more like a website geared for professional education. Changing gears to headachereliefguide.com was a move that she says solved that problem because it was more in line with what patients are looking for.
Dr. Bickel explains that the site was built to be an online destination where people could feel comfortable and could stay engaged. She has built a series of videos, fun quizzes and questionnaires to help young migraine patients prepare for their doctor's visits and assess lifestyle habits that impact headaches- like exercise and proper hydration. She explains that the website was modeled after consumer lifestyle and fashion magazines that people enjoy looking at, so that patients can feel a sense of comfort and even enjoyment as they learn how to optimize life with headaches.
Eventually, Dr. Bickel did end up adding some resources for doctors, and these resources, like the rest of the website, are practical tools, such as patient hand outs and customized school letters.
When it comes to a daunting project like building a patient focused website, Dr. Bickel has been happy to share her advice and tips. She advises doctors who want to start a project to develop a specific area and prepare statistics in advance if seeking funding for the project. And while she didn't search for a grant, but was directed to a grant by others who know about her interests through her networking, she explains that there are many grants out there to support advances in health care and that if you look, you can find them. And of course, her own networking successes happened not through asking for anything, but simply by building strong relationships with people who saw her genuine sincerity about reaching headache patients outside the clinic.
Dr. Jennifer Bickel is a Neurologist and medical director of the headache program at Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinics in Kansas City, MO. Her patient-centered website is headachereliefguide.com
Chetna Singh MD is a physician who clearly has a gift for art. She has taken her talent and love of painting into the world of fashion. As a physician, a wife and a mother, she runs a growing fashion business that is profitable and that she also hopes to use to help others someday. This sounds like a lot for one person to handle, but Dr. Singh has taken the time to research every step along the way.
When Chetna Singh was growing up in India, she had an aptitude for art, as well as the acumen required for hard core sciences, which qualified her for medical school. She explains that she was debating between art and medicine, but she jokes that good sense prevailed and she went to medical school. When she came to the US in the mid 1990’s and started working as a medical resident, she did not have time for art during those years of hard work.
Both Dr Singh and her husband are Emergency Medicine physicians and parents to 3 children. As her children grew older and more independent, Dr. Singh found that she had more time to revive her interest in art. She began paining for enjoyment and almost 4 years ago she thought about the idea of wearing her art. She used the Internet to learn about fabrics and printing. She experimented with materials and designs until she created something that she liked.
While she initially thought that she would personally do the job of printing her paintings onto fabric to create scarves, she ultimately decided to go with a low cost fabric printer in her native India. She also built a website by herself to showcase her scarves. In the beginning things weren’t perfect. She says that the printers weren’t high quality, there were some issues with orders and, overall, there was a huge learning curve. She even looks back at her first collection and isn’t thrilled with it.
But, she kept working and improving her business. She hired a better printing shop- at a higher cost that she says is well worth the quality. She hired someone to take care of the website, but she doesn’t regret having initially built a website by herself because now she knows how to manage the back end whenever she needs to.
Now in her fourth season, she has even decided to add new material to her upcoming line. She has only worked with silk so far, and this season she is adding cotton modal mix. She has noticed that some customers prefer cotton, while others prefer silk. Dr. Singh still always uses oil paint, acrylics or mixed media on canvas to create the designs for her scarves.
She has marketed her designs through pop up shows, which are organized to include several designers at events. And she was even selected to participate in a Henri Bedel trunk show a few years ago for 3 days.
Dr. Singh still works part time as an Emergency Medicine physician. She is happy that she chose art over medicine years ago because it allows to her enjoy the creative process without financial pressure. In the future, she would like to be able to donate some of her work to non-profit as away to raise money for worthy causes that can help people around the world.
A few of her designs are seen below.
To see more of Chetna Singh's designs, you can visit her website chetnasingh.com
The one word that perfectly describes Dr. Priya Banerjee and her approach to work and life is ethics. Dr. Banerjee, a forensic pathologist, who works on complex cases within the inherently grey area of the criminal justice system, works for the state of Rhode Island while also running her own international consulting forensic pathology business.
Her job as a medical examiner for the state keeps her busy, but she also noticed a huge demand as well as a major shortage of forensic pathologists across the country. And when she decided to start her own private business, the combination itself was not easy, requiring an arduous 1-½ year to 2-year process during which she ensured that she had dotted her i’s and crossed her t’s from the Department of Health and The Rhode Island Ethics Commission regarding every issue from conflict of interest to properly allotting time and resources.
Dr. Banerjee started her path to medicine at The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where she was headed towards a career in gastroenterology. Yet, when during her pathology rotation she felt, ‘This is me.’ In fact, as an undergraduate molecular biology major, she minored in criminal justice, which in many ways set the stage for her current work. Right before her pathology residency she spent what she describes as a rigorous year in preliminary medicine at The University of Pennsylvania, which she says was a good foundation for a career in pathology, a career that she noticed does indeed require a strong understanding of hands-on medical issues.
Dr. Banerjee set up her own LLC in Rhode Island less than a year ago, and due to high demand for forensic pathology expertise, has already become quiet busy. She marketed her business by building a fairly low cost website and advertising on the SEAK website, and found that she was getting clients through Internet searches almost right away. She has done work for plaintiff clients and for defense clients and she has traveled for her private work- across the United States and even outside the country. An interesting difference between Dr. Banerjee and many other private consultants is that she posts her fee structure on her website. She says that this has saved time, as potential clients already know her rates up front - and the rates haven’t seemed to keep them away.
As a businesswoman, Priya Banerjee MD says that she is just getting started. But she doesn’t see leaving her job with the Department of Health in her future. She believes that it is this combination that allows her to fully enjoy her work and to be more selective when it comes to accepting cases. While the cases that she is asked to do are medically complex and ethically charged, she is adamant about only taking on cases that she can approach honestly, regardless of any financial reward. Dr. Banerjee says that her most important criteria is being able to sleep at night, and she does not hesitate to turn away work if she doesn’t feel that it fits her area of expertise or that integrity could be compromised in any way.
A mom and a wife, Dr. Priya Banerjee wear many hats, and meticulously manages the details of the many goals she strives to accomplish.
Dr. Banerjee’s website is anchorforensicpathology.com
Arlen Meyers MD, MBA is an academic surgeon who practiced as an Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon at the University of Colorado School of Medicine before creating a new career path as a leader filling a void in world of bio-entrepreneurship.
Dr. Meyers’ combination of academics and entrepreneurship a natural fit, given that he grew up in Philadelphia around academics and business, as his father was a professor who also owned a pharmacy. After he completed medical school and ENT residency, Dr. Meyers was recruited to work at The University of Colorado, where he has remained for his whole career.
Interestingly, it was his academic research that led to his acquiring a deep understanding of entrepreneurship, and ultimately to his current status at the forefront of entrepreneurship education. Dr. Meyers had a research interest in biophotomics, which involves the science behind the intersection of light and human tissue. As a surgeon who has a practice involving head and neck tumors, he was specifically interested in the use of biophotonics as a solution to head and neck disease. He went to business school and it was there that he collaborated with colleagues to create a gadget designed to detect tumors. This process taught him a great deal about business and entrepreneurship. His medical experience, business school, his own product development hits and misses, along with years of experience after his initial entry into the business world, have all combined to give him a formal and informal expertise in the world of bio entrepreneurship.
Arlen Meyers says that almost every doctor has a great idea - but he explains that ideas are extremely difficult to commercialize. And this is where he works to fill the gap. He has developed an entrepreneurship program at The University of Colorado that has been growing for the past six years. He also works as a consultant in the medical product development industry, guiding and advising companies and individuals as they take concepts in healthcare innovation from idea to commercially available products. And he even started a non-profit organization, SOPE (The Society of Physician Entrepreneurs,) the largest organization of its kind in the world.
He has advice for aspiring entrepreneurs based on years of experience in helping doctors get their businesses started. Overall, he says that being an entrepreneur means creating your own job. But, he explains that it is unrealistic to expect to earn a high salary immediately. He explains that when a physician moves into a new field, there has to be a transition period. When doctors leave clinical practice, the new role requires a different skill set and it takes time to demonstrate value in the new workplace- which is an opportunity cost. He estimates that the transition from practicing physician to entrepreneur takes about 3-5 years and requires introspection, commitment and acceptance of delayed gratification.
And, while he got his MBA years before the MD/MBA became a ‘thing,’ he does not believe that an MBA is necessary for physicians who are making a transition. Dr. Meyers explains that MBA programs for physicians are built for administration and policy, not for entrepreneurship. He does say that the benefits of an MBA include connectedness, credibility, credentials and content- in that order. And in his own experience, collaboration was indeed valuable. He advises to take a close look at the cost/benefit before jumping into an MBA program. Dr. Meyers himself has noticed a gap in medical education and he has worked hard to fill that gap in his dedication to provide physicians with the tools they need to become successful entrepreneurs.
Dr. Arlen Meyers can be contacted through SOPE or by email at email@example.com
Physician Success Stories