…Don’t worry about the competition. I don’t even watch other clinics in the area. And I never ever criticize or bad mouth a competitor (karma). If I’m obsessed with the competition, I am playing defense. I don’t think Tom Brady thinks about what other teams are doing, he just sticks with mission and goals. Same with Simone Biles. The true sports greats focus on besting themselves, not others.
The global health and wellness market is worth more than 1.5 trillion dollars. So many people are looking to improve their physical, mental, and emotional wellness. At the same time, so many people are needed to help provide these services. What does it take to create a highly successful career in the health and wellness industry?
In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Health and Wellness Industry” we are talking to health and wellness professionals who can share insights and stories from their experiences.
In this particular interview, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Heather Bartos, MD.
A board-certified OB-GYN, author, podcaster and everyday gal, Dr. Heather Bartos is a leading voice in the field of women’s health. She is also a US Navy Veteran, former Associate Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and is currently medical director of her “village for women’s health,” Be. Women’s Health & Wellness outside Dallas, Texas. Featured in publications from Glamour and Huffington Post to Reader’s Digest, Women’s Health and ABC News, Dr. Bartos loves talking all things women and sex on her podcast, The ME Spot.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you grew up?
Of course! I decided to be a doctor when I was 28. Previously, I had worked in advertising and public relations — caring for some big-name country singers and representing a bunch of great companies. After I got dumped by my boyfriend and my coveted internship in the same week, I moved back home and started working for the world-renowned Texas Medical Center. I had always been interested in health, but I realized I wanted more investment into the space. So, I went to medical school. I was the oldest woman in my medical school class, despite knowing men in the same class that were well into their 40s. And then, I realized I thought differently than a lot of medical professionals. I thought that was a bad thing, until I began to understand it was a great strength. Every bump in my road was a lesson, and every difference I learned to celebrate.
Was there a particular person or event that inspired you to live a wellness-focused lifestyle? Can you tell us about your main motivation to go all in?
It was less a particular person, but rather a particular disease. I was a doctor, charged with treating others around me, but depleted myself so much that eventually I wound up in the hospital for week with pneumonia from no discernible cause. I was checked for everything from Legionnaire’s Disease to TB to MRSA. No answers. This was all while nursing my second baby and asked myself: “What the f*ck am I doing here?! I’ve gotta change this.” It was my body, telling me I was on the wrong course.
Most people with a wellbeing centered lifestyle have a “go-to” activity, exercise, beverage, or food that is part of their routine. What is yours and can you tell us how it helps you?
I love variety. I get bored by a simple routine (I wish that was me, but at this point on my wellness journey, it’s all about knowing myself). I often switch up my diets seasonally, I love Pilates (and am a certified teacher) but when I feel the need, I switch to modern dance or walking. I love something new — it gets my dopamine rush!
To live a wellness-focused life is one thing, but how did it become your career? How did it all start?
As a doctor, you might think I was already in a wellness-focused life, but that’s not true. That old phrase, physician heal thyself? I noticed the doctors around me loved to brag about their long hours, their wine sprees, it was almost an old-school competition about who had it the worst! I tried to keep up with others because it was “our culture.” Sleeping, taking breaks…all of that was implied as a sign of weakness in the medical field. After leaving the military, I went into corporate medicine (an oxymoron I believe) and worked myself nearly to death. First, I wanted to feel better myself, so I researched “food as medicine” and other natural modalities. It was a missing piece in my practice. And I realized I love sleep, and I know I need a good 8–9 hours per night.
Can you share a story about the biggest challenges you faced when you were first starting? How did you resolve that? What are the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
Fear. I am the breadwinner of our family, and I was so afraid I had made a decision that would negatively impact our future. I was horrified to think patients wouldn’t show up, wouldn’t follow us from the corporate office. I had little kids who needed shoes! I now understand that fear is a sign you are doing something brave. So, when I get a little uncomfortable with a decision, I realize it’s a sign I’m taking a new step.
Can you share with us how the work you are doing is helping to make a bigger impact in the world? Can you share a story that illustrates that?
I want to help women outside of the 10–15-minute appointments, cut through the bullshit they’ve been fed by society and culture, and set themselves free to do and be who they want to be. And I want to help women uncover what healthy truly means to them, and learn to look at themselves as whole people, not just a set of symptoms and checkups. Because really — you can lose the weight, manage your symptoms, and get yourself into down dog every week and still be as unhappy as you were when you started.
THAT’S WHY OUR MINDSET — AND THE WAY WE CHOOSE TO SHIFT IT — IS THE REAL MEDICINE!
When we start to think beyond symptoms, examine our thoughts, beliefs, physical health, sexuality, and life circumstances… profound changes happen. We put ourselves back in the driver’s seat of our lives, stop comparing ourselves to others, and become the healthiest, happiest version of ourselves — regardless of weight, diagnosis, or ability to do a headstand.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
My favorite new project is my podcast “The ME Spot.” It’s a no-holds barred sassy show that answers the thousands of questions I’ve heard over the years on everything from shame to squirting, resilience to orgasm and so much more. All set up in a BFF style, humorous take on our lives. I love breaking through barriers and empowering women with edutainment! It’s on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and pretty much all the podcasting apps.
I still see patients day-to-day, still deliver babies. It keeps me grounded. But I want to reach more women that don’t have access to the kind of healthcare I offer.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Humility. As my high school drama teacher told me, no one is irreplaceable. Kind of brutal to hear at 15, but it has stuck with me. I remember those who have stuck by me, who have left me and who helped me grow. And I understand I didn’t get here alone.
- Futuristic. It’s almost like real estate — where is the next hot area to live? What services are missing from your industry? Where is your industry going? What can you borrow from other industries that hasn’t been done in yours (a la Steve Jobs) but also…
- The ability to pivot (ahem, COVID). Never stagnate. And prepare to pivot every day. When the pandemic hit, we had to quickly move to providing telehealth services to our patients. We didn’t wait for weeks to do this, but also immediately. Pivoting is a high-level skill and one that I’ve gotten better at over the years. It’s quickly assessing the situation and making a business-appropriate accommodation.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. Wellness is an incredibly broad topic. How would you define the term “Wellness”? Can you explain what you mean?
Wellness is more than a pap smear or a cholesterol check. It’s also more than kale (which admittedly I don’t like) and downward dog. Do we take care of all plants the same way? No! Each plant comes with its own set of instructions. If I treat a Ficus like a cactus, it won’t do well, no matter how “well” I think I’m treating it. It’s about finding what works for YOU.
As an expert, this might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Can you please share a few reasons with our readers about why focusing on our wellness should be a priority in our lives?
Life is short, we hear that all the time, but for a lot of us, it can also be incredibly long. The journey is the key and we want to be ready for wherever the journey takes us…. That’s what wellness does. Look at the older women in our culture — they are still killing it! Working, loving, and a lot of that stems from wellness (Tina Turner, Angela Lansbury, Helen Mirren, Angela Bassett to name just a few!). In our current culture structure, a lot of us think we hand it in when we turn 40, 50, 60, but those women above prove otherwise! We take care of our pets, our kids, our landscaping, and our cars — so how do we best take care of ourselves? I had a patient who kept trying to do wellness that wasn’t her, she hated yoga. She couldn’t make a smoothie to save her life. She eventually figured out her perfect wellness activity? Quilting. It calmed her mind, worked on her hand-eye coordination and it inspired her to find other ways to take better care with her food, activity, and sex.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increasingly growing understanding of the necessity for companies to be mindful of the wellness of their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, can you share steps or initiatives that companies have taken to help improve or optimize their employees’ mental and physical wellness?
It’s corny but one of the things I love to do for my employees is remind them about the bigger things: kindness, gratitude, projecting love. Especially for healthcare (but certainly for all industries), we are emotionally fatigued. People are angry, and I’ve never seen more people go from 0 to awful so fast. I can’t fix the world’s exhaustion right now, but I remind my co-workers to take a breath, remember we are all hurting in this, and say something kind to someone, smile, show gratitude. These really are underutilized superpowers!
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Health and Wellness Industry”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
- Read the room. You’ll find out very quickly what’s not working and aligned with your mission. I once had a Qui Gong teacher in our office that was surprisingly closed-minded. She embarrassed some patients and was overall difficult to work with. So, despite feeling that Qui Gong was a great practice to offer, I read the room and decided she didn’t align with what we wanted.
- But think outside the box. If something’s not working…how can we make it work? And I rely on suggestions from everyone in every level of service from office. Everyone can make a great suggestion. What’s something you can borrow from another industry that might be genius (and unexplored) in yours?
- Do good work and people will notice. Someone once told me “Don’t focus on the numbers,” just do good work and it will spread. If I focus on what my numbers are, I’m no longer aligned with my mission, which is to educate women in wellness.
- Don’t worry about the competition. I don’t even watch other clinics in the area. And I never ever criticize or bad mouth a competitor (karma). If I’m obsessed with the competition, I am playing defense. I don’t think Tom Brady thinks about what other teams are doing, he just sticks with mission and goals. Same with Simone Biles. The true sports greats focus on besting themselves, not others.
- Never freak out. When I had patients or staff leave, I used to freak out. What if they hate me? Or think I’m stupid? I realized that freaking out was stifling my mission. I knew what I wanted to offer. What I realized about these people is that if they don’t work with me, that’s on them. Stay true to yourself, and freaking out also increases cortisol, which is never healthy 😉
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would promote the most wellness to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Oh wow, I’m already working on it! The ME Spot Movement will empower women sexually — and that leads to empowerment in all other areas of our lives. It’s not about “intercourse,” but finding our inner sexy — which is our confidence, our resilience, and our life force. We pass this down through the generations and watch out — we are going repair the universe’s past DNA of shame, regret, and other damaging emotions. And our health and wellness will follow! (The first step is The ME Spot Podcast and The ME Spot Community)
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Actress Geena Davis is doing amazing things with her Institute on Gender in the Media — especially for gender, race, LGBTQ+, disability, age, and body size and how these are depicted in the media. I would love to discuss her why, her research and mission. Really just pick her brain! She’s pivoted her career brilliantly.
Another person is former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss (now with Black Swan) — this man could teach us all about how to communicate with each other! Great communication should be taught at a very early age. Both of y’all can call me up for a brunch date, I will clear my schedule!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Stop by TheMESpotPodcast.com or say “Hayyy!” on Instagram/Facebook at @DrHeatherBartos and TheMESpot on TikTok.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!