Career Transition Posse – Meet Dr. Gabriel

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The Career Transition Posse is off and running! In our most recent blog, we heard from Dr. Gigi, an OB/Gyn physician who has given her notice and is just beginning to explore both clinical and non-clinical options.

If you missed this last blog, The Career Transition Posse is an intrepid group of several physicians who have kindly agreed to share their career transitions with us in real time. Each one has given notice without a definitive plan B. We’ll be checking in with them every few months for updates. Their names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Your support for these doctors is greatly appreciated. Doing a career transition is challenging in a way becoming a physician never was – we have to carve our own path. The steps aren’t laid out in some glossy brochure. We have to be a bit like Lewis and Clark, launching into uncharted territory without knowing where we’ll end up or what we’ll encounter along the way. Being accustomed to a well-defined plan, this can give us the willies. Worse, it can paralyze us. As we follow these doctors, we’ll get to see how they deal with uncertainty and how they figure out their own steps.

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to the second member of our Career Transition Posse, Dr. Gabriel!

What would you like us to know about you?
My name is Dr. Gabriel. I’m a urologist and have been in practice for about 12 years. I am married with three children.

What made you decide to consider changing your career path?
My decision to try to change my career path did not come about recently. I actually felt during medical school that perhaps a clinical career was not for me. My school, however, discouraged me from even pursuing an alternative path and I will never forget their words: “we don’t do that here.” I find myself struggling with many aspects of medicine. The patients seem more demanding and less appreciative. I feel I need to be perfect or else I will be threatened. Those threats can take many forms- online reviews, Press-Ganey scores (which affect my compensation), legal, and I have even experienced direct physical threats. Meanwhile, I receive less and less support to run a competent practice while my compensation gets cut repeatedly. I was warned early on that medicine was changing but I don’t think anyone knew it was going to be like this.

Is clinical practice still an option? Why or why not?
Honestly, I still struggle with whether a clinical career is right for me or not. I started in academia. When that didn’t seem to be a good fit, I moved to private practice. I found myself with similar and new problems on this side of medicine as well. Now that I’ve chosen to leave my current practice, I’m left with the inevitable question… “Is it me or is it the places I have been?” I have many colleagues who seem to be happy in clinical practice and enjoy support that I have yet to find in either of my two previous jobs.

What are some career options you’re exploring?
I have begun to explore non-clinical opportunities by networking with acquaintances who have left clinical practice. I found that once I looked, I had connections with people working in utilization management, administration, the pharmaceutical industry, and the government (FDA). It is helpful but also overwhelming at times.

“I have options? Which one is right for me?”

I haven’t completely given up the option of staying in clinical practice but I am trying to focus on what I would need for it to be a place where I can thrive. I am cautious about just jumping into the “next thing” and having it turn out just like before.

What is it like to be in this place of uncertainty while you’re figuring your career out?
The uncertainty is definitely one of the worst parts. One of the primary reasons I went to medical school was for job stability. This was something with which I saw my father struggle as a child. I wanted it to be different for myself and my family. Now I’ve thrown myself and them into exactly what I was trying to avoid! Yet, I knew that to continue the way things were wasn’t healthy for me or them. Ultimately, there had to be a change. I’d love to say that I have a high level of confidence right now but that wouldn’t be true. I’m confident that I can find work when I need it. I’m just not ready to completely trust myself (yet) that this time I’ll pick the right path. I’m being cautious given how the first two positions turned out. That being said, I feel better just knowing that I’m working toward a goal rather than just plugging along like I was before and being miserable.

On a scale of 0 – 10, with 10 feeling very confident, how confident are you at this time that this process will work out?
I would say I’m at a 6. I’m fairly confident it will work out eventually. I’m just still skeptical that I’ll get it right the next time.

Anything else you would like to share?
Letting go of the feeling that clinical practice is something you “have to do” rather than something you can “choose to do” can be very freeing. I have found this to be a journey and not something I could just feel 100% OK with overnight. It’s taking time.

A big thank you, Dr. Gabriel, for allowing us to be part of your journey. We are all wishing for good things to come your way.

Stay tuned for the next blog coming out Wednesday, May 16th, featuring an often over-looked non-clinical niche. Physician satisfaction is so high in this field that many of the doctors have grey hair…because they don’t want to retire!

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9 Comments

  1. Helen Rhodes MD on April 4, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    Good afternoon & congratulations on taking the first big step to career fulfillment!
    I’ve been in your shoes & after receiving lots of advice (including one-on-one sessions with Dr. Fork), I’ve been able to experience somewhat of a “career renaissance” at a time in my career when I should be considering retirement.
    I finished my training in OB/GYN in 1992 & have been practicing in the Houston area ever since. I’ve worked full-time, part-time, in academia, for a large managed care group, as a locum tenens & even taken two “breaks” for about 6 months each.
    After much soul searching & several unfortunate business decisions, I am finally doing exactly what I want: a solo gynecology only “micropractice” with 2 employees. I am in complete control of my patient & OR schedule which allows me to spend time with my patients. But because of declining reimbursements & increasing operating costs, a low volume, high quality practice unfortunately doesn’t pay the bills.
    So I’ve taken on other jobs which initially provided additional revenue, but have now opened doors that will bridge me to retirement.
    One of the jobs is serving as Medical Director/Laboratory Director for two plasmapheresis centers in the Houston area. The training is paid & the commitment is 4 hours per week. The work is quite fascinating (supervising medical staff, determining donor suitability, reviewing adverse events, following FDA SOP’s, etc…). I’m really enjoying it & find the 4 hour weekly commitment is easy to handle with my practice.
    On the weekends, I travel to underserved rural hospitals in TX & KS (am also in the process of obtaining my NM license) to assist OB/GYN’s with deliveries, ED work & teach minimally invasive surgery.
    Both of these “extra jobs” contracted labor positions whereby I am paid by the hour. Medi malpractice insurance is covered, as well as travel expenses.
    Both of these jobs have so much potential once I decide to close my practice or semi-retire.
    Please let me know if you would like more information regarding the career decisions I’ve made and/or if you’re interested in either/both of these options.
    Best regards,
    Helen Rhodes MD

    • Heather Fork on April 5, 2018 at 3:43 am

      Thank you, Dr. Helen Rhodes! This is all such wonderful information. Sharing the details of your transition is so helpful, and I really appreciate your kind and enthusiastic words for Dr. Gabriel. Your story illustrates an important point in that when we decide we need and want change, it RARELY happens overnight. We often have to continue to reassess and morph what we are doing. We are used to finite endpoints, such as the classic career as a physician doing one thing, but I think we have a much better chance of a fulfilling and sustainable professional life when we have a “portfolio” career and do a variety of things, as you are doing. Congratulations to you on finding these interesting and diverse opportunities. It’s great to have this update. I am sure some folks will be interested to hear more about your work!

  2. Helane Fronek on April 4, 2018 at 11:01 pm

    Dear Dr. Gabriel,
    I admire your commitment to yourself in taking this step – congratulations! It takes courage to step away from the prescribed path that was laid out for all of us and forge your own path, but it is well worth it! You will find so much learning, personal growth, and excitement along the way, as you discover your next career. I’m happy to read that you have a 6/10 confidence that it will work out. And I understand the worry that you won’t get this decision right – after all, we made a “mistake” the first time around, right? Actually, each decision teaches us something important (sometimes what we don’t want) and we continue to learn with each decision we make. Whether your next decision leads to your perfect job isn’t as important as your continuing to work towards finding something fulfilling, that uses your gifts and inspires you. Happy to cheer you on!

    • Heather Fork on April 5, 2018 at 3:31 am

      We appreciate you Dr. Helane Fronek! It makes sense that you are a physician coach yourself. Your words ring very true about this process as not being just about finding a good next direction, but about our own personal growth and what we learn about ourselves on the journey. Thank you for taking the time to offer encouragement, it really means a lot. It is extra challenging to be a parent and primary bread-winner and trying to figure this all out. While we can’t lift these responsibilities for our physician colleagues like Dr. Gabriel, the kindness of others, like yourself, and those who have also commented, hopefully offer some comfort and ease the weight a bit.

  3. Rick on April 4, 2018 at 11:48 pm

    Wow… this guy sounds almost just like me.. Doubting clinical practice from the start and steadily ground into the dust by the degradation of medicine. Who knew it would be like this, indeed.. And I have gone through just what he has in practice style, location, military, civilian, employed, and solo owner. And honestly, lately, it all really sucks! But what else is there, really? And is it time to take the plunge? And who’s to say I won’t eff it up again? Talk about striking a chord! I wish you well, Dr. Gabriel. We’re on the same road even if it seems we’re travelling alone

    • Heather Fork on April 5, 2018 at 3:21 am

      Thank you Dr. Rick for reading and commenting! We really appreciate your supportive words and the sentiment that Dr. Gabriel is not alone in this process. It can feel very isolating, but if there is any silver lining to this epidemic burnout, it is the shift towards physicians creating their own communities and channels of support. We have typically been “lone wolves” but our common challenges and collective suffering are bringing us together. We will find solace and strength in each other, as well as real solutions. Stay connected Rick and let us know how we can help!

  4. SHO on April 8, 2018 at 11:37 pm

    I am so happy for Dr. Gabriel that he is working towards peace of mind.
    I too have made missteps and medicine is a second career for me so I really feel that my options are limited. As a primary care provider, I am burning out from direct patient care and corporate medicine as I have too have tried all practice iterations with the exception of the military. I am trying to find my way as well. So appreciative for the exchange of information as we can all learn from the experiences of others. This is especially true regarding other ways to supplement our income while we are working through it all. Just curious for those who have tried academia, what would you say would be the pro’s and con’s?

  5. Lulu on May 18, 2018 at 4:42 am

    Good evening one and all. I am delighted to read the post, and comments and can only wish Dr. Gabriel all the very best!. I, myself have been in my own private practice, then the military, and now in a group practice. As much as I love what I do as a pediatrician, I am slowly feeling like am a victim of a “body snatcher” daily. Thanks to the VA, I went back to school to obtain an Executive MBA, and am now looking into the (non-clinical) future with eagerness. I shall set up an appointment with you, Dr. Fork, soon.

    Thank you for this community. Its a great find.

    • Heather Fork on May 18, 2018 at 12:26 pm

      Thank you Dr. Lulu for your lovely comment. I will make sure Dr. Gabriel reads your kind words. Very much appreciated. Your term “body snatcher” is an apt expression. It is easy to lose ourselves, physically, mentally, emotionally in the process of caring for others in an overly demanding system. I look forward to speaking with you and seeing how I can be helpful. Heather

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