Today, we have an exciting pair of physicians that work on opposite coasts, created a blog from scratch, and inspire women (& men!) everyday on their blog: http://www.mavensinmedicine.com/! Dr. Kemi is a well-traveled Emergency Room physician located in New York. Fellow blogger & traveler Dr. Sheronda is an Anesthesiologist who now resides in Los Angeles. If you have ever wanted to know about doctors who are paid to travel, navigating a relationship in medicine, or how to start a co-written blog, then this is the interview for you! These women have collaborated from both coasts to tell you more about Mavens in Medicine & how they balance medicine, travel, and everything in between.
1. Describe Your Journey to Medicine:
Dr. Kemi: Growing up in Nigeria, I made up my mind that the hard situations I saw everyday could be solved by going into a field where it did not matter where in the world I worked. My mother was a midwife and through her influence, I started looking towards a career in nursing. Around the ages of 7 to 9, I finally decided medicine was for me. No matter what, everyone needs healthcare. I strived to receive my CNA in high school and got a job in a medical setting. At one point, I even decided to pursue a career in Pharmacy because my uncle is a Pharmacist, but eventually I changed my mind. In the end, I decided to pursue a path in medicine and began exploring different specialties. My decision was not as conscious as other people who have physician parents, as I am the first physician in family.
Dr. Sheronda: Due to my West Indian roots, I come from a family of women who were constantly helping in the community. There is a sense of community and service in medicine that is similar to my cultural background. I was first interested in Pediatrics, but as I got further into medical school, I chose not to specialize in Pediatrics as I learned more about other fields. Before starting medical school, I had a broad idea of what a doctor was and it was not until I discovered Anesthesiology that I knew what type of physician I wanted to be. I still have to know the systems based medicine of Pulmonary, Cardiology, Renal, etc, but it is for one patient at a time. I really like that Anesthesiology allows you to focus on one individual at a time. I am able to build a relationship with a patient and serve as someone they can trust during a procedure as opposed to rounding on 12 patients. People told me I would sacrifice my good bedside manner if I worked as an Anesthesiologist but I think the ten minutes I get with a patient still gives me a great opportunity to connect with them. I am able to give patients confidence that they are in good hands. They trust me with their comfort and being able to go home to their families at the end of the day.
2. How Did Mavens in Medicine Start?
Dr. Sheronda: Healthcare is quickly changing and about a year ago we sat down to ask ourselves “What other interests do we have”? While still using our medical background and education, we wanted to work towards something creative. We searched for a middle ground; or balance I would even say. Graduating medical school and saving lives has been our biggest accomplishment, but we both felt as though we wanted a different work and life balance. This blog is a way for us to be even more purposeful and take our lives in a new direction. In medical school, me and Dr. Kemi were close and had a great group of friends that encouraged each other. That group inspired us to want to connect with other women across the country. “Mavens in Medicine” is our newfound passion and it’s amazing that we just started building over the last year. That is how Maven in Medicine came to be and we can not wait to see what our blog turns into.
3. How Was Your Medical School Experience?
Dr. Sheronda: I met some of my core friends in medical school. There were about 9 Black women in our medical school class who were like minded, proud of themselves, and enjoyed being real women with families. We had a lot of fun and good times during breaks. It was not common for us to cook dinner at someone’s house, watch Sex & the City marathons, and then study for our upcoming exams. The process was much more bearable with them around me. They make me feel like I am more than a doctor. I am also a family member, a girlfriend to my friends, and a significant other. Medical school was not terrible. The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) in New Jersey has a diverse population of patients and also diversity in pathology and disease process. I did my residency at Columbia University. The way anesthesiology training works, you do new procedures as you learn more over time. They eased us in during intern year and we learned how to write an order, insert central lines, and then we worked with patients. Overall, 24 hour shifts are not fun, but you learn how to be tough and deal with things. No one else is going to do this if I do not do it. You work long hours but you sacrifice to get it done!
4. What Obstacles Did You Have to Overcome In Your Journey?
Dr. Kemi: As the first physician in my family, I quickly learned to accomplish things on my own. I went to high school in Brooklyn, NY and my entire life my family kind of pushed us out of the nest and told us to fly. Even though I did not know there were high school prep programs for pre-medical students, I performed well in school. In college, I did not have guidance for MCAT prep and it showed. I bought a MCAT book thinking I could just study it & be successful. I did a lot of it on my own, but I encourage this because it made me who I am and it was how I was raised. I learned how to fend for myself which helps me a lot now. I have so many side-hustles today, I am always finding out stuff for myself instead of waiting for some to walk up to me and hand me what I want.
5. How Do You All Manage Being on Different Coasts?
Dr. Sheronda: I live in Los Angeles and Kemi is in New York but is always on the move – she travels so much! Kemi is very much like “If I want to do it, I want to do it! I am happy to be around a woman who grabs life by the horns. This makes collaboration easy for us. We use technology and have great communication. Good communication skills are essential.
6. What Are You Most Proud of?
Dr. Sheronda: The new updates to the blog. Have you seen it? You have to see it. Everything you see is new things that we learned. We learned coding just by Googling and learning over time. This was one of my proudest moments. Mavensinmedicine.com allows us to meet a lot of like-minded people. Outside of medicine, we like fashion, hanging out with “our girls”, and doing our make-up. With the blog, we are able to relate to other women in medicine, but on a different level. We like being able to connect with other women who get it! They understand how we want to take trips, wear blue scrubs, pamper ourselves, and take care of patients. Kemi got to take a trip to Cuba and we were able to share that unique experience on the blog! We aim to create something relatable. We look at blogs and we look at things we can improve on and I am proud of what we have accomplished thus far.
7. Where Do You See Mavens in Medicine Heading?
Dr. Kemi: In the next year I hope we have an increase in followers and content providers. We want to be a resource for people in medicine and health by spreading the “women empowerment” message. We also want to collaborate with so many other people as we are still building. For example, as Dr. Sheronda said, we built our website from scratch and integrated different platforms by ourselves! There is still more to learn and more people to meet and we are excited to continue Mavensinmedicine.com.
8. Any Relationship Advice For Fellow Mavens?
Dr. Sheronda: I dated someone in medical school and then choosing different fields and timing happened. Honestly, I say balance is key. Balancing my lifestyle and dating is fun – at this point I appreciate that I did not stay in a relationship during my medical journey. These days, almost everyone says I want to be married at 25 and have kids at 28 but now I am glad I did what was right for me. If I had children I may not have been able to travel as freely, and dating is fun and right for my life right now. Dating is about learning about ourselves and what we want from a relationship. Do not just date to be in relationship and get married.
9. How Is It Being A Traveling/Locum Doctor ?
Dr. Kemi: Being in a big city like New York makes it easier for me to travel. I have been in New York since 1989, then went to medical school in Jersey and finished my training in Philadelphia. I stayed in Philadelphia for many years but all my friends and connections were in New York so I moved back here in 2015.
As far as locum goes, you work for a staffing agency, and they can send you to work anywhere, depending on what areas need the most help. If you arrive at different locations and do not like it you can try a few before deciding where to travel the most. I am under a contract with a staffing company which requires more commitments than other locum jobs. They expect more professionalism, expect for you represent them as a company when interacting with patients, and there are more risks on the line. Thus, they try to make the doctors happier.
There are Many Perks:
- Flexible schedules as I often get to decide my hours and days
- I love the travel. For example, right now I am in Michigan and can dictate my schedule during a five day commitment and then come back to New York. In a traditional setting, the schedule is more concrete.
- Compensation is usually higher due to the nature of a locum doctor’s schedule
- There is less bureaucracy as I am not as weighed down by hospital regulations and happenings. I do my best for a week or so and take care of patients then head back home.
& Some Cons:
- Travel is lonesome and sometimes you are not in a busy city. You will be sent to the boondocks, where there are not a lot of local doctors. Often you go to work and sit in your hotel after a shift.
- Also, if you do not like flying and dealing with airports, you will probably not enjoy locums. It can be physically demanding to travel so often.
But overall, if you like meeting different people, you learn unique clinical “tricks” to use at different sites, and it is an educational experience at each location. I recommend it!
10. Any Advice for Pre-medical & Medical Students?
- Pursue other majors: There are Finance Majors in medical school! Make yourself well rounded for your application and life in general. You do not know what position you will find yourself in after medical school and what skills you will need. It can help you improve your social skills and patients need the different perspectives other majors can offer. Explore a few options before deciding on a major!
Medical School Students:
- I encourage medical school students to look into learning outside of the classroom. Medical school is a very busy time but try to get exposure to different parts of healthcare while in school. Learn more about the social culture, caseworkers, and hospital structure when you are rotating. Do you know about reimbursement rates, state policy, and other aspects of medicine that are not in the text books? Talk to your Attending and shadow physicians with private practices. Learn more about the nature of where medicine is headed. Most physicians are not practicing as single doctors anymore but rather part of a medical team.
I want to thank both doctors for being honest and relatable during this detailed interview. They are a great example of how collaboration and a great idea can turn into a project as big as “Mavens in Medicine“! Make sure to check out more from Dr. Kemi and Dr. Sheronda at http://www.mavensinmedicine.com/!