I write this letter to my younger self, just starting out in my medical career. First of all, congratulations on making it this far. You sacrificed a lot to get here, worked multiple jobs to pay for college and medical school, including bartending, waitressing at a diner and cleaning cockroach droppings in an entomology lab – yet still you had $150K in student loans. While your friends partied or slept, you studied, worked long shifts and didn’t sleep. Now that you’ve “arrived,” and are triple board certified (IM, CCM, HPM), here are five things I wish we knew at the start.
1. Find Mentors – Have two or three mentors at all times in your life. Seek them out. They don’t have to be in medicine, although early on that can be helpful as you consider career options, negotiate contracts and seek professional advancement. Good mentors help you become your very best and push you to consider opportunities you may overlook. They also help you focus and remove distractions from your plate. They help you say no.
2. Embrace the Zig Zags – A medical career today is full of forks in the road, choices and zig zags. It’s not a linear journey. It’s okay to jump from academics to corporate to venture, and even to the health plan side of healthcare. Be open to opportunities from unexpected employers. Have that conversation when someone reaches out on LinkedIn, maybe you’ll learn something new.
3. Learn the Economics of Medicine – Read Health Affairs. Learn about how we pay for healthcare. Get your head out of the sand and listen to podcasts on public policy, healthcare affordability, value-based care and develop an interest in being an integral part to improve healthcare affordability and access.
4. Never Miss the School Play – There will be rubber balls and there will be crystal balls in your career. Meetings are rubber and there will be more bouncing your way. Your child’s 4th grade school play is a crystal ball. You fail to make the catch, it’s shattered and gone forever. Work with people who also value important personal, health and family events and will cover you. You’ll do the same for them. Life is short, the things your loved ones will remember is how and when you showed up. And when you do show up, put your phone away.
5. Remain Curious – Develop an understanding and appreciation for data science and the truth. Just because someone says something in an important meeting doesn’t make it so. Be curious, and when it doesn’t sound right, review the data and draw your own conclusion, based on the science.
Best of Luck!