For my series on strong female leaders, I have the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Kendra Segura.
Dr. Kendra Segura is an obstetric/gynecologist practicing in Southern California. She completed her residency in Rochester, New York. She also has a Masters of Public Health from Loma Linda University in Southern California. She has worked for the Los Angeles county health department, where she performed disease surveillance and health education.
Dr. Kendra is also a co-author of the amazon best seller “The Chronicles of Women in White Coats,” in which she writes about her decision to study medicine, a decision that came later for her than for most doctors. Through her writing, she hopes to inspire the next generation of “women in white coats” to pursue their goals and talents.
Dr. Kendra has devoted her time and her heart to helping women both inside and outside of her practice, earning herself the nickname “Your OB/GYN Next Door.” In order to help inform those she cannot see in person, Dr. Kendra reaches out through various forms of media to provide OB/GYN information and resources. She leads women to take control of their health by becoming informed and empowered. Dr. Kendra is all things real, relatable, and authentic, characteristics she brings into medicine where others are not.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In terms of a career, my first love was tennis. I was pretty good at it. I played college tennis with a scholarship. But due to injuries and health issues, I never achieved the level that I wanted. I next entered a drifting kind of phase, where – through the grace of God and the kind helpfulness of friends smarter than me – I still came out with an M.P.H., which netted me a short career in epidemiology. But the hole tennis had left in my heart could not be easily filled by anything else, and it rendered in me a wanderlust of sorts. I wandered away from epidemiology and onto medicine after one of my co-workers left their post at the Los Angeles public health department to attend medical school. It was through this particular colleague that I learned about options, such as Caribbean medical schools, that were more suited to people trying to enter medicine later in life. To the surprise and disbelief of my friends and family, I announced out of the blue one day that I planned to leave my comfortable and stable career in public health and attend medical school in the Caribbean. To my own surprise, I got accepted, and the rest, as the cliche goes, is history. I slowly filled the hole in my heart, bit by bit, through the long months of arduous but rewarding study. And when I found my calling in the medical specialty of Ob/Gyn, the hole in my heart hardly ached any more. There will always be a tiny crack in my heart where tennis used to be, but at least the wanderlust has disappeared.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took of that story?
Can’t decide what’s funniest or most interesting, but something that often pops in my mind is an office visit I had with a patient early in my career. Right from the start I noticed something sticking out of her mouth, but I didn’t say anything. I was worried about offending, and as a physician just starting her career, I was overly cautious about being professional. I spent almost the whole visit trying hard to focus on the work at hand, and not at whatever string-like item seemed to be sticking out from her mouth. Finally, near the end, I couldn’t help it any more, and I asked her, “Is that a piece of floss sticking out of your mouth?” She replied in the affirmative.
Apparently, having a piece of floss in her mouth was her peculiar way of calming any anxieties. Anytime she expected to go into an anxiety-provoking situation (such as getting a speculum exam), she would go armed with a piece of floss in her mouth. She was matter of fact about it, and I felt relief and a sense of honor when I saw how comfortable she looked telling me that peculiar piece of information. I learned to, from then on, always address any elephants in the room right away, as it can serve as a distraction otherwise and hinder care. Second, patients are comfortable telling their doctors almost anything, and it is a great honor and privilege to be on the receiving end of peculiar personal information. As long as you care about them, patients are generally not offended by any question you ask them. So now I ask away in a caring manner.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I just joined L.E.N.D. (Let’s End Neonatal Deaths) as a board member. L.E.N.D. is an advocacy group that strives for equal opportunities for all mothers to receive good prenatal care, as well as to provide general information to the public regarding pregnancy and reproductive care, especially to populations who have traditionally been underserved. The end goal is to lower the mortality rate of newborns and their mothers. I’m also working on a YouTube project with my Married to Medicine co-star Dr. Britten Cole called the Daily Dose. In it we discuss today’s topics, giving our opinions – both medical and personal- on various relevant pieces of news. Both projects are in line with my mission to educate and empower women from all walks of life, so that they may be in charge of their own health.
With burnout being so rapid in your industry, what self-care or wellness routines do you do and how have they helped you?
I rely heavily on my friends and family for my mental health, along with my faith. My relationship with God is the bedrock of my sanity, and my husband and baby boy are two of His most precious gifts. I make sure I take time to renew my faith daily, and to spend at least a moment with my husband and son every day. We have a rule in my house that we always eat dinner together, no matter how late we might come back home from work. Sometimes it ends up being just a quick bite together right before bed, especially when one person already snacked on something while waiting for the other to return home. But, it is crucial that we break bread together at least once a day. Having said all that, ‘me time’ is also extremely important, and I’m fortunate enough to have a team-player husband who lets me take my baths, or sip my wine, or go down a YouTube rabbit hole when the week has been too long. I return the favor when he’s down and I’m up.
If you could go back in time what advice would you give to your younger self and why?
Keep going. It gets better. Whatever you think is the end of the world when you’re younger ends up just being a good story when you gain wrinkles and perspective. And also through the years come opportunities you never even could have imagined. Just keep going.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mother. Seems like everybody and their mother mention their mother as inspiration. Probably true for most people. Definitely true for me. My mother’s endless expectations for me can be annoying, but they have been crucial to my success. Her expectations have allowed me to never be complacent. Her all-in style of support has also been instrumental. When I first uttered the insane notion of entering medicine mid-career, without the usual years of preparation and childhood aspirations, my mother was the loudest voice against it. But when she saw that I was completely serious about it, she became my most intimate and steadfast supporter, providing not only whatever little money she could spare, but also her time and energy, helping me plan all the little details on how to be successful. My mother never even completed high school, but her uncommonly common sense and practical intelligence helped me navigate the esoteric world of medicine. She knew (and still knows) things about me that even I wasn’t aware of myself, and so she was able to do things for me, like pack the goodies from home that would be most comforting, when I was studying into the wee hours on that lonely Caribbean island.
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