Physician Empowerment Resource Blog

Relationships matter

Uncategorized Dec 16, 2021

I’ve previously spoken of the power of narrative in our lives.

By sharing wisdom and experience, we gain understanding that is invaluable yet overlooked in our world of constant knowledge acquisition.

Perhaps one of the most important ways to grow personally and professionally is to have mentors.

People often have a mistaken belief that mentorship—especially in the professional realm—should be formal and involve meetings and specific objectives.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Mentors are simply folks in our lives who share their wisdom and experience. They may not even have any specific guidance for us. They speak and we grow as we internalize what they are saying.

The next time you are mentoring someone or receiving some good guidance, make that conscious effort to practice gratitude and celebrate the moment. Not just on the issue at hand, but on the simple fact that you have that depth of relationship with someone.

Do you have an example of an amazing...

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Team building secret: Awareness

Uncategorized Dec 09, 2021

Historically, physicians have been “lone wolves”, especially in solo practice or rural settings.

Even in community clinics or hospital settings, we tend to be quite independent, minding our own business.

But times have changed: patient care has evolved to be heavily team-based, coupled with EMRs and virtual care platforms. As the team lead, it’s no longer just about your personal performance: it’s a team production now. 

In essence, the practice of medicine is more like a team sport—each teammate with their specific strategic roles following a certain playbook. Alas, most medical schools and residency programs seldom equip us with such skills.

Once we step into the real world of medical practice, we either conform to conventional practice traditions or we “wing it” based on survival instincts. 

Let’s face it: building or rebuilding a team is no easy feat.

However, awareness is the first step of any great adventure.

As a...

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The power of narrative

Uncategorized Dec 02, 2021

With limitless information on our phones, our world is filled with opportunities to learn knowledge.

But knowledge isn’t the same as wisdom.

Wisdom speaks to our own circumstances. It forces us to ask the most important question in our lives: the why?

Wisdom comes from experience.

And while we grow throughout our own lives, it is important to recognize the power of narrative to transform us.

Narrative is the telling of our personal or collective stories. This can be as formal as the wisdom of an ancient spiritual teaching or as relaxed as a chat with a colleague.

In these dialogues, we access another’s past experiences – their struggles, triumphs, and insights.

Looking at your busy week ahead, find space to access wisdom. Start reading a great book or call and old friend or loved one.

Was there a time or moment when you accessed wisdom in an unconventional or surprising way?

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Leading with civility – part 4 of 4

Uncategorized Nov 25, 2021

(This is the final post in a series on the topic of civility.)

The ultimate test of leadership: if your authority, title, or rank were taken away, would your subordinates still follow you?

It’s true with:

  • Your patients—wonder why they refuse to comply with your evidence-based treatment advice?
  • Your staff—wonder why they fail to comprehend the importance of your orders?
  • Your spouse—wonder why, even when you win the argument, you lose the relationship?
  • Your kids—wonder why they’d sometimes “purposefully” defy your instructions, even to their detriment?
  • Your mentees—wonder why they tune out or argue when you share your seasoned professional insights and secrets?

The fact is:

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
- Theodore Roosevelt

Reflection of the day: 

When was the last time you openly praised, thanked, appreciated, recognized, or rewarded your staff, or celebrated success with...

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Managing a “crisis”

Uncategorized Nov 18, 2021

Previously I wrote about my own crisis that really wasn’t one because I properly triaged the situation.

Urgencies - when we worry and inflate them into a mini-crisis - can be a major source of burnout.

Here are some great starting points on how to manage the next problem that lands at your feet:

  • It almost certainly isn’t a real crisis. True emergencies are rare. Unless the situation involves serious personal or financial harm, it is probably an urgency. Pause and take a deep breath.
  • Acknowledge that the event is in the past and immoveable. The only thing you can control is your own future actions and words.
  • Now that panicking and time-travelling are off the table, stop to consider your options. Don’t be reactive by acting on the first thought in your head.

Thinking about your own life:

  • How often in your week is a “crisis” brought to you?
  • How do these events affect you emotionally and physically?

The worry in a non-emergency is often more...

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Leading with civility – part 3 of 4

Uncategorized Nov 11, 2021

(Over Oct. and Nov., I am sharing a series of posts on the topic of civility.)

A recent MIT study shows that commercial air travel safety has improved tremendously over the last few decades: now one death per 7.9 million passenger boardings compared to one per 1.3 million from 1988-1997.

And so, it’s safer to fly than to drive. 

Their secret?

Complete naked honesty without any repercussions whatsoever—any kind of mistakes, miscalculations, mishaps, negligence, or faux pas are fully disclosed without reprimand.

The lessons learnt are freely shared amongst all departments and companies. After all, concealment is the biggest risk of all!

Wow, how diametrically opposite that philosophy is compared to our medical culture.

In a world of litigation, college complaints, 360 degree peer reviews, and top-down bureaucracy, many clinicians sadly resort to just checking boxes of standard operating protocols to “CYA” (Cover Your Anatomy)!

If we could reshape our work...

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Is it really a crisis?

Uncategorized Nov 04, 2021

Dear {{first_name}},

Earlier this year, Dr. Yatin Chadha interviewed me for his podcast Beyond MD.

The topic was real estate but one of my best stories was “lumbar puncture night”.

I shared how I worked an incredibly busy night shift in the ER with a flight booked the next morning. But shortly after finishing work (and on the way to the airport), I got a call from one of my tenants saying the suite above hers was leaking water through the ceiling.


This was obviously a big problem.

But was it really a crisis?

I got through that mess by falling back on a familiar technique we all use in medicine: triage.

While I immediately began to worry about the disruption to my elderly tenant and potential costs of clean-up, I paused and reminded myself that this wasn’t a true emergency.

No one was injured or dying. I had good insurance and great team in place to handle repairs.

I reviewed the damage but then hopped on that flight without a second thought.

The next time...

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Leading with civility: Part 2 of 4

Uncategorized Oct 28, 2021

(Over the next two months, I’ll be sharing a series of posts on the topic of civility.)

In the last post, we established the importance of workplace civility, especially in the clinical setting.

I recall in my clinical clerkship days (some three decades ago) we student interns were nicknamed EBUs—Ego-Building Units. It seemed everyone from the staff physician to the residents, nurses, and even janitors could somehow stomp on our fragile, ignorant selves to help themselves feel better.

Self-pity aside, it‘s high time that we as medical leaders reshaped our work culture that might otherwise be marked as top-down, cold, unforgiving, or even toxic.

Without rewriting policies and protocols, a simple step to foster civility is to practice valuing and appreciating your team members, regardless of their rankings:

Value their:

  • Work—respect the wisdom of those who are closest to the specific portion of the work
  • Roles—appreciate the importance of...
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Debt can be good

Uncategorized Oct 21, 2021

In previous discussions, we talked bad debt.

Today, we’re covering good debt.

And no, I won’t be trotting out the old adage that educational debt and mortgages are always a good thing. 

It isn’t true and it isn’t relevant. These debts are only a small part of a doctor’s relationship with borrowing. Let’s dive into something deeper. 

Using a simple example of two physicians, let me show you how debt cuts both ways over the course of a decade.

Case 1:
Frank takes out a $100,000 personal line of credit which he promptly maxes out on consumer purchases and never pays off.

Assuming a $3000 annual cost, the LOC has cost Frank $30,000 over the decade.

Worse still, he had to pay additional personal income tax to cover the annual interest by withdrawing these funds from his corporation.

Case 2:
Yasmine came across great opportunities in real estate limited partnerships (RELPs).

To avoid missing out, she decides to use her LOC to cover household...

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Leading with civility: Part 1 of 4

Uncategorized Oct 14, 2021

(Over the next two months, I’ll be sharing a series of posts on the topic of civility.)

I just attended the Global Leadership Summit 2021 and a particular quote struck me:

“We’re defined by how we treat each other.”
Shola Richards - Founder & CEO, Go Together Global; Workplace Civility Expert)

Why bother with civility at work? 

A recent survey showed that when workers were ill-treated by their co-workers or superiors:

  • 25% took out their frustrations on customers
  • 48% intentionally decreased their work effort
  • 78% dropped their commitment to the organization

In medicine, our work culture is so entrenched in accuracy, efficiency, elitism, and intolerance of the slightest errors that we tend to treat ourselves and each other critically, harshly and without grace. No wonder so many frontline healthcare workers—especially in high traffic, high-stress areas like ER, OR, or inner-city outpatient departments—have the reputation of being rude,...

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