Approximately seven years ago, I left a rapidly growing medical practice for an uncertain future. I didn’t have a plan. Come to find out, I didn’t have much of an idea about my core identity either, because what I had was so integrated with my profession. The year(s) after I left medicine was (were) very dark, but they provided me with all the opportunities to hit rock bottom, to make mistakes, to ask for help, and to be brave in a Paul Simon, Cool, Cool River kind of way.
How many times have I blogged about how difficult it is when someone asks me about leaving medicine? I can think of three separate post and a handful of tweets, but there have probably been more. I haven’t liked it very much. The comments about my questionable work ethic, my presumed student debt and the disappointment to my family, the rumors that I must be addicted to drugs or alcohol or guilty of extreme malpractice — I’ve heard them all. All of those things would flash through my head – along with a healthy dose of self-hatred (for not being able to stick with it, to prevent burnout, to advocate for myself better) – every time some stranger would casually ask me why I left medicine…and then walk away after a minute or two leaving me to re-play my answer in my head over and over and over again. I never answered well.
Things changed last week during my MBTI certification. In one day five different clusters of people walked up to me and asked me why I had left medicine (it’s a long story on why they knew I was a physician in the first place – even when I don’t include it in my intro, it invariably comes up. It’s such a large part of my perspective on life that it always does). I have no idea what made this day different. Maybe it was the intensity of the experience, the fact that they were all genuinely curious. Maybe I truly am done with feeling victimized by others’ assumptions. I don’t know. But I finally got my answer in place in a way that doesn’t leave me torn up after I’m done giving it.
Today hasn’t been the greatest day. It wasn’t the worst, but I’ve moved on to my next hangup, -the next professional hurdle I need to move past. I’ll save that for another day, but I want to take a moment to celebrate this victory for what it is. I deserve this.
So. My two minutes on why I am no longer a physician.
Why I Am No Longer A Physician
By Laura Gogia
- A lack of resources. I went to work in an underserved, isolated region straight out of residency training. I was the only gynecologist, the only female surgeon, the only surgeon who was also the mother of tiny babies. I worked in a hospital culture rife with sexism, sexual harassment, bullies, mediocrity, and general dysfunction. I had no mentors, no peers, no backup, no help, no call coverage, no vacations, no strategies for dealing with desperately poor, uneducated, holistically unhealthy populations. I was all in, but I was unprepared.
- A lack of opportunity. A lack of peers means a lack of professional development. Medicine is easy enough to keep up on via conferences and reading; surgical skills require practice and interdisciplinary training. I refused to place my patients at risk for the sake of my learning curve. My surgical skills were out of date in three years and that was unacceptable to me.
- I wanted something different. I love people and their stories but I am not built to engage with so many people in intensely important (sacred, even) one-on-one scenarios everyday, nor am I built to work the same, limited number of diagnostic algorithms day in and day out. To be happy, I need more freedom, more quiet time, and more creativity than the proper practice of medicine allows.
There. That’s the whole story. It’s actually quite simple and logical. It’s also entirely forgivable…maybe even brave and very smart. And I can say it without wanting to cry or throw up after I’m done.
On to the next challenge.