Note: You may have noticed that the blog has been unreachable for a number of days. More on that later, but I’m happy to say it’s been restored! Here is my first post-apocalypse article. Enjoy!
Our next interview is with my friend and fellow blogger Eliza, the Minimal MD. She has a compelling story of burnout and early retirement from medicine, but she’s now back to working very part-time, “balancing” a practice of dermatology with travel and family.
In a few sentences, tell us about yourself (age, job, family, hometown, etc.)
I’m a 36 year old MD who lives in the Midwest with her husband and two elementary aged children.
What is one thing you’re passionate about (a thing you’re loving, something you would still do even if no one paid you/even if you have limited time, or a hobby you really care about)?
Travel. I recently returned from a trip to Amsterdam with my kids. The experience of walking through Anne Frank’s house, reflecting on the art of Van Gogh, and sleeping on a houseboat on a historic canal was the highlight of my month.
I’m also pretty passionate about minimalism. Over the years, I have selected the physical things and activities that bring joy to my life while cutting back on everything else.
What does balance mean to you (how do you find balance between work, home, community, and self?
Balance means being honest about what your needs are during a particular phase of your life and adjusting to meet those needs. When I was a third year med student, I spent 100+ hours a week at the hospital and loved it. I was just relieved to be done with Step 1of the USMLE. After residency, balance was working 2-3 days a week to allow me to pay my student loans while also spending time with my kids. I pay attention to what I love about my current phase of life and what I want to change and constantly adjust.
Have you experienced any tradeoffs in your practice of balance?
Yes. When I retired from my 3 day a week clinical practice in 2017, I realized after a few months that I missed the peer interaction, especially after months on end of traveling alone with my kids. I’ve decided that working one clinic day a week lets me really enjoy the practice of medicine without allowing it to overshadow other aspects of my life or become a source of stress.
Describe your perfect “average” day. (How does your everyday day flow if everything goes well)?
I approach it more on a monthly basis, traveling one week a month to experience the new and exciting, and using the other 3 weeks to enjoy the comforts of home. During my weeks at home, I spend 6 days focusing on the needs of myself and my family and one day as a “working mom.” That day allows me to connect to colleagues, diagnose, treat, cure the occasional cancer. Then I come home to a clean house and home cooked meal. The contrast of travel and home, work and relaxation, makes my life fuller.
What are your go-to tools for self-care?
My bed-good sleep restores my soul. Also a big pot of tea and long phone conversation with an old friend.
What is one morning routine you do that keeps you grounded and happy?
I am really happy to have eliminated caffeine from my life. I wake up refreshed from a full night’s sleep and excited about the day I have planned.
Any decisions you’ve made that have negatively impacted your balance? If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
While I would absolutely do it again, I will reflect that becoming pregnant 3 weeks into my intern year at Yale was pretty rough. I took only four “sick” days when I had the baby because the program made residents stay and pay back any maternity leave, and I didn’t want to go late to my derm program.
What is one habit, tool, or item you’ve brought into your life within the last 6 months that has helped with your practice of balance?
Intentional connection to peers. I traveled so much after I left my job in the summer of 2017 that it was hard to make friends in my new location. These past few months, I have made a consistent effort to reconnect with good friends, spend social time alone with my husband, reach out to like minded people through my blog, and have interaction with new colleagues.
How can people contact you if they want to know more?
I blog at MinimalMD.com and can be found via my facebook page: Minimal MD.
My takeaways from this interview:
Balance not only means different things to different people, it can look different at various points in your life. Also, “work-life balance” is often a sliding point somewhere in the middle of working too much and too little; Eliza realized that a complete retirement from her career in medicine wasn’t giving her the balance she needed, so she added clinical work back into her life.
Eliza is a woman of few but deliberate words. She’s well aware that making more and having more are not necessarily linked to her happiness; she chooses a simple lifestyle with her family even though she has great earning potential as a dermatologist.