love_doctor

As a disillusioned physician who felt like I was selling my soul in order to keep the stability of a job within the insurance-based US health care system that demanded that I see 40 patients a day, I longed for a different life. As a young woman, I thought medicine was my calling. For me, medicine was a spiritual practice. You practice medicine like you practice yoga or meditation, like you won’t ever fully master it. As a doctor, I felt grateful to have the opportunity to have a front row seat on life, and as an OB/GYN, I felt particularly blessed the have the opportunity to greet the newly incarnated souls right as they entered the world.

But over time, I began to doubt my calling. Although I now realize how common my feelings were, at the time, I felt different and isolated among other doctors. Even though I felt called to medicine at the age of seven, I came to think I had made a mistake. I was the sole provider for my family, with a husband and a newborn to support, but I wound up quitting medicine at the ripe old age of 37.

It took me nine months to realize you can quit your job, but you can’t quit your calling. I’ve since realized you can use your medical education in countless ways that don’t require seeing forty patients per day. I thought there was only one way to be a doctor. You either followed the blueprint, or you quit. I now realize some of the happiest, most successful doctors are creating mission, purpose, and abundance using what they learned from becoming a doctor to serve in other ways. In case you or someone you love resonates with the archetype of the true healer but feels frustrated with the current system, I want to share with you some of the creative career choices of doctors I’ve met since leaving conventional medicine to pursue a writing career.

10 Creative Ways To Use Your Medical Degree 

1. Writer

Because being a doctor brings with it not only knowledge and experience but also credibility, doctors who love to write have a leg up in the world of blogging, magazine article writing, and book publishing. My physician writer colleagues include doctors like Rachel Naomi Remen, Christiane Northrup, Bernie Siegel, Larry Dossey, Mark Hyman, Andrew Weil, Deepak Chopra, and Sara Gottfried.

2. Online businesses

Doctors who build online communities through blogging, writing books, or social media can make a good living selling ebooks, teleclasses, webinars, and other virtual products. Great examples include Kevin Pho, MD, founder of KevinMD.com and Joseph Mercola of Mercola.com.

3. Consulting

Most physicians have been approached by PR companies who will pay for the opinions of doctors as they create new pharmaceutical products, but it’s not just drug companies that value the opinions of doctors. Many companies, such as biotech companies, seek out physicians to consult.

4. Expert Witness

Some physicians have lucrative careers carefully screening law suits and serving as an expert witness in medical malpractice cases. While some doctors of questionable ethics become infamous for being “hired guns” and saying whatever a lawyer wants them to say, it is possible to be selective about the lawsuits you will help defend or prosecute, in line with your own ethics.

5. Cash Pay Medical Practices

If you offer something a patient can’t get with their insurance-based primary care doctor- such as time or an additional skill like acupuncture, energy medicine, or an integrative medicine approach- you might consider switching to a cash-based fee-for-service or concierge medical practice. Examples of doctors successfully running such practices include Aviva Romm, MD of the Ultrawellness Center and Rachel Carlton Abrams of Santa Cruz Integrative Medicine.

6. Live Events/ Public Speaking/ Workshops/ Television personalities

Some physicians run entire businesses teaching workshops and getting paid to speak publicly. Others use public speaking, workshops, and television as a way to attract business for cash-based medical practices or coaching practices.

7. Product Endorsements

Any physician with an online community or social media presence is likely to attract the attention of PR firms who are seeking out product endorsements from doctors. When I first started blogging, I made most of my income from being the public face in the media for women’s health product companies.

8. Training programs

Part of my business model is a training/certification program for physicians called the Whole Health Medicine Institute. (Apply now for the Class of 2014.) Other physicians running successful training programs include Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease and Dr. Andrew Weil’s integrative medicine fellowship Arizona Center For Integrative Medicine.

9. Physician coaches/ Telemedicine

With increasing demand for physicians who can offer guidance over the telephone, physician coaches and telemedicine doctors are on the rise. Many of these businesses are cash-based businesses, such that patients are paying the physician directly, rather than having the physician bill insurance. Philippa Kennealy of EntrepreneurialMD.com offers business coaching for physicians interested in entrepreneurial business, while some of the doctors who have graduated from my MD training program the Whole Health Medicine Institute have gone on to offer their services as wellness coaches.

10. Creative Professional

The archetype of the shaman/healer involves not only the practice of healing but often music, art, and other creative methods of expression. Although many physicians may consider themselves “left brained” and “not creative,” most doctors, when given the chance, find that they have a highly developed creative streak. Before becoming a professional writer, I was a professional artist, and I know many other physician artists, musicians, and other creative types. Robin Wedberg, MD still practices medicine but also runs as side business selling her jewelry. Rodney Thompson, MD is a gifted artist who, like me, paints with beeswax. Rupa Marya, MD is the lead singer of Rupa & the April Fishes.

Get Creative!

There are dozens of other options for doctors outside the conventional office/hospital job, including positions as a locum tenens physician, moonlighting, hospital administrator positions, medical director jobs, and a variety of entrepreneurial opportunities. The most effective way to find out what works for you is to tap into the essence of who you are at your core- not the masks you donned in medical school, but the soul of YOU.

Try asking yourself the following questions:

1. What opens my heart?

2. What brings me pleasure?

3. What comes easily to me?

4. What is my zone of genius?

5. What skill do I have that other people value?

6. What makes me different than other doctors?

7. What do others always tell me I do well?

8. What did I dream of when I was young?

9. How can I integrate what I’m good at with what I love?

10. What would I do if I wasn’t concerned with approval?

Most successful physicians who work outside the conventional system have found a way to integrate a talent, skill, or personal interest with what they learned as a doctor. If you have a hobby, how might you merge your hobby with your medical expertise? Think all the way outside the box. Be wildly creative, and see what comes up!

If you’re a visionary physician interested in entrepreneurial business, get ideas on how to get started with the free teleclass I created with Amy Ahlers 10 Red Hot Secrets To Fire Up Your Message, Money & Meaning In The World. Or apply now for the Whole Health Medicine Institute, but hurry! Registration for the class of 2014 ends February 28th.

Most importantly, never forget that you will always be a healer in your heart. You can quit your job, but you can’t quit your calling. The world needs you and your healing heart.

With faith in you,

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8 Comments

  1. docjen

    Thank you Lissa. I’m a physician, wanted to be ever since I was a young child like, you. But I’m feeling suffocated by restrictions imposed by insurance companies, hospital administration, and my own bosses to name a few. I’m actively looking to leave the restraints of modern practice. I have a few ideas and this post was very helpful!

    Reply
  2. Ariela Bello

    Hello, Lissa.

    I got a call to write to you while reading your blog (every single post, actually) and I’m here answering it.

    Important: I’m from Brazil and, therefore, English is not my first language. I apologize in advance for any misspellings or mistakes. Thanks.

    So… I’m Ariela, 23 years old, from Brazil. I’m a physician, actually, just graduated from Medical school in Feb. 12. I always loved taking care of people, nurturing, healing, loving, providing, embracing… Well, I feel like a could be a mother for every single one in the world. Funny thing is Medical school was none about that, as you know too well. I won’t explore the details, as we say here in Brazil “I would be trying to teach the praying to the priest”, but I felt really betrayed, fooled, hurted and discouraged by Medical school. I barely could finish, actually, and I freaked out couple times during the 6 years of course. I developed eating disorders due the anxiety, my self steem issues got really bad, I thought I would never make it. Well, I did. But I completely hated my white coat.
    My dad, also a really conventional physician (and very close-minded, may I add), just like yours, forced me into this graduation course. I considered being a nutritionst and a psychologist, but none of those were good enough for him. He also manipulated me, my sister and my mother through money restricition (he is the only provider), into doing whatever he wanted. He faked being comprehensive, supportive, altruist, but it always resumed in he forcing us to do whatever he wanted.
    Close to the end of the course, I got really into healthy eating, and started researching all I could about that subject. Then I felt I was missing something, and just about couple months started studying abou the psychology of eating, the body-mind relationship, the role of spirituality in our lives. So I enrolled in a Health and Wellness Coach training program, at IIN, in February.
    I’m getting closer and closer to my spiritual being, I’m learning to let my intuition guide me, I’m learning how to listen to the universe. I even feel like I’m getting to know my own Sebastian!
    Also in February my family went into a really breakthough as I stepped away from my father’s manipulating and controlling, and we got in a really huge fight. Now he won’t provide for me or my mother anymore, and must be just waiting for my sister to graduate.
    Here’s the current picture: I’m a doctor, but I just don’t know what to do with this degree. I desperately need start to make some money, so I can help my mom and my sis. I have a debt of U$ 6000. I feel like it would be almost an agression to work at conventional practice or something like that. I feel like I can’t call myself a doctor, not even imagine that! I’m afraid to present myself like that, ’cause I feel completely like a fish out of water (and Medicine DOES feels like a fundamentalist religion to me).

    But you know what? I’m kind aware of my big why. Yes. While being trough all of this pain, I also learned to love myself more. I learned my value, I learnd that I am strong. I learned that I can’t let my appearence, my weight or my lifestyle define who I am. I came closer to mi Inner Pilot Light, I learned how to listen to it. And I feel very deeply that I need to help other women to learn all of that. Behind all career, food, relationship or any other kind of issue there’s a self love issue. There’s a disconnection between who I am and who I’m meant to be. There’s a weakned contact with The Source. A misunderstandment of the inner being. And I want to help heal that, especially working on the relationship between women and food. I absolutely love this topic.

    I feel like this describes me better than I could ever do it myself:

    “Most of us feel a sense of mission involving a major transformation in human experience, a strong sense that whatever that mission is, it’s getting closer in time, a compulsion to master certain skills in preparation for this half-understood personal mission, high levels of empathy, an urgent desire to lessen the suffering for humans, animals, and plants, and a loneliness stemming from a sense of difference, despite being generally social. According to Martha, other common characteristics that typify us include high levels of creativity, an intense love of animals, a difficult, often abusive or traumatic early life, an intense connection to the natural world, resistance to religion accompanied by a strong sense of the spiritual, high levels of emotional sensitivity accompanied by a predilection for anxiety, addiction, or eating disorders, a sense of connection with particular cultures, languages, or geographic regions, a brain-centered disability like dyslexia, retardation, or autism, a gregarious personality contrasting with the need for periods of solitude, a persistent or recurring physical illness, and a tendency to dream about healing others.”

    But I don’t know HOW to do it. I don’t know IF I can do it. I’m not a psychologist or a spiritual healer, I’m just a doctor. I don’t know IF I can do this being just a doctor. I don’t even know if I can do it being a coach. I am afraid I took too many wrong paths. So I don’t know which could be my next step, I don’t know if I’m allowed to have a next step right now or even in ten years. I am lost. But I got this call to write to you, and I felt it really strong and deep in my heart and in my body. Yeah, I got some physical calls. So, I don’t know why I’m doing this, but I felt like I should.

    I want to congratulate and thank you for this amazing job you’ve been doing. Believe it or not, you are already there.

    Warmly,

    Ariela Bello.

    Reply
  3. Ariela Bello

    Hello, Lissa.

    I got a call to write to you while reading your blog (every single post, actually) and I’m here answering it.

    Important: I’m from Brazil and, therefore, English is not my first
    language. I apologize in advance for any misspellings or mistakes.
    Thanks.

    So… I’m Ariela, 23 years old, from Brazil. I’m a physician, actually,
    just graduated from Medical school in Feb. 12. I always loved taking
    care of people, nurturing, healing, loving, providing, embracing… Well, I
    feel like a could be a mother for every single one in the world. Funny
    thing is Medical school was none about that, as you know too well. I
    won’t explore the details, as we say here in Brazil “I would be trying
    to teach the praying to the priest”, but I felt really betrayed, fooled,
    hurted and discouraged by Medical school. I barely could finish,
    actually, and I freaked out couple times during the 6 years of course. I
    developed eating disorders due the anxiety, my self steem issues got
    really bad, I thought I would never make it. Well, I did. But I
    completely hated my white coat.

    My dad, also a really conventional physician (and very close-minded, may
    I add), just like yours, forced me into this graduation course. I
    considered being a nutritionst and a psychologist, but none of those
    were good enough for him. He also manipulated me, my sister and my
    mother through money restricition (he is the only provider), into doing
    whatever he wanted. He faked being comprehensive, supportive, altruist,
    but it always resumed in he forcing us to do whatever he wanted.

    Close to the end of the course, I got really into healthy eating, and
    started researching all I could about that subject. Then I felt I was
    missing something, and just about couple months started studying abou
    the psychology of eating, the body-mind relationship, the role of
    spirituality in our lives. So I enrolled in a Health and Wellness Coach
    training program, at IIN, in February.

    I’m getting closer and closer to my spiritual being, I’m learning to let
    my intuition guide me, I’m learning how to listen to the universe. I
    even feel like I’m getting to know my own Sebastian!

    Also in February my family went into a really breakthough as I stepped
    away from my father’s manipulating and controlling, and we got in a
    really huge fight. Now he won’t provide for me or my mother anymore, and
    must be just waiting for my sister to graduate.

    Here’s the current picture: I’m a doctor, but I just don’t know what to
    do with this degree. I desperately need start to make some money, so I
    can help my mom and my sis. I have a debt of U$ 6000. I feel like it
    would be almost an agression to work at conventional practice or
    something like that. I feel like I can’t call myself a doctor, not even
    imagine that! I’m afraid to present myself like that, ’cause I feel
    completely like a fish out of water (and Medicine DOES feels like a
    fundamentalist religion to me).

    But you know what? I’m kind aware of my big why. Yes. While being
    trough all of this pain, I also learned to love myself more. I learned
    my value, I learnd that I am strong. I learned that I can’t let my
    appearence, my weight or my lifestyle define who I am. I came closer to
    mi Inner Pilot Light, I learned how to listen to it. And I feel very
    deeply that I need to help other women to learn all of that. Behind all
    career, food, relationship or any other kind of issue there’s a self
    love issue. There’s a disconnection between who I am and who I’m meant
    to be. There’s a weakned contact with The Source. A misunderstandment of
    the inner being. And I want to help heal that, especially working on
    the relationship between women and food. I absolutely love this topic.

    I feel like this describes me better than I could ever do it myself:

    “Most of us feel a sense of mission involving a major transformation
    in human experience, a strong sense that whatever that mission is, it’s
    getting closer in time, a compulsion to master certain skills in
    preparation for this half-understood personal mission, high levels of
    empathy, an urgent desire to lessen the suffering for humans, animals,
    and plants, and a loneliness stemming from a sense of difference,
    despite being generally social. According to Martha, other common
    characteristics that typify us include high levels of creativity, an
    intense love of animals, a difficult, often abusive or traumatic early
    life, an intense connection to the natural world, resistance to religion
    accompanied by a strong sense of the spiritual, high levels of
    emotional sensitivity accompanied by a predilection for anxiety,
    addiction, or eating disorders, a sense of connection with particular
    cultures, languages, or geographic regions, a brain-centered disability
    like dyslexia, retardation, or autism, a gregarious personality
    contrasting with the need for periods of solitude, a persistent or
    recurring physical illness, and a tendency to dream about healing
    others.”

    But I don’t know HOW to do it. I don’t know IF I can do it. I’m not a
    psychologist or a spiritual healer, I’m just a doctor. I don’t know IF I
    can do this being just a doctor. I don’t even know if I can do it being
    a coach. I am afraid I took too many wrong paths. So I don’t know which
    could be my next step, I don’t know if I’m allowed to have a next step
    right now or even in ten years. I am lost. But I got this call to write
    to you, and I felt it really strong and deep in my heart and in my body.
    Yeah, I got some physical calls. So, I don’t know why I’m doing this,
    but I felt like I should.

    I want to congratulate and thank you for this amazing job you’ve been doing. Believe it or not, you are already there.

    Warmly,

    Ariela Bello.

    Reply
  4. Zahra

    Hi Lissa,

    Great post. I am a doctor, who is is looking at other options. It’s been hard for me to make my mind up about leaving Medicine, as like yourself, for me it is about spiritual practice. Your post has given me a few ideas. Thank you 🙂

    Reply
  5. Gay Friend

    HI LISSA,
    ME FINISHED MD ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE FROM IBAM KOLKATTA INDIA, IS TAT ELIGIBLE TO WORK AT UK THERE, IF K MEANS WAT IS THE PROCEDURE TO PRACTICE THERE AND GIVE DETAILES TO WORK THERE PLZ

    Reply
  6. Lou M

    Hi Lisa, Great ideas, I agree medicine can get very complicated. I was a resident that did 2 years preliminary surgery however did not get into any other residency. I ended up as wound care physician for 4 years in skilled nursing facilities. I am 38 thinking about going back to residency to gain a board certification, since now getting a physician job requires that and even with some consulting firms. Sometimes I wish I never started a career in medicine. I recently lost 150,000 dollars went into a integrative practice which was not working out especially with the partner who i was with. I feel like my life is over sometimes, I owe over half million dollars and don’t know where to invest my time or money. I may be going through bankruptcy soon. The thought of going back to residency scares me: The cost, time, and is it going to get anything out of it. I am currently homeless as an MD. If there is anything you could direct me to an idea would appreciate it.

    Reply
  7. Orie

    I enjoyed your insights. As you know too well there are a million restrictions that do not allow us to help people as much as we would like. I use my creative ventures to do what I cannot in the traditional setting. I feel more balanced this way and have restored my passion for healing. I encourage any doc to try some creative outlet for personal sanity/fulfillment and also to offer people your guidance in another form. There are people online every day looking for the knowledge you have. Package it in one of the ten ways that Lissa has mentioned and you will be surprised what you can do.

    Reply

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