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“Be a wall, not a door”

“Be a wall, not a door”

I first heard this expression as a resident, being ‘encouraged’ by my fellow house staff to limit the number of admissions that came onto the ward while I was on call. I often say it to my office staff now, as my schedule fills up with all manner of patient concerns. But how often do I apply to myself, when yet another responsibility lands on my lap or yet another person makes demands on my personal time?  It’s a little ironic, considering that, as pediatricians, limit setting is part of our mantra on discipline guidance for parents. From toddlers in time-out to house rules for teenagers, we work with families to develop rules and stick to them. We support them through those difficult times when it seems like that child plans to test every scrap of their parental resolve. We struggle, however, with placing limits on those same families when they ask for another quick conversation on the phone or another form you ‘just have to sign.’ Dealing with our colleagues and staff can be...

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Financial Independence

Financial Independence

I remember clearly the moment I reached financial independence. My husband and I were meeting with our financial advisor, and I suggested we put “zero dollars” in the spot for wages income when he ran our numbers. My husband had retired earlier that year, at age 59. I was also still in my 50’s, and I was curious about the outcome if I retired early, too. Our advisor ran the numbers for our financial plan with this scenario, and the results showed we had plenty saved in retirement accounts to support our lifestyle until we are 90 years old.  I was stunned. I could feel a big smile spreading across my face. My eyes were wide. I felt tingly all over. My heart was pounding. I went to work the next day, still smiling and with a bounce in my step. I went to work with the thought that I was there because I wanted to be there, not because I was chasing the next paycheck. That shift in my mindset made all the difference in my attitude toward my work in pediatrics. Technically, I was not...

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Transitions

Transitions

I like change. I started my work life in one practice and after fifteen years, I left and started my own practice. I constantly changed and adapted things in my office, opened a second location, started and led a 400-pediatrician clinically integrated network, and yet when I decided to step back and live a life full of consulting and coaching I found it a little strange.  Being a pediatrician was natural for me. Problems presented themselves either in the exam rooms with patients or in the processes of the office and solving them was my jam. Life after practice was different. I had to completely structure my time, I had to create the to-do lists and figure out what needed to be done—out of thin air it seemed. Apparently, I wasn’t the ‘self-starter’ I thought I was!  In a new environment working with people in marketing, HR, and pharma, I had to learn a new vocabulary and how to work as a team member in ways I hadn’t before. Although I was hired as an ‘expert,’ I wasn’t...

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Relationships

Relationships

I recently had a sleepover with some high school friends of mine. Just the girls, staying up late in our jammies, reminiscing about the ‘crazy’ things we did back in the day. Crazy things for us were defying the nuns at our all-girls school by ignoring the dress code or sneaking out in our parent’s car while they slept. Funny thing though, I heard some new (and surprising) stories this time. Tales of detention, drinking, and dating I had no idea about. It was refreshing to find that I didn’t know everything about my closest friends, the women I talk to every couple of days, and who have supported me through thick and thin.  As close as I am with these friends, it seemed that the older I got the fewer friends I had. I was so busy during the years my kids were young that I never really developed close friendships with their friends’ parents. I would definitely call my work colleagues friends but would we go on vacation together? Research around happiness, what creates it and...

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I Am the Mother of a Black Transgender Child

I Am the Mother of a Black Transgender Child

When I turned 16, I told my Nigerian father that I liked boys…and girls. I didn’t understand it. It went against everything I knew to be “right.” That was the first time it occurred to me that the world can think something is right, even when it is untrue. I was born, “bread,” buttered, and slightly burned in Nigeria, one of the most religious, yet most homophobic countries in the world. My dad’s response was swift and firm. “It’s a phase. You will grow out of it, Nne.” Like any “good” child, I believed it. I believed my dad because it is what kids do. They believe their parents. They trust their parents. They want to please their parents. Then I had my first child. And watched with disbelief, shock, fear, anxiety, uncertainty, shame, guilt, and more fear as this beautiful human whom we assigned a male sex at birth, acted nothing like a boy! Not in mannerisms, speaking style, energy, body gestures, likes, or dislikes, nothing! I was tormented. I cried to sleep every night. I had...

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Empowering The Next Generation of Physicians

Empowering The Next Generation of Physicians

I have learned many lessons during my four decades as an independent pediatrician. It has not always been easy, and I hope these tips and my personal story will help you. Becoming a doctor and staying the course takes a special person with a calling. My inspiration came as a young girl in the 1960s after reading the biography of the first woman doctor, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. There were so many times when I wanted to give up, but with encouragement from my father, along with a few mentors, I was able to stay the course. I will never forget the words of advice given to us by our medical school dean on the first day of school, “Don’t forget to smell the flowers and look for happiness along your journey.” These words, although I did not fully understand them then, have stayed with me throughout my career. During my fourth year of med school, my best friend through undergraduate and medical school turned to me one evening and said, “Let’s go for it.” I was confused at first, but quickly...

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