10 Ways To Be A More Than Average Physician


We all know how routine the life of a physician can get, between catching up on paperwork, cramming in daily work outs and seeing patients, it’s important to keep sight of ways to stay not just on top of, but also ahead of the game.

Medicine, not unlike any other career, falls privy to lapses of monotony and also causes us to under-perform in our outside lives if we aren’t careful. As physicians, and likely wives or husbands, daughters or sons, and mothers or fathers, along with the myriad other hats we wear; we all put pressure on ourselves to be many things, the likes of which we hope to perform at 110%. I’m talking about those who would rather die thirsty than sip through the cup of mediocrity.

So what are the best ways to beat mediocrity with innovation?

10) Browse twitter in your spare minutes. 

One of twitter’s best features is that you can quickly get an overview of the latest goings on. You don’t need to be an active tweeter, but even just taking a few minutes to stay on top of your interests will re-ignite your passions in areas outside of medicine.

Some key people to follow?

Dr. Mike Sevilla @drmikesevilla

Famously known as ‘Dr. Anonymous’, Dr. Sevilla advocates for Family Medicine and Primary Care. He became famous by taking his audience into the exam room to share what it means to manage patients in a ‘broken’ US health care system, and has sincetapped into every form of social media: blog, podcasts, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram – you name it.

Dr. Leslie Saxon @DrLeslieSaxon

A health tech enthusiast at heart, both chief of cardiovascular medicine at USC Keck School of Medicine and executive director of USC’s Center for Body Computing. She’s a guru in digital health. Her research using a smartphone-based ECG recorder for inexpensive, continuous heart rate monitoring helped the AliveCor device gain FDA approval, one of the first mobile applications to do so. Dr. Saxon’s social media posts are generally on major news outlets like CNN.

Also be sure to check out:

Dr. Roni Zeiger @rzeiger, former chief health strategist at Google; CEO of Smart Patients; TEDMED speaker and Dr. Saif Abed (@Saif_Abed): Doctor; strategy consultant; digital health startup evangelist.

For great groups, check out @bestdoctors, a Boston-based group for physician collaboration with social media aimed at improving diagnostic accuracy — a great between-patients browse!

9) Start a conversation. 

Whether it’s with someone in or outside of your own field. Ask yourself, are you really spending time the way you want? Engaging in a conversation with someone that extends beyond the immediate impact of your own life can be refreshing, and important to keeping your edge as a physician. Who knows, you might even learn something new.

8)  Challenge yourself.

Push yourself out of your comfort zone… attend conferences, read articles from journals you wouldn’t normally. Find intersections in your area of specialty and read about other fields that might be targeting the problem using a different approach. For example, those in the tech industry may approach your area of expertise from a completely different angle. There might be an opportunity or a need for collaboration.

7) Start a business. 

Ok, this is sort of a big venture to undertake, and if it’s not your cup of tea, collaborate with someone who has already has. Opening your mind to another world and meeting people outside your industry is crucial to recognizing local and global initiatives. These may target issues that can often be an important adjunct to your clinical life.

Especially in the US where physicians are under heavy pressure from government regulators and insurance companies, more and more physicians are learning to think like entrepreneurs. Dr. Chandler, president of the Association of MD/MBA Programs, states, “Part of the problem is we don’t have physicians sufficiently involved… [Physicians] have a fuller insight about what is needed.”.

For example, after receiving his M.D. and master of business administration degrees, Dr. James Kuo jumped to a Wall Street job with a large health care venture capital firm where he went on to manage several heath care funds and later led several small health care companies. He is now chief executive of Adeona Pharmaceuticals, a company developing innovative medicines for the treatment of serious diseases of the central nervous system.

Or take Dr. Wendye Robbins, president and chief executive of Limerick BioPharma, a small start-up in South San Francisco that works on transplant-associated metabolic diseases like Type 2 diabetes. She founded Limerick with business partners in 2005 and started her first company, NeurogesX, which commercializes pain medicines.

6) Build a relationship with an existing company. 

Check out tTechCrunch or BetaKit for global innovation ideas and find out ways your own community is tackling problems you’re interested in through start-ups. This is the first step to recognizing where you might fit in the big picture. Health companies are always looking for experts in the field and as we already know, physicians have an important role to act as advocates. Likewise, entrepreneurs may look to you for expertise on ways their products or services might fit into health care models.

5) Find your niche, and get really good at it. 

Focus on the things you’re really good at. Don’t try to tackle overly complicated things or devote yourself to too much. Be someone that a person can come to with a specific problem or interest. This can be in or outside of medicine.

4) Read blog posts.

So we’re pros at reading journal articles and academic pieces (mainly because we need to), but why not read blog posts? Entertaining different perspectives and enlightening yourself with someone else’s opinions is both necessary and refreshing. You might be interested to see how many posts might relate to you and your practice as a physician. See http://hlwiki.slais.ubc.ca/index.php/Top_Health_%26_Medical_Bloggers for some great blog links!

3) Write a letter to your local political party representative or sign a petition. 

If you’re politically savvy, you’re probably already aware of the importance in having your voice heard. Chances are there are lots of important ongoing issues that you probably haven’t found the time to be aware of.  Rather than re-invent the wheel, why not help someone else work toward a goal they’ve already undertaken? Stand up and demand change for an issue you feel strongly about.

2) Write, period. 

It helps clarify your thoughts. Whether it means making short term and long-term goal lists, or writing that long-forgotten email to your friend.  It’s well documented that writing is a necessary, and often therapeutic, exercise to get the creative juices flowing.

1) Reward yourself and be happy with you.

Yes, it’s important to constantly self-evaluate and self-improve, but we often forget all the things we actually have accomplished. While you may think it’s not enough, at the end of the day your small contribution means something.  Being too hard on yourself or spreading yourself too thin will detract from the things that really matter. Instead, find ways to strengthen your ties to important things in your life.

“Take a risk, step into the unknown. Don’t be afraid to fail. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and had plenty of disappointments”, this doesn’t mean that should stop you.” – Dr. Wendye Robbins





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Originally from Canada, Manisha Sachdeva is a registered physiotherapist and Irish-based medical student. She works with marginalized populations, particularly refugees and the homeless community. Her latest research includes counseling on end-of-life wishes and integration of advance directives into medical record systems, as well as co-developing a preventive health care tool for an inner city electronic medical record system. She’s the founder of a student think tank and she's interested in the dimensions of social innovation in health care.


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