How do you do with acknowledgment and gratitude?


Last week I was backing out of my garage, heading for the gym.

I was almost to the end of the driveway when it struck me-

This might be the last time I’d see Josh.

I hit the brakes.

Josh is the uber charismatic guy who works the front desk at Gold’s gym.

He is hands down the best person they’ve ever had in this role in the 15 years I’ve been going there. He greets each person coming in with unbridled enthusiasm.

He knows everyone’s name.

When I come in he does his best Cheers greeting, belting out,


He’s always straightening things up, always busy, always cheerful.

Well, not surprisingly, he was offered a promotion to go to a newer gym where he could be a manager. There goes our Josh.

He hadn’t even been at my Gold’s gym very long, but we all loved him.

Could today be his last day?

I wanted to do something for him, to thank him, to acknowledge him for being so awesome. I’d already told him how great he is and told his supervisor, but I wanted to do something more.

I ran back into my house, wrapped a little gift for him, wrote a card and got back in my Subaru.

When I entered through the front door of the gym, I heard the familiar,


There was the ever-exuberant Josh, wearing his Gold’s gym shirt, smiling his big smile. You couldn’t tell he’d been there since 4 am.

I handed him the little gift and my card.

He opened both up, smiled even more broadly, looking both surprised and happy.

It was really fun to see his friendly face light up. I wanted him to know how much I appreciated him, that he goes above and beyond.

He gave me his sincere thanks and appreciation.

Josh is great at his job, and he also knows it. But he’s not arrogant. He just knows the truth of himself and enjoys expressing the gifts of his personality and drive.

He gave me the gift of receiving my acknowledgment and gratitude with joy and acceptance.

He could have said something dismissive, like, “You didn’t have to do that Heather,” or, “They’ll find someone good to replace me.”  Or he could have put the gift and card aside and acted busy.

I’m sure you’ve had the experience of complimenting someone or expressing gratitude, and the person deflects it.

They may say something self-deprecating, find someone else to shift the praise onto, or just smile awkwardly at you.

I’m guilty of these things.

You may have been brought up to feel that it is arrogant or egotistical to accept direct praise or acknowledgment. It’s not “being humble.”

I’ve seen this not infrequently when I have clients who are leaving their practices or changing jobs. They don’t know what to do with the outpouring of love and gratitude from their patients.

These excellent doctors tell me they just want to get this part over with.

They say they’re not comfortable with the patients expressing how they feel about them.

As a physician, you touch people deeply. You change their lives in profound ways.

You have likely saved lives.

You create the space for people to be seen and heard in very intimate ways. This is a special relationship and when patients want to say what you mean to them, it’s a reflection of what you’ve given them.

It is a reflection of you and your gifts.

If they’re upset or angry you’re leaving, likely you have really helped them. You may be the first doctor they felt truly cared for them.

You may not be saying good-bye to patients now or anytime soon, but if you feel you’d like to be better at accepting acknowledgment and gratitude from others in genearl,  I have a few steps to try – maybe today on Thanksgiving or another time…

Perhaps someone is…..

Complimenting you on how delicious your stuffing is

Commenting on how good you look in your holiday outfit

Expressing gratitude that you diffused a tense situation

Thanking you for seeing them in the hospital on a holiday

Acknowledging how much you do for the family, or

Telling you how much they mean to you

Step 1 – Breathe
Step 2 – Make eye contact with the person who is speaking to you
Step 3 – Listen fully to what he or she is saying
Step 4 – Avoid saying something deflective or dismissive
Step 5 – Let the words sink in, feel their impact
Step 6 – Breathe
Step 7 – Trust that if you are simply present, you will know what to do or say, and it will be genuine.

We can always get better at giving and receiving gratitude and acknowledgment.

However, my impression is that more of us need help on the receiving end than in the giving.

I think it becomes easier to receive acknowledgment and appreciation the more we’re willing to accept who we are and honor our gifts and the things that make us unique.

It’s not arrogant to appreciate who you are and all the good that you do.

You were given the gifts that you have, and the more you honor them, the more they expand, and the more they touch others.

Receiving graciously the gratitude of others returns it in kind, creating a resonant connection that empowers and enlivens each person.

I can’t end this post without telling you how incredibly grateful I am to each and every one of you.

Since I started The Doctor’s Crossing ten years ago, there has never been a single day when I ever wanted to be doing anything else, and this is because of you.

You inspire me every day to be here for you. It is truly a joy. Thank you for all that you do and all that you are. I tell people unashamedly that I love my clients and readers and that’s the truth.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Many joys and blessings to you.











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  1. Jane Zendarski on November 28, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    Thank you for another great post

    • Heather Fork on November 28, 2019 at 7:27 pm

      You are always so welcome Jane. Thank you for being such a loyal reader and supporter.

  2. Jane Zendarski on November 28, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    The post made me think of my patients. One gave me an embroidered framed picture of boathouse row because she knew I liked to row. Another gave me an Apple Watch for advice I gave him. He was no longer my patient since I had moved. I called his wife on the watch when I got it to thank them.

    • Heather Fork on November 28, 2019 at 7:32 pm

      Jane! I love that you shared these memories of special gifts your grateful patients have given you. The gifts they gave you are lovely and an obvious reflection of how they felt about you and your care. I know the kind of person you are and I can understand why patients would feel moved by your care to express their appreciation in tangible ways like the embroidered picture and the Apple Watch. Thank you for your contribution. I’d love to hear from anyone else the different ways patients have expressed their gratitude.

  3. Sue Zimmermann on November 28, 2019 at 8:17 pm

    Heather – I am thankful for you and all the other people who have encouraged and supported me in my life. Thank you for reminding me about my patients – my daughter and I were decorating our Christmas tree today, and I found a beautiful handmade ornament that a patient had given me a long time ago. I don’t remember her name, but I remember her and her thoughtfulness. You’re right, sometimes it’s hard to accept and acknowledge gratitude from others, but it’s the best gift we can give in return. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Sue

    • Heather Fork on November 28, 2019 at 8:32 pm

      Sue, you are so very welcome. It is a true honor to know you and have shared in your career journey. I learn so much for seeing how you and other remarkable physicians find new and rewarding ways to still use your skills and give to others.

      I love your story of finding this beautiful ornament that your patient had given you. What a sweet reminder of your connection with her. This discussion reminds me of some antique cookbooks that a dear patient ( now deceased) gave me a long time ago. He wrote a beautiful inscription inside with his lovely handwriting. We are indeed lucky to be able to have these special relationships. Thank you for your reply!

  4. Gail Miller on December 6, 2019 at 4:53 am

    Wow! this really hit home. Years of being taught to be humble and accepting praise is a bad thing – that’s hard to break but important to do so. This was a great reminder of how important it is to accept acknowledgement. Thank you Heather.

    • Heather Fork on December 6, 2019 at 12:58 pm

      Gail! I’m so glad this resonated with you. I feel passionately about this topic as there is so much “brainwashing” people get that keeps them from just enjoying their gifs and being who they are! You are right, it can be hard to “deprogram” oneself but it ends up feeling better and working better to own the truth of you so have at it!! Take it in and feel the joy!

  5. Joshua Northern on December 6, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    HEATHER! It has been a pleasure seeing you every day. I looked forward to seeing you and finding out how things are going in your world. I truly appreciated the coffee cup and the kind words on the card., it was very thoughtful and made my day. I hope we will be able to keep in touch. Thank you again, Joshua Northern

    • Heather Fork on December 6, 2019 at 1:01 pm

      JOSH! You made me laugh, as you so often do! I’m glad you have a little more time at the gym – that it wasn’t your last day. You are most welcome. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on your blog! I am honored. Please keep in touch and let us all know how you are doing as you move into your new job and other pursuits. You rock!

Leave a Comment


"Heather’s approach was great! She would listen to me and helped me appreciate who I am."

I remember when she said ‘do your resume before our next meeting’, I was about to push back but she gently nudged me along and I’m glad I did exactly what she wanted me to do. We also did interview prep via Zoom and I was offered a great job in UM. She has continued to follow up even after I was offered this job, helping me with pointers about negotiating. I will totally recommend the Doctors Crossing and Heather to anyone feeling stuck like me and looking for a great coach! Thank you Heather!

- Modupe Oladeinde, MD

Family Medicine
Tim O

The coaching I have had with you has been life changing."

You helped me find the courage to seek out leadership positions and become a medical director as well as a physician advisor. I am grateful we crossed paths and am a different person because of it. You have inspired me to "believe" in spite of my inner skeptic. I consider you one of my most important mentors and am proud to also call you a friend. This says a lot given the apprehension I felt when I took a chance with our first coaching session. Even though I have already made a successful transition, I still value your ongoing mentorship and can enthusiastically attest that the value of your services is tremendous!

- Tim Owolabi, MD

Family Medicine
Lynette Charity

“I was at a crossroads in my medical career. I asked myself, "Do I stay or do I go?" 

I met Heather at the SEAK conference. She and I revisited this question.  Did I want to quit being medicine completely? She helped me to identify my needs, wants, and my vision for my FUTURE, not just in medicine, but in life!!!

She was able to listen to my "ramblings" about becoming a stand-up comic, lounge singer and voice-over actor and translate them into action steps.  I chose to become a composite of all of these. Now I am a more confident, healthier, happier person. I credit this in its entirety to the tutelage I have received and continue to receive from Heather.  She cares. She listens. She was there for ME.  She will be there for YOU!

- Lynette Charity, MD

Gail Miller

“I am forever grateful to Heather for helping me to recognize, I am more than just my M.D." 

Heather helped me understand that I am more than just a doctor and that my experiences in clinical medicine are valuable in so many arenas.  As a result I realized that there are other ways to use my background, still be able to help people and continue to challenge myself and grow.  To that end I discovered coaching - specifically health coaching.  I am on my journey becoming a health coach and truly loving it!

- Gail Miller, MD

OB/Gyn physician

“Thank you, Heather, for helping me transform my career, my faith and my life."

What started out as an initial thirty-minute consultation call turned into an amazing four-year journey that transformed my life, personally, spiritually and professionally. 

Heather helped me to discover my doing so, I discovered I still had a calling for medicine but it now came from a place of truth... wife and I are opening our first concierge medicine clinic in a community we love. I’m actually excited to have the opportunity to practice medicine the way I believe it’s meant to be, with a focus on the doctor-patient relationship and an emphasis on faith. I know if I had not reached out to Dr. Fork, my life would not be where it is at today.

- Steve Lapke, MD

Papillion, NE
Sue Zimmermann

“Heather gave me the confidence to create a new livelihood by following my heart."

She is incredibly knowledgeable about the range of careers available to physicians and provided me with advice and connections which I would not have found on my own.  From the start she encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and try different things.  I was laid off unexpectedly in early 2017, and Heather gave me the confidence to create a new livelihood by following my heart and making decisions based on trust, not fear.  Now I am enjoying working part-time in a clinical setting in addition to teaching and writing.

- Sue Zimmermann, MD

Orthopedic Surgeon
Devki Patel

After months of struggling to find a non-clinical career that matched my values and passion, I stumbled upon Heather's website which truly changed my life."

Heather's insightful and personalized approach to career coaching made me think outside the box since she took the time to evaluate my personality, values, interests, and preferred lifestyle.

Through her encouragement, practical advice, and professional connections, I was able to find a non-clinical position at a state Medicaid agency that aligned with my passion for population health and serving low-income communities. In addition to her coaching sessions, Heather has built a community of like-minded physicians through her blog, and I feel honored to recommend her to friends and colleagues who seek to make positive changes in their professional and personal lives.

- Devki Patel, MD

Jay Macregor

Working with Heather ultimately helped me leave my job in corporate healthcare and find a path that was much more fulfilling."

My career was going reasonably well but I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling I could do better; or at least find a better long-term career fit.  

I was able to find a surgery job that better aligned with my goals and professional interests.  Additionally, Heather helped me start a consulting business which has allowed me to pursue a true passion: helping medical students, residents, and attendings surgeons navigate the challenges of high-stakes standardized exams.    

If you are reading this as a “Type A” surgeon who doesn’t think coaching is for you, I would encourage you to give Heather a shot.  I’m very glad I did!

- Jay MacGregor, MD

Colorectal Surgeon

“I gained the confidence in myself to develop an action plan that blended the best parts of my experiences and interests into a cohesive career." 

Through our work, I learned to trust myself to make good decisions for my own future – something I hadn’t realized I was struggling with because as an emergency physician, I make life-changing decisions with patients every day. 

By feeding my creativity and interests in other realms of my professional life, I’ve found renewed compassion for my patients and myself, making every shift an opportunity to actually care for people. Thank you Heather. I really couldn’t have made these changes without your help!

- Liz McMurtry, DO

Emergency Medicine Physician

The simple truth is - Heather Fork totally helped me change my life."

I never would have had the courage to make the changes I’ve made without her unwavering support, wealth of knowledge and commitment. 

When I first started working with Heather, I was downtrodden...I’d been practicing medicine for 20+ years and yet had never quite found my place.  During the first year I worked with Heather, I left the practice I’d been working at, and recreated an entirely new professional purpose.

I’m now an executive and leadership coach, a university professor, and a Brené Brown Daring Way facilitator, and I have never looked back.  I love what I am doing more than at any other time in my professional life and I credit Heather with seeing in me what I was never able to see in myself, until now.

Don’t hesitate, don’t doubt yourself, schedule your time with Heather as soon as possible- she can help you reconnect to your purpose and reinvent your life.

- Amie Langbein, DO

Family Physician
KB Karen Barnard Photo

"After 30 years in academic medicine, I wanted a career change but had no idea where to start. Medicine was all I knew."

I signed up for coaching with Heather and it transformed my life. She helped me get clear on what I wanted my life to look like. We reviewed my skills, values, and strengths. She instilled hope in me that change IS possible after 50 years! 

The outcome is that I have created a life I love! I practice endocrinology part-time and own a life coaching business! Coaching with Heather is one of the best investments I have made in my life. 

- Karen Barnard, MBBCh, MPH

Endocrinologist and Life Coach

"Heather was my source of hope during a time when I felt stuck and confused. She gave me the permission and confidence to reach higher than I believed I could."

After graduating from residency and starting a family, I lost sight of why I became a physician. I struggled to convince myself to stay in a career that was clearly the wrong fit for me and my family. My anxiety about work was at an all-time high when I reached out to Heather. She provided something that my mentors, friends, and family could not – rather than just offering career advice, she changed the way I think about my life so that I could understand how my career would fit into it. I realized I wasn’t ready to give up on medicine and eventually found a job in academic medicine. I finally feel that excitement for medicine that I used to feel when I was in training. More importantly, I feel like I can be the role model to my young daughter who may one day also face similar challenges between career and family. Thank you, Heather, for all your kindness, support, and skillful coaching! The experience was life-changing!

- Yuri Shindo, MD

Internal Medicine Physician
Camille Gardner-Beasley

"As a Physician, your personal and even professional needs are often overlooked. I learned how to prioritize my career goals by working with Dr. Heather Fork."

She taught me how to put into practice what I knew in theory, that taking care of myself was a priority. I learned to give myself permission to make the career choices that would give me the work-life balance I desperately craved and needed. The process of confronting fears and insecurities was a bit scary, but well worth it in the end. I am now a happier version of myself with a non-clinical job that I truly enjoy!

- Camille Gardner-Beasley, MD

Family Medicine
Anna testimonial

"After 10 years in outpatient family medicine I felt stuck and knew I needed a change but I didn’t know where to begin. Thankfully I found Heather and she guided me every step of the way."

She helped me carefully assess my interests, strengths and passions while also providing me with constructive changes to implement in my job search and resume. With Heather’s help, I just landed a fully remote UM position and I am also exploring coaching as well. Now I feel like the possibilities are endless and I’m excited for this next chapter in the nonclinical world! Thank you Heather for changing my life for the better.

- Ana Jacobellis, DO


"I'm truly thankful to have had the opportunity to be coached by Heather, she is not only a resourceful mentor but a wise and supportive friend. I'm honored to recommend Heather to all my friends and colleagues."

I had been a practicing Internist for 20 years when I reached a point when I needed to make a serious change in my career path. While I enjoyed seeing patients, I was not satisfied with my life-work balance. My job was taking me away from my family and left me little time and energy to do other things that are important and meaningful to me. I came across Dr. Fork's podcast; The Doctor's Crossing Carpe Diem Podcast, it is such an informative and enjoyable podcast for any physician who wants to do more with their career and life in general. Then I had the pleasure to get career coaching from Heather, it was truly an amazing experience. Heather has broad knowledge of all the different career paths that are available for physicians, she is so insightful and very easy to talk to. She helped me clarify my goals, examine my own mindset and definition of success. Together we developed a clear plan and actionable steps to reach these goals. I eventually made a career transition to a remote non-clinical position that allows me to do meaningful work which aligns with my personal and professional goals and priorities.

- Abbey Awad, MD

Internal Medicine