Being a doctor is what you do, not who you are — This one is a tough one because when you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, at least 12 years in training, and are surrounded with all the “propaganda” around what it is to “be a physician” it seeps into the deepest recesses of the unconscious. However, tying my identity to “I am physician” proved to be dangerous very early on in my career as I shared earlier. Part of why so many doctors are committing suicide is because they are tied to the identity of being a doctor. That “identity” leads to a certain set of behaviors that burn us out. Ultimately, we feel trapped especially if you feel like there is no other “skill” that you have (after all you spent half your life learning this one). So, being a physician… it’s a profession, not an identity.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Maiysha Clairborne, an integrative family physician, and the founder of Stress Free Mom MD, a physician consulting, coaching and training company. With over 14 years of clinical experience, Dr. Clairborne is passionate about changing the lives her colleagues, by being an advocate for burned out physicians worldwide. Dr. Clairborne’s training journey began at Emory University completing her BA in Psychology, her MD at Morehouse School of Medicine, her Family Medicine Residency at Florida Hospital in Orlando, FL.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path as a doctor or healer?
My path to becoming a doctor was not as poignant as one might think. I decided in 8th grade that I wanted to be a doctor. I remember clearly making the choice, however it wasn’t based on a specific event. It actually came out of a college writing assignment that we were doing requesting information on application for admission. I came across Emory University School of Medicine, and thought “Hmmm. Medicine, I think I’d like that.” I remember thinking “I love taking care of people and I’m good at it”…and that was that. My path never strayed… and I do not regret that decision one bit.
How have your personal challenges informed your career path?
I experienced burnout TWICE in my career. It almost took my life. The first time I was in residency, and I realized that the path I was walking was not one I loved anymore. I remember specifically feeling trapped… like “I can’t turn back now…I’ve spent too much time and money.” That night I almost ended my life. I was fortunate to have enough pause to pick up the phone. For me that night defined my entire career. It helped me realize that if I were to survive and thrive in my career, I would have to create by my own design. I went on to focus on integrative medicine, open my own private practice and successfully run it for 10 years before selling it and turning my focus to helping to heal other physicians who were suffering the same way I had that very dark day. That one night is what led me to then transition out of clinical medicine and start my own company helping physicians recover from burnout and create their ideal career so they can thrive and be happy and fulfilled as doctors and healers.
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a Doctor”
1. Making it out of residency doesn’t imply freedom or wealth. Once you get out of your residency training you think you are free from the tyranny of being told what to do. You think you will now make more money, and have a great lifestyle. The truth is the transition from trainee (resident) to practicing physician is actually harder these days. Why? Because you are responsible for setting your own boundaries in an industry that expects you to keep working like you are a resident. And you are told what to do by completely different people; people like hospital CEO’s, medical directors heads, insurance companies. Furthermore, the physicians’ salaries in primary care (and even some specialties) is steadily decreasing. So, no. Becoming a doctor does not automatically lead to wealth or freedom. Learned that the hard way.
2. Myth: “It’s a secure profession” — I wish someone had told me that being a doctor is no more secure than any other corporate job prone to restructuring and layoffs. Hospitals are looking for who will work the hardest for the least pay. If you are a seasoned doctor who recognizes your worth, AND stands firm in values beyond the office doors, you may end up out of the door.
3. Invest early — I wish I was told that as a doctor I should still invest early. Being a mid-career doc (who has, for the most part, left clinical medicine), I am still ridden with student loans. While that is the most of my debt, I can imagine what it would be like if I had invested when I was in residency or even in medical school. Perhaps I’d be debt free and have multiple streams of income. I feel like it’s never too late (and I’m making headway), but I know I’ve left millions on the table by not investing back when I was just out of school.
4. Build your career around your life — not the other way around. This one is so close to my heart, that I now lecture med students and residents (and even early career physicians) on this topic. I spent most of my adult life focused on my career. As a result, I had many failed relationships and didn’t have my first child until 39. I don’t regret a thing, however, I know that if I had put more energy into having a life outside of medicine and building my career around having a great lifestyle, I might have been able to do more… travel more, spend more time with family, and even have a couple more kiddos.
5. Being a doctor is what you do, not who you are — This one is a tough one because when you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, at least 12 years in training, and are surrounded with all the “propaganda” around what it is to “be a physician” it seeps into the deepest recesses of the unconscious. However, tying my identity to “I am physician” proved to be dangerous very early on in my career as I shared earlier. Part of why so many doctors are committing suicide is because they are tied to the identity of being a doctor. That “identity” leads to a certain set of behaviors that burn us out. Ultimately, we feel trapped especially if you feel like there is no other “skill” that you have (after all you spent half your life learning this one). So, being a physician… it’s a profession, not an identity.
Social media and reality TV create a venue for people to share their personal stories. Do you think more transparency about your personal story can help or harm your field of work? Can you explain?
For the independent business owner/entrepreneur, it can benefit their business because patients want to see that we are human. However,I think we are still in a time in our industry where if you are employed, it definitely hurts your work.
The mindset of doctors is still one of “vulnerability is weakness”. When large health organizations get wind of it’s employees exposing themselves, they view it as a threat.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant to your life?
“There are three things that come not back. The spent arrow, the spoken word, and the lost opportunity” ~Unknown
- This quote speaks to me on so many levels, but most of all what it says to me is that the words that I speak are so powerful and I have a responsibility to use them to empower, and any opportunity that is lost is of my own doing. So, I not only take responsibility for my words, but for the opportunities that come to walk my path… walk my truth.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would love to see physicians mobilize and start the movement toward physician co-ops. I feel like that would take medicine out of the hands of insurance and corporate executives and put it back in the hands of physicians (where it belongs) allowing doctors to do what they most love…being doctors.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
- FBPages: /DrMaiysha & /Stressfreemommd
- IG: @TheStressFreeMomMD
- Twitter @StressFreeMomMD
- LinkedIN — in/StressFreeMomMD
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!