Pick a career to be something you LOVE! If you don’t love it, the chances of being successful narrow significantly. One of my sisters told me that as a little girl she always loved animals and had wanted to be a veterinarian. Halfway through her career in marketing, she gave it up and became a veterinarian’s assistant. She is much happier now.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marilyn Pink.
Marilyn Pink, PhD, MBA, and PT is the executive director of the Atlanta-based nonprofit TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation and assumed that role in 2019. TurningPoint’s mission is to improve the quality of life for patients with breast cancer by providing, promoting and advocating specialized and evidence-based rehabilitation. Most recently Pink served as CEO of Educata.com, where she strategically led, developed and launched a global online education company for clinicians in more than 100 countries. She also led two other companies in the healthcare space, including FIT-HITS and HealthCare Research and Management.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
In 1992, a group of 12 men from another country came to visit my research laboratory with their interpreter. It was easy to figure out the head “honcho” of this group. Towards the end of the visit — through the interpreter — he asked a question, and I heard several of the men in attendance gasp. The interpreter turned to me and said in English “I don’t know how to ask this, but he is asking ‘Where are the men?’ as he only sees women here, and clearly the women are not doing the important work, so where are the men?” I smiled and replied, “In our country it does not matter if it is a man or a woman. We simply find the best people for the jobs required.”
Lesson to be learned: People come from different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs. When responding to something that we might consider to be an outrageous question, just stay calm and educate the other person.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Rather than talk about a big mistake, I would like to talk about the biggest moment that helped my career take off. At the time, this moment was small and just part of an everyday conversation. In 1981, I was in the audiovisual (AV) department of the hospital where I worked as a physical therapist talking to my friend Tom and flipping through some of his AV magazines. I saw an ad for a high-speed video that was used to capture the nature of a fire spreading through an airplane. “Wow! That is cool, Tom, but how many planes need to be blown up? They need to find much wider applications.” Throughout our chat we thought about various applications in physical therapy. We concluded by stating, “Wouldn’t it be great to use to watch an amputee walk with a new prosthesis? Or watch a runner run and analyze the deficits than may be contributing to a recurrent ankle problem?” So, Tom and I decided to visit this high-speed video company and talk about this potential application. I did not know it then, but that is when my career first changed direction. From using the video with patients, it went to the Elite Athlete Project in preparation for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, then to the actual games to manage a physical therapy clinic. Next, I was asked to run a biomechanics research laboratory. With all this research data and knowledge, I received a couple of patents to develop algorithms that resulted in personalized excise programs. Then, with all these new contacts, I met Jill Binkley, the founder and longtime executive director of the unique nonprofit TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation. Long story short: I am now the Executive Director of TurningPoint and we are doing some new, very exciting projects to help women and men in a myriad of ways in their respective breast cancer journeys.
The lesson I learned was to leverage your career. Your career may not be linear. The twists and turns make for a very interesting life.
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?
Dr. Frank Jobe was a very well-known orthopaedic surgeon in sports medicine and creator of a revolutionary procedure to reconstruct ulnar collateral ligament of the elbow. Despite his many commitments, he always had time to acknowledge, speak and listen to another person. When he would ask me “why” it was with gentle curiosity. He wanted to know how I came up that thought. And it helped me to consciously develop my thought process. Subsequently whenever I am now asked “why?”– even when said with an antagonist manner — I think of him, and I present the thought process in an even tone and a smile. The double lesson learned with this story is that I try to listen to another person and ask them to explain what is behind their thought process in a curious way.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
The work that I am doing at TurningPoint is virtually (pun intended) impacting the world. Every woman with breast cancer deserves evidence-based rehabilitative/recovery care. In the world of 2019, it was difficult to treat patients that did not come to your clinic. Now — with the help of technology and the insistence of Covid-19 — we can help care for women around the world. Just this morning Jill Binkley and I had a call with a therapist in Kurdistan. The needs are the same for the women in Kurdistan and the US. In the midst of the global pandemic we now find ourselves, we have learned how to offer the same level of care for breast cancer patients regardless of where they live.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Do a monthly self-breast exam and get your mammogram! One in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. How many women do you know? Divide that number by eight and you know how many women you know will be diagnosed with breast cancer. There is a one-in-eight chance that woman could be you.
- Consider taking exercise snacks throughout the day. Been sitting too long? Mind on the fritz? Take five minutes to dome some stretches, arm circles or squats. Your mind will be clearer, and your body will be happier!
- Get your sleep! According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults between the ages of 18 and 65 should sleep between seven and nine hours a night. How much sleep do you get?
- Let it go. Very good advice from Elsa in “Frozen.” Are you hurt by what someone said to you? Let it go. Are you angry at your best friend? Let it go. People cannot make you feel bad — you choose to feel that way.
- And the corollary to #4 is to wake up and decide to be happy. Think happy thoughts. Laugh at yourself. Feels good, doesn’t it?
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Health equity. The movement would find ways such that all of us can receive quality health care. Without good health, there is less a person can do to pick themselves up and be productive members of society. So, let’s give all of us better health.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
The 5 things are things that I WAS told.
- Have a strong work ethic. That will make you shine before education, experience and all else.
- Pick a career to be something you LOVE! If you don’t love it, the chances of being successful narrow significantly. One of my sisters told me that as a little girl she always loved animals and had wanted to be a veterinarian. Halfway through her career in marketing, she gave it up and became a veterinarian’s assistant. She is much happier now.
- You CAN DO whatever you want. Or at least a modified version of it. Know what you want and start taking steps in that direction.
- You can support yourself. Make the pledge to yourself right now. You can support yourself. You will be much more powerful if you know you are in charge of yourself, not your parents, not your husband. You can support yourself.
- You don’t get what you deserve, you deserve what you get. So, make it happen rather than just think you should get it.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental Health. At TurningPoint, we are treating women in their 20s through 80s, all of whom are facing drastic changes in multiple aspects of their lives. They have undergone surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. They have every reason to be depressed. However, despite this, I am continually amazed at how many consistently manage their mental health. I watch these women come to us with drooped shoulders and head down, and typically leave smiling and standing straight. They start to realize they are not alone and that there is a path as well as guidance for their full recovery. Also, much of their improved mental health seems to be due to compassionate care from friends, family and healthcare workers. My hope is that you will be one of those special people offering compassion for those in need.