That Raw, Unfiltered, Grit in Your Teeth Connection

Besides being a family med physician, mom, wife and entrepreneur, I led women outdoor retreats that I so elegantly call “Women in the Wild” after my loving spouse refused to acknowledge Women Gone Wild.

Besides fun outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, camping, I also try to empower my participants by teaching them survival skills

Lucky for us in Indiana, there aren’t many bears these days so do you know the Number 1 thing that kills people who get lost out in the woods?


Exposure kills people a lot quicker than lack of water or food. But it’s not that people who get lost in the woods aren’t intelligent. The real underlying reasons that people die from exposure are:

Uncontrolled Fear & Loss of Hope

I see these exact 2 things in medicine too. And I’m not going to pick apart the multifactorial reasons of why but I do what to emphasize what you don’t need to survive in medicine and tell you what you do.

You don’t need more survival tips on how to make your schedule flow more efficiently

You don’t need Another tip sheet on shortcuts in your EMR

You don’t need Weekly e-newletters filled with motivational memes

You don’t need another yoga class to be late to

(By the way, total side note…you can’t use yoga solely to mitigate burnout away so any administrators that suggest yoga over system changes to me again might want to think before speaking with me.)

I venture to say what you really need to truly survive…yep…connection.

Not that surface level stuff. 

I mean raw, unfiltered, getting grit in your teeth connection with people who get you, accept you and relate to your experience.

These are the types of conversations where we take off our white coats and show the wounds we have. Because let me tell you, we are the walking wounded.

Think of that patient that you still continue to dream about 5, 10, 20 years later. Think about that diagnosis that when it pops up into your EMR gives you the shivers. Think about that person who you cared for and would do anything to change their outcome.

Don’t think you have wounds..we all do. And now is the time to start opening them up to the air, debriding them and maybe even placing a wound vac for those chronic ones.

This type of vulnerability that can only be accomplished in a safe space with people you can trust.

Though I love my spouse, he’s not a doctor. There’s something special about the title DOCTOR that though I may not know all the details…I get you. I know your road because it was mine too.

This type of connections helps you digest your fear to tolerable levels, because fear will never go away, and it helps foster hope to keep it alive, growing and burning within you.

Let me give you Some real life examples of this type of raw connection:

FIRST: Dr. Colin West at Mayo with his 2014 and 2015 COMPASS trials (COlleagues Meeting to Promote and Sustain Satisfaction)  he found that when small groups of physicians met in private settings and were given a protected hour twice a month for 6 months with a small food stipend of $20, they had Measurably lower burnout and social isolation, and higher well-being and job satisfaction.

NEXT: PMG Physician Moms Group created by Dr. Hala Sabry-Elnaggar now has over 70,000 female physicians involved. It’s a safe place to talk about the lowest of lows and be supported to highest of highs and help celebrating. Some significant studies about female physicians and the many issues in medicine have come from this group. Many smaller groups have sprung from the main group to provide further connection and support. #Online friends are real friends too.

ANOTHER EXAMPLE: Locally in my area, I helped to form “Women In Medicine” group around the Vincennes area. We are a group of clinically practicing female physicians in rural Indiana and Illinois who decided we were tired of waiting for help. We knew we were all a little crispy with burnout (some were deep fried) and we wanted to help combat burnout and promote well-being. 

So we established this group to build relationships, find colleague-to-colleague support and provide a safe space to talk about the difficulties of being women in medicine. We met every other month at someone’s home or a restaurant or a local vineyard. Sometimes there are lots of laughs and other times we shed tears.

So I ask, where can you build connections in your life?

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