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.
Physician Success Stories