Tag Archives: health care reform

Coming Full Circle

  Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose Medical degree burningI recently returned from a week-long stay in Keystone, Colorado. I was there with a small group of physicians gathered to restore their voice to the practice of medicine. How I got there was through a series of events I can only call synchronicity. What I felt was a profound feeling of "coming home". I showed up as all of me, in full color. My role was to listen deeply and expansively, and I chose to record what I heard in visual form. It was as if everything I practiced was serving me in my service to this gathering. Each morning I woke early and rode my rented bike along the many trails around Keystone. I listened to the Snake River winding its way through the trees. I inhaled with awe each time I arrived at the vista of Lake Dillon. I clawed my way up a steep hill only to be rewarded with the jackpot of a stunning view of Breckenridge and beyond. I had learned from these past few years of practicing self-care that these morning steps were my fuel for being present and thinking creatively. I knew what to do - even in an environment away from my familiar surroundings at home - because I had practiced them into new habits. I had my biking clothes, I was comfortable riding, and all I had to do was explore new roads and read new maps. I also had my daily sketching and art journaling practice in place, something I started only within the last two years. I have experimented with many different formats and media, and I am comfortable drawing outside. On this trip, I brought a small Moleskine Japanese album with accordion pages. It fit in my small travel purse or pocket, and I carried a pouch with pen, markers, and water brushes. On my morning rides, I often sketched a scene quickly in ink, filling in color later in the day or in the evening. I noticed what I noticed. I took note of the stories I wanted to tell. And by the time I got home, there were three or four panels that needed coloring, which I completed within a few days. New experiences, new people, new places -- all of these fuel my creativity and keep me inspired. I am grateful for the daily practices I cultivate at home, so I am well-prepared to stay open when I'm on the road. For a frame-by-frame caption story of my Keystone travel journal, see my post here. For an in-depth reflection on the contents of the physician meeting and its impact on me personally, stay tuned!

A Journey in Sketches

I recently returned from a week-long stay in Keystone, Colorado. I documented my journey in daily sketches created in a Moleskine Japanese album (small size). My tools were Pigma Micron ink pens, Faber Castell Pitt Artist pen, Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush markers, Derwent watercolour pencils, Sakura Koi field sketch watercolor set, and Kuretake waterbrushes. First, the SFO airport. There was an exhibit on Art Deco and I loved the patterns, colors, and shapes in it. Since I had a couple of hours to wait for my delayed flight, I started sketching and painting.DSC06899DSC06900I went back to photograph the original pieces that had inspired my memory. IMG_0857 IMG_0858 Then I looked over my shoulder to see that a large watercolor mural had been placed high up, near the ceiling. I copied the quote on the painting and general feeling of it. DSC06901 Then I noticed the number of billboards in this terminal devoted to issues of network security and cyber attacks. I captured this by placing three of the ones I remembered together.DSC06902 On my flight I read two magazines I never usually read. One had Amy Poehler on the cover as one of the "100 Most Creative People In Business". The other had a headline and article I will never forget (much as I would like to), entitled, "Why Die?". It describes the efforts of PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel's multi-billion-dollar venture fund's investments in biotech. He is focused on "eradicating death" from human experience, envisioning a future in which this "disturbing inconvenience" is made obsolete.DSC06903 I road Colorado Mountain Express shuttle from the Denver airport to Keystone. I captured a few quick sketches of what that ride is like. Flat flat flat, then you're in the Front Range, with walls on either side and endless ranges unfolding in front of you. I-70 from Denver Airport to the Front Range I-70 on the way to Keystone from Denver I-70 Eisenhower Tunnel from Denver to Silverthorne Colorado Continue reading

What Feeds You?

Circle of Life

"We are the soil" ink and watercolor on paper, 9"x12".

"When you touch one thing with awareness, you touch everything." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Since moving to the coastside community of Half Moon Bay three years ago, I've become more and more inspired by farmers. Specifically, local organic farmers and the ecosystems they steward. I am not sure how this evolution happened, but somewhere along the way, in the age of industrial farming and processed foods, in the trance of busyness that convinced me to prioritize my "job" over taking the time to feed myself well, I woke up to the way farmers are actually key players in the health care ecosystem. For me, the past few weeks have included the following. On the first Saturday of May, my acoustic rock duo provided the live music for our local farmers' market. Our evolution from being loyal customers to becoming more active participants in the ecosystem providing this precious resource for our community has been a dream come true for the kind of musicians we desire to be. We play for tips, lettuce, strawberries, olive oil, bread, chocolate, a bit of cash, and a big dose of the love that comes from knowing we are feeding the community with our art and joy. Two weeks ago, I became a member of my first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). This means I signed up to get a box of locally grown, organic produce delivered to my door by a farm collective every two weeks. In each box is a note from Farmer Paul, with a poetic missive on his observations in the field, followed by some bullet points on "how to be a great and green member of the farm family". These two lines really hit home for me:
"Remember, you are not a customer; you are a shareholder in our farm. Paying your bill is not enough. Owning a share means doing your share."
The "aha" for me was that I do have a responsibility. I was not just "buying" a box of food delivered to my door each week. I am now responsible for holding a piece of the thread. I am now a weaver of our local ecosystem. I am adding my voice to the chorus saying "Yes!" to locally grown organic produce, picked by hand, delivered by hand, and gifted to us all by the land. Do you feel that? We are gifted our food from the land. The land is not a factory. It is a generous donor and partner. And what we give to the land it gives back to us in multiples. Several days later, I attended a lecture by Daphne Miller, MD, a family physician and author of the book, Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing. Her curiosity about the relationship between her patients' health and the health of our soil led her on a global odyssey to visit small family-owned farms, as well as agricultural scientists and ecologists studying organic farming practices. The one-sentence summary of her talk was, "We are the soil." What we put into the earth, we put into ourselves. And what we put into ourselves, we also put back into the earth. All of this has gotten me thinking more about both how we feed our world, and how we are fed by our world. The thought seeds that take root in our consciousness create feelings which course through the cells of our body as chemical signals and are digested in each cell, creating our experience of life. Imagine the gut - our digestive system - as the place where our feelings about the world are taken in, broken down and digested into the elements that fuel our entire being system of Soul+Body+Mind, driving our decisions and actions in the world. Each of us is a mini ecosystem living within a sphere of progressively larger ecosystems - our bodies, our relationships, our homes, our families, our communities, our nations, our planet, and our cosmos. Mindfulness of food - what we put into our mouths - equals mindfulness of what we take in from our experience of life and what we perceive through our consciousness. When we touch the essence of "WE ARE THE SOIL", we see that what we feed our consciousness we also feed to our world. What are some things you can do now, in your world, to live more from this awareness?
  • walk outside and breathe fresh air...imagine and feel the air feeding every cell of your body
  • notice the products you choose that wash down the drain -- this eventually becomes part of our soil
  • plant a garden
  • walk barefoot in or touch actual soil or living earth
  • vote with your dollars and support a local organic farmer in your area
  • receive the sounds in your environment and notice how they are feeding you
  • clean up your thinking...junk thoughts equals junk food
  • love what you feel and trust your gut
Your mind may react to this list as being too simple to have an impact. But I believe we can each find our own way of remembering the ecosystems we are already part of. And when we remember, we touch everything in our world in a new way. We can reclaim our position as owners again...not just customers, but holders of our own share in this web of life.

The Gifts of Burnout: An Evolutionary Wake-Up Call for Doctors

IMG_4244 It has been fourteen years since I graduated from University of Michigan Medical School. I have journeyed far from the field of medicine, and yet my heart keeps hearing the call to return to my physician communities and share what I have learned. I simply cannot ignore my sense that the pain within our health care system - now felt at every level, including patients, physicians, and payors - is a resounding call to wake us up to our next stage of evolution. It takes only a cursory scanning of the headlines of medical blogs like this one to get a sense for the unrest, the frustration, and the abundance of innovative practices emerging as a result of the rising sense of powerlessness among doctors. I left medicine immediately after receiving my MD, moving into uncharted waters after the Dean of Career Development at Michigan told me, "You're on your own. We can't help you with that." This was when, as a fourth year student, I announced I would be pursuing a career in venture capital. I volunteered at a private equity investment firm - yes, I worked for no pay - and six weeks later, I was hired as an Associate. Within two years I was the youngest partner-level Investment Manager in the firm. No one told me this was possible. I simply would not accept anyone else's opinion of what I could or could not do. Especially after what I witnessed in my world of medical training. One of my most vivid memories was on my Vascular Surgery rotation, where I was absolutely loving the concept of what we were doing - as intellectual masturbation material. But in practice, what I saw was my future laid out in the following scenarios. The second year resident, sick as a dog, showed up to work anyway, and, too weak to stand, lay down on a gurney in the OR while a case was going on. The third year vascular surgery fellow, a gentile Southern man, was in the middle of a lower extremity bypass graft and stepped out of the room. He lifted his mask, vomited into the scrub sink, and then reentered the OR to continue the procedure. This happened two more times within the same procedure before he completed. Many of you reading this may be nodding and saying, "Yup. That's just the way it is. Suck it up or leave it." And my question is, "If you have trained yourself not to feel, what else might you be missing in your experience of other people?". Continue reading

AHA’s “Simple 7″…Not So Simple After All

The other night I read on the back of a friend's T-shirt the following list of guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA)'s latest heart-healthy lifestyle campaign, called "Life's Simple 7":
  • get active
  • control cholesterol
  • eat better
  • manage blood pressure
  • lose weight
  • reduce blood sugar
  • stop smoking
From my medical training, I recognized each of these 7 items as addressing the major risk factors for coronary artery disease and therefore heart attacks and strokes. However, from my journey of learning about the connection between mind and body, and especially the ways in which our mind dictates the feelings, behaviors, and results we see in our lives, I noticed that these "Simple 7" are not so simple at all. Four of the seven guidelines involve behavioral changes. Three of the seven can be addressed with pharmaceutical drugs but are also dependent on these behavioral changes in order to have maximum impact. These areas of behavior change - exercise, diet, weight loss, and smoking cessation - are typically the most challenging and frustrating for both patients and doctors in a preventive setting. Continue reading

TONIGHT – FREE coaching call for physicians-in-training

If you saw my guest post today on kevinmd.com, you might be interested in joining me TONIGHT, Tuesday, July 20, at 6:00pm Pacific Time, for a free coaching call. It's designed for medical students, residents, and fellows, because I want to start planting seeds in the early stages of training and mindset formation. But if you're a practicing physician and have an interest in the subject of self-care, please join me! More details on the call are available here. Can't make it? Send me an email and I'll send you a link to a recording of the call.

5 Principles of Self-Care for Caring Professionals: Recording from Free Coaching Call for Physicians-In-Training

Last night I hosted a free coaching call for medical students, residents, and fellows. I focused on the topic of SELF-CARE. As trained caring professionals, often we think of self-care as "selfish" or something that we do after we've taken care of our other "duties", "responsibilities" and "obligations". In this call, I invite you to think of self-care in a different way. I invite you to consider that your knowledge and practice of self-care is essential in creating a healing relationship with your patients, and creating a healing environment in your clinic, operating room, or hospital. I have a new mantra as I create my life and offerings to the world: "You've gotta live it to give it." Until we can connect with what is common to all human experience, we cannot be fully compassionate toward our patients and authentically promote the state of wellness and health we claim to be guiding them toward. The 5 main principles of self-care I discuss on the call are as follows: Continue reading

Revolutionizing Medicine…One Belief At A Time – Episode 3

Welcome to a weekly podcast where I'll take physicians' commonly held stressful beliefs and go through an inquiry process on each. I have recorded the questions so that you can listen and follow along, providing your own answers to the questions. It's important to find YOUR OWN answers that feel true and genuine in your life. I've provided the recordings as a tool for slowing yourself down and taking the time to allow these questions to sit inside. [display_podcast] *This process is based on The Work by Byron Katie. For more information, visit www.thework.com. Today's belief is "Patients demand my time." The questions:
  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you know that it is absolutely, 100% true?
  3. How do you react, and how do you behave, when you believe the thought, “Patients demand my time”?
  4. What is the payoff you get for believing the thought, “Patients demand my time”?
  5. What are you afraid might happen if you didn’t believe the thought, “Patients demand my time”?
  6. Who would you be, and how would you behave, if you didn’t believe the thought, “Patients demand my time”?
Now turn the thought around, as I have done below. Find three genuine examples in your own life for how each of these turnarounds is as true as (or perhaps truer than) the original thought. Patients don't demand my time. I demand my patients' time. I demand my own time. Another possibility, not covered on the audio: My thoughts demand my time.

FREE coaching call TONIGHT for medical students, residents & fellows

I'm prepping for tonight's call and it's like a trip down memory lane to look back at the way my young, impressionable mind believed everything I was told to be true in medical school. Just drank it in like a free cup of coffee at Trader Joe's. But now that I am beginning to understand and see the difference between REALITY and THOUGHTS about reality, it's a whole different game. Things have loosened up in my mind, and all of a sudden there's this vast amount of SPACE. It feels ROOMY in there! After a lifetime of jamming my head full of things to remember, and things I believed to be true, all of a sudden, I have more room to move around. This, I sense, is what the word FREEDOM means to me. We are so blessed to live in a country with many freedoms, but the most important place we experience it is in our own minds. I'm so excited to be chatting it up tonight in a FREE coaching call with medical students, residents, & fellows who are curious about the topic of PHYSICIAN BURNOUT. It's a frequent subject on the blogs, in the New York Times, and in the academic medical journals. Doctors seem to be on the brink of something. While to many others it may seem like a crisis, I find myself getting very excited about this juicy opportunity to share what I've learned from my life coaching practice as well as my personal meditation and yoga practices. To get your appetites whetted, here's a little sneak peek. Continue reading

Revolutionizing Medicine…One Belief At A Time – Episode 2

Welcome to a weekly podcast where I'll take physicians' commonly held stressful beliefs and go through an inquiry process on each. I have recorded the questions so that you can listen and follow along, providing your own answers to the questions. It's important to find YOUR OWN answers that feel true and genuine in your life. I've provided the recordings as a tool for slowing yourself down and taking the time to allow these questions to sit inside. [display_podcast] *This process is based on The Work by Byron Katie. For more information, visit www.thework.com. Today's belief is "I am surrounded by illness and suffering." The questions:
  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you know that it is absolutely, 100% true?
  3. How do you react, and how do you behave, when you believe the thought, “I am surrounded by illness and suffering”?
  4. What is the payoff you get for believing the thought, “I am surrounded by illness and suffering”?
  5. What are you afraid might happen if you didn’t believe the thought, “I am surrounded by illness and suffering”?
  6. Who would you be, and how would you behave, if you didn’t believe the thought, “I am surrounded by illness and suffering"?
Now turn the thought around, as I have done below. Find three genuine examples in your life for how each of these new thoughts is as true as the original thought. I am not surrounded by illness and suffering. My patients are surrounded by illness and suffering. My thoughts surround me with illness and suffering.