Dr. Hersh, a physician who’s also an entrepreneur, is a regular behind the scenes at SoMeDocs. He’s active as a NETWORK member and growing presence on LinkedIn right along with us and the rest of the SoMeDocs crew.
Dabbling in different side ventures, as a gastroenterologist, we thought his story would be particularly interesting to our curious, and motivated, readers. He gladly indulged us and agreed to a feature spotlight. The following was curated by SoMeDocs founder Dana Corriel, MD:
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a Gastroenterologist, husband, father, podcaster, physician coach, and founder/CEO of Better Physician Life Coaching.
I coach physicians on creating work-life balance, goal setting, stress management, reducing overwhelm, and feeling more present at home and less annoyed at work.
My goal is to help physicians stop feeling trapped in medicine so they can finally enjoy the life they worked so hard to build. I also co-host a podcast called Doctors Living Deliberately, highlighting physicians changing medicine by learning to live life with intention and purpose.
Was there a turning point for you, in your career?
I always wanted to be a physician.
I remember a Home & Careers project in 7th grade when I had to research a career. I went to the library and searched for every book on becoming a doctor.
I had no idea what the words meant or how I would make it happen, but I knew I would figure it out. So you can imagine my dismay when I was 10 years out of fellowship, when I had a great job, the family of my dreams, a house, a car, all the things, and I still wasn’t feeling fulfilled. Despite a lot of initial skepticism,
I joined a coaching program for physicians, and my life transformed. From the outside, I still had all the same “stuff,” but inside, everything was different. Once I recognized the power of physician coaching, I knew I wanted to bring the power of coaching to more physicians, but the only thing I knew how to do was “doctor.” Plus, doctors are bad at business. Right?
What have you learned from the field of entrepreneurship?
As I leaned into the discomfort of entrepreneurship, I learned more about myself than I could’ve imagined.
I learned that doctors, in fact, can be great at business. I learned that many of the skills we developed as physicians are incredibly helpful for networking, building a brand, persevering through challenges, and developing new skills.
I also learned that a big part of my physician burnout was a lack of autonomy, wanting more control over my day-to-day activities, and failure to set big, new life goals. Entrepreneurship was the solution and has allowed me to remain a full-time gastroenterologist rather than spending my days trying to figure out how much money I needed to save to achieve financial independence and run away from a career I actually enjoy.
You speak about “a lack of autonomy, wanting more control over my day-to-day activities.” How have you achieved this?
Autonomy is incredibly important for physicians.
Many of us chose a career in medicine, believing that we could do what we want when we want. Of course, the reality of medicine is quite different.
We can’t control many things, and focusing on those things can make life very frustrating. So I am choosing to focus on the things I can control and that make my day a little easier.
As a proceduralist, I was trained to begin scoping around 7:30 AM and finish up around 4 PM. The goal was to work straight through the day without a break or a meal. If you could sneak in lunch between patients, that would be OK, but it should never affect the flow of the day. This was the expectation during my fellowship training and continued into my work as an attending.
After finding physician coaching, I started to question this philosophy.
Then, I added a 30-minute lunch break to my procedure days. I’d like to tell you this was straightforward, but I received a lot of pushback from the managers and directors about how this created inefficiency. Since I knew this was in my control, I did not give in to the pressure and added the lunch break. As a result, my day became more efficient because I was no longer exhausted and starving. A 30-minute break can tremendously impact our long, arduous days.
In addition to lunch breaks, I’ve strategically added days off after taking weekend calls and for special school events. Whenever I planned to get out of work early, it always seemed out of my control. But when I have the entire day off, I know I will be available for my family exactly when I need to be.
How exactly has entrepreneurship been a solution for your burnout, allowing you to remain a full-time gastroenterologist?
Entrepreneurship has added a dimension to my life that didn’t exist before.
Being an attending physician can have a Groundhog Day-type feel. Office visits and procedures become routine, and there isn’t a lot of learning or developing new skills. Entrepreneurship has allowed me to set purpose-driven goals, learn new skills, and continually try something different. I’ve learned to build a website, create branding and a logo, write, network, advertise, and use social media (rather than allow social media to use me).
It has also encouraged me to make new friends and find new communities. In disrupting the monotony of physician life, I found an antidote to my burnout. It has also allowed me to create some autonomy in my life where it didn’t previously exist. One of the greatest parts of entrepreneurship is that every decision in my business is mine. If something works, it’s because of me. If something fails, that’s on me too.
Does your job approve of your podcast and side ventures?
Yes. Before I started Better Physician Life coaching and began to co-host my podcast, Doctors Living Deliberately, I discussed it with the head of my medical group. I have kept my work as a gastroenterologist separate from my other ventures and have not allowed them to impact my work or my work schedule. I also recently started discussing the topic of physician wellness without my healthcare system with the hospital administration. It’s still early, but I am hopeful for some positive changes.
Do you feel that certain healthcare specialties, or professions, have an easier time on social media?
Social media is an interesting space. The different platforms are like flavors of ice cream, and creators and consumers flock to the ones where they feel the most aligned. I don’t necessarily think it comes down to specialty or profession but rather what you have to say and how you say it. Physicians, like it or not, have a brand. Each time a patient comes to see you, you present your brand. Some doctors have an easier time with that concept than others. But if you have something interesting to say and a unique way of saying it, social media can be an incredible outlet and a fantastic way to build an audience.
The different platforms of social media are like flavors of ice cream, and creators and consumers flock to the ones where they feel the most aligned. Click To Tweet
Why did you choose to pair up with someone when creating a podcast, rather than do it alone?
Dr. Arpita Gupta DePalma and I teamed up for Doctors Living Deliberately for several reasons.
First and foremost, we’ve been great friends since beginning physician coach training. We have encouraged and inspired each other throughout our entrepreneurial journeys, and we thought others could benefit from our conversations. We also decided that we didn’t want to script our show. When you are doing a podcast alone, there is a tendency to fear silence, so the shows are frequently scripted. We wanted our show to feel like you were part of our conversation. And lastly, we thought we could bring a variety of perspectives to each conversation. Arpita is a retired pediatrician who runs her husband’s interventional spine practice and has high school and college-aged kids. I’m a full-time practicing gastroenterologist with elementary school-aged kids. We have a lot in common, but our different perspectives allow us to shine a light on various aspects of each topic.
(Below, Drs. Hersh and Gupta, interviewing Stephen Lewellis, MD, a SoMeDocs Network member, as a guest on their show. We love seeing collaboration of this kind! And we love to facilitate these types of connections!)
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Is there a specific learning lesson you’d like to share with aspiring doctor entrepreneurs, from these last few years of growth?
I will borrow from Nike when I say: “Just do it.”
If you are waiting for the right time, the right amount of knowledge, or the right partner, entrepreneurship is likely to pass you by.
Everyone is afraid of failure. Everyone is afraid their idea won’t work. Everyone is worried that something could go wrong. The only people who succeed are the people that face those fears head-on and do it anyway. And the most efficient way of doing that is by surrounding yourself with a community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Networking and community are essential for entrepreneurship.
How do you feel doctors can better network, to make necessary changes in their personal lives AND in healthcare? Are these different?
Networking is so important for physicians, yet this isn’t something we are taught in medical school or residency.
For effective networking, physicians must find a community to resonates with them and aligns with their goals. If you want to make friends, find social networks that serve your interests, like personal finance, cars, sports, or real estate. If you want to excel professionally, lean into professional organizations and leadership groups. And, if you want to do it all, online groups like SoMe docs help physicians network with other doctors to explore all of these interests and more.
I have cultivated genuine friendships with other physicians around the world just by leaning into the power of networking on social media.
What have you used to market your podcast?
We have primarily used the power of social media to market our podcast, Doctors Living Deliberately. We post several times per week on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. We also created a YouTube channel and post the video from each recording there. Networking has also been essential because our friends and colleagues have really supported us on this adventure.
Who has been an inspirational character in your life and why?
My fellow physicians genuinely inspire me.
The healthcare system we joined on our first day of medical school looks so different today. It can be a tremendous struggle to remember why we set out on this path in the first place. Yet every day, my colleagues show up to work and care for patients to the best of their abilities.
Despite the frustrations of prior authorizations, administrators without sound clinical judgment, and an EMR that continually takes, they start each day with the best of intentions. They inspire me to want to improve the healthcare landscape for future generations of physicians. They also inspire me to help create communities where we can encourage each other to grow, change, and set boundaries. And as we do that, we will compel the system to change.
Any gastroenterologists on social media you want to shoutout? Tell us why!
There are so many phenomenal gastroenterologists on social media.
Dr. Dawn Sears (GutGirlMD) is an excellent GI physician who also has a mission of stopping the hemorrhage of women physicians from healthcare. Dr. Cecilia Minano is also an incredible gastroenterologist and a life coach for high-achieving professionals dealing with chronic gut issues and burnout. They both exemplify hard work and dedication in gastroenterology and a desire to improve the healthcare landscape.
We recently opened a new Doctor Side Ventures group. What would you like to see more of, in a community of that niche?
Physicians are hungry to explore side ventures, but some groups can stifle open discussions about these topics. Open-minded doctors and people who are genuinely there to learn from one another are essential to a thriving community. We all have so much to learn from one another, and a safe space like Doctor Side Ventures is the perfect place for that to happen.
We’re looking to open up a section for medical and pre-medical students, in order to provide resources they may not have during their training. What advice would you give them as they study?
Keep an open mind. We all once had an idea of who we were or what we wanted to be. Medical training, and life, can turn all of that on its head. Don’t hold on to any one idea too tightly. You never know what you will learn or how that might change the trajectory of your life.