If someone is bringing you down, it is okay to remove that person from your social media or personal life! You should be surrounding yourself with positive energy instead of a black hole of frustration, sadness, and narcissism. When I started my business one year ago, I had a lot of doubt. In 2018, it is nearly unheard of to start a small solo medical practice let alone as a female recently graduated from training. I reached out to clinicians locally and around the US thereby surrounding myself with mentors and learned from their experience. I have “my people,” which consists of my family and closest friends who provide constructive criticism but also support when needed.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Kathleen Dass. Dr. Dass is the medical director and founder of Michigan Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Center, a practice founded on evidence-based one-on-one care for patients, and completed her allergy immunology fellowship training at Northwestern University. She has won numerous awards for her research; and in 2016, she was recognized by the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology’s Leadership Summit as one of the 20 allergists under the age of 40 from around the nation to engage as a future leader in the allergy immunology field.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In my career specifically, I was inspired by 3 specific individuals: Dr. Lynda Misra, Dr. Paul Greenberger, and Dr. Ramsay Dass. Dr. Misra was one of my teaching faculty in medical school and subsequently became my teaching faculty in residency. Today, I am privileged to call this woman a friend. From the time I was a medical student until today, I watched her navigate the system as a strong female physician while seemingly maintaining her pleasant demeanor and positive attitude. Dr. Greenberger was one of my teaching faculty at Northwestern University and is also one of the most respected physicians in the allergy immunology field. He has many patients that travel from afar to meet with him sometimes carrying binders of information from multiple physicians they have met along the way. He spent time with these patients because, as he always says, “MD stands for medical detective.” He also ended many patient visits with the simple phrase, “You can be helped.” Full disclosure — Dr. Ramsay Dass is my father, an immigrant to this country, and also a physician who I have witnessed daily go above and beyond for his patients. He works with many underserved and uninsured patients, acquiring essential medicine and social work care for their needs. When I was formulating my career path, I knew I wanted to emulate my father’s kindness, Dr. Greenberger’s empathy, and Dr. Misra’s strength. As a female first-generation American physician 1 year out of training, I knew the best way I could exemplify this was by starting my own practice. Similarly to my father, I decided to take all insurances, including those for the underserved, to allow for everyone to have access to allergy immunology care. Like Dr. Misra, I mentor medical students in their research and career paths while also hopefully inspiring other female physician leaders. Lastly, as Dr. Greenberger continues to say, I remind everyone that they can be helped.
What does it mean for you to live “on purpose”? Can you explain? How can one achieve that?
To me, living life on purpose means a well balanced life fully lived. You have to decide what your priorities are — whether that’s your job, your loved ones, your hobbies, your fitness, etc. If you try to have it all, you will most likely feel burned out at some point, which includes me! I call at least one friend a day on my drive home to stay in touch with my inner circle. One night a week, I leave work at home and enjoy a night out at the movies, shopping, or watching “The Office” for the hundredth time on Netflix. Saturday mornings are always devoted to one hour of pilates. If the idea of exercise feels too overwhelming, I make sure to at least get 2,000 steps in one day. If nothing else, I’ve walked a mile. You have to decide what your priorities are, and the most reasonable way to maintain them without losing yourself.
Do you have an example or story in your own life of how your pain helped to guide you to finding your life’s purpose?
Growing up, I always used to tell people I wanted to be a doctor without really understanding the true meaning of the art of medicine. In high school, I finally understood and the decision was solidified. My elderly grandmother was in a car accident and complained of headaches for the following 48 hours. Her symptoms were brushed aside as “old age.” One week later, she passed away from a brain hemorrhage. This was painful and, to this day, I wonder if her outcome would have changed had her symptoms been taken more seriously. I have many patients who seek my help because they feel they have been dismissed and cannot find an answer for their symptoms. My goal is always to make sure that every patient feels they have been heard, and their issues addressed.
The United States is currently rated at #18 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low?
I think pressure exists to lead a perfect life. In the United States, we are blessed to have many opportunities. On social media, we are inundated with daily pictures and videos of seeming perfection. We are also provided with advertisements of items that, maybe if we purchased, we too could find happiness. My personal belief is that your joy in life is going to come from experiences rather than material things. You’ll never see the struggles people are going through on social media, but everyone is going through their own journey. Hopefully, you can take moments in your day to appreciate where you are in that journey right now.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have used my success to make sure that every patient — no matter what their status in life is — is getting the best possible care with the latest therapy and treatment. I have shaped my practice to examine the patient as a whole because no one is textbook. Everyone is an individual, and everybody deserves individualized treatment. I am giving back to the community by providing lectures to educate on sometimes confusing topics, like “what is the difference between food allergy and food intolerance” or signs you may have a problem with your immune system. I’m mentoring current medical students and residents while simultaneously encouraging them to continue to have their balance and Joie De Vivre!
What are your 6 strategies to help you face your day with exuberance, “Joie De Vivre” and a “ravenous thirst for life”? Can you please give a story or example for each?
1. I start the day with a grateful heart and a minimum of 90 seconds of recalling the positive things that had happened the day before. This sets the mood and tone for the day. I also end the day with at least 90 seconds of the positive things that happened that day. This helps set the mood and tone for the following day, while also allowing me to sleep better. The things I find positive can range from small (“I had my favorite coffee”) to more significant (“I was interviewed for this!!”)
2. If there is nothing positive, I acknowledge that I am at least in a good enough mood to try to have a positive list. No one is perfect, and accepting a level of imperfection is healthy. Some days it’s hard to muster the ravenous thirst for life, but you can try to feel okay.
3. Exercise! Exercise can feel overwhelming sometimes. With YouTube and various smartphone apps, you don’t even need to leave your house for a 7 minute exercise. My favorite activities are spinning and pilates. Every Saturday morning, you can find me at my favorite pilates studio no matter what else is on my long list of to do’s. To quote Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins makes you happy!”
4. If someone is bringing you down, it is okay to remove that person from your social media or personal life! You should be surrounding yourself with positive energy instead of a black hole of frustration, sadness, and narcissism. When I started my business 1 year ago, I had a lot of doubt. In 2018, it is nearly unheard of to start a small solo medical practice let alone as a female recently graduated from training. I reached out to clinicians locally and around the US thereby surrounding myself with mentors and learned from their experience. I have “my people,” which consists of my family and closest friends who provide constructive criticism but also support when needed.
5. Find what makes you happy. For me, it’s animals! As an allergist who has many patients with pet allergies, it may seem funny to discuss a love of animals. I have a folder in my phone of animal photos and animal memes. On bad days, a quick look at this folder brightens my day! I have made it a point to follow hashtags of some of my favorites, such as Corgis, French bulldogs, and Scottish fold kittens. My friends and family are aware of my love for animals so they will also frequently send me photos.
6. Medicine is and always will be my first love, but I am also passionate about music and fashion. These are enjoyable hobbies that make life more exciting and do not have to be mutually exclusive. I use pop and hip hop lyrics to teach allergy immunology through social media, and I always make time to see my favorite artists live. I also have used fashion as a tool for female physician networking in the metro Detroit area.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that most inspired you to live with a thirst for life?
One book I found inspirational is “The Gifts of Imperfection” written by Dr. Brene Brown. On the book’s cover, the tagline states “Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are — Your Guide To A Wholehearted Life.” The focus on the book involves engaging with the world coming from a place of worthiness. Throughout the book, you are encouraged to believe that you are enough via practices of critical awareness, letting go of fears, and digging deep for inspiration. This is a difficult journey for many, including myself. But, you are enough. When you learn to let go of your fears and anxiety, you can live fully and embrace your thirst for life!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that relates to having a Joie De Vivre? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Find your inspiration. My sister gifted me a wooden plaque that says “She believed she could so she did.” It sits at the corner of my work desk as a quick reminder of my journey. No matter where I am in my life, I always believe strongly in where I am going. This takes hard work and may seem daunting when looking from the outside in. With each step, I believed I could start my own practice and I did!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
· I am always researching new ways to make sure my patients have the most up-to-date care. Treatment in the allergy immunology world is currently revolutionizing the ways we treat asthma, allergic rhinitis (“or hay fever,”) eczema, nasal polyps, and food allergies. We are very close to FDA approved treatment for oral desensitization and immunotherapy to foods previously considered deadly, such as peanut. My practice is continuing to implement these to help improve patient’s quality of life and outcomes.
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 hope that I can inspire future female scientists, physicians, and entrepreneurs. In a recent study, it was published that girls as young as 6 years old learn to doubt their intelligence. Women are lacking in STEM fields, and many medical specialties continue to be male dominated. We are inspired by what we see. Three of my five medical student mentees are female, and I am always encouraging them to find their voice and embrace their strengths on their career paths. I work with female college students around the world, who rotate in my clinic. We have daily lectures about topics related to allergy immunology, but also discuss business and leadership skills. I hope that this interview helps inspire another female physician and/ or scientist who may be hesitant to start their own practice.
Thank you so much for joining us!