As Alex Chiu, ENTtoday’s new physician editor, and I reflected at the recent Triological Society Combined Sections meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., we discussed how fortunate we are to be part of such a vibrant specialty with so many extraordinarily talented individuals. I very much enjoyed the meeting, as I had an opportunity to witness some great educational sessions, see friends, meet new colleagues, and spend meaningful time with several of the personal mentors who helped shape my career.
Explore this issue:February 2018
One of the most compelling sessions at the meeting was a panel discussion about physician wellness and burnout. Four of our respected colleagues provided insight into their ongoing personal journeys. The path to becoming a successful physician is competitive and stressful, and while many appear to navigate this process with ease, realizing that most face similar feelings and challenges provides relief and an opportunity to share experiences. The panel’s discussion was raw and relatable for everyone in the audience.
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” —Yogi Berra
As I think back through my career, the most challenging period for me was in the years right after completing residency. Training in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Baylor was an incredible experience and the pinnacle of my educational journey. I completed my residency in 1999 and moved to the west coast to join a multispecialty group. All of the striving to get into medical school, to match into a competitive residency program, and the intensity of the training experience made the daily practice of general otolaryngology—and initially treating less complex cases while building a practice—seem unfulfilling in comparison. I had arrived at a major life goal after being on autopilot for more than 12 years, and had not considered what was next. Like many others in our field, I felt there had to be more to accomplish.
Finding a Path
In 2000, I enrolled in an evening MBA program with the intention of transitioning out of the practice of medicine and into pursuing projects related to healthcare information technology. I was the only physician in the class. While the schedule of maintaining a practice, taking call, and going to classes two to three nights per week was hectic, I was able to manage it with a lot of help from my wife, Nicole. Nicole has always been incredibly supportive of and patient with me, and this time in my life was particularly challenging; we had a 2-year-old at home and a newborn on the way.