Thank you, 2018 :)

It’s strange sitting here, 1.5 hours before midnight in my home city, 2.5 hours til 2019 in my current one.

But it’s a great time for reflection, particularly when you and your other half saw the Early fireworks as he’s oncall tonight.

2018 was a huge year for me.

One of my faves, Ariana Grande herself said it best- “I find it interesting that this has been one of the best years of my career and the worst of my life.”

I guess personally, it wasn’t the absolute worst it could have been for me, but it definitely had a huge amount of challenges that really rocked me- but also gave me the extraordinary chance to reset and reframe the difficult situations in my personal life.

You can dread each day and its challenges, or you can reframe it to be uplifting for someone else who’s going through a hard time.

Every day counts.

I really believe that, no matter what challenges your career throws at you, you and your loved ones come first.

They’re your anchor, they’re your reason, your “Why” in most cases.

And you should never be ashamed of putting your wellbeing first.

Because no matter how big your career gets- and I believe that your career is your startup - you’ll enjoy it more when you respect yourself.

If you need more time before saying “Yes” to a project, ask for it.

If you feel pressured to work weekends and public holidays because that’s “the startup way,” but you’re actually more productive just working on odd weekdays, go ahead and set your boundaries.

If your personal circumstances mean it’s more favourable for yourself and your family if you work a bunch of part-time and casual freelance roles, go ahead and do it.

If you feel your co-founder’s doing something dodgy, reassess and consider trusting your instincts.

If someone’s being two-faced, don’t be afraid to call it out.

If you love doing several other things along with medicine, allow yourself to do it.

Give yourself permission.

And many more examples like this.

Everyone will be better off for you owning your power.

—-

Someone wise I met recently gave me that wonderful piece of advice.

“Own Your Power.”

Own your decision-making capability, your strengths and skills, your relationships, your identity.

People will try to take advantage of your vulnerability.

So-called “friends” and “partners” in startups and medicine will show their true colours to you, even when the rest of the world can’t see it immediately.

It’s disheartening. It can be isolating, and you can question yourself and your perception, wanting to believe you’re wrong.

It’s okay, because questions are healthy, and I’ve learnt how valuable it is to be mindful, and become more self-aware.

It’s a great defence mechanism, mindfulness. I’ve found it’s a great decision-making tool, productivity booster, and mental health balm. (Ooh, I should package that! Next to the lip balm jars!)

But I guess my rambling here right now is to say,

THANK YOU.

Thank you, 2018, for teaching me even through my weaknesses and dark times this year.

Thank you for giving me the chance to grow stronger.

Thank you for helping me to speak my truth.

Thank you to every single one of you who stumbles across my page; who reads my articles from way back when; who follows and likes (for real) my stuff on social media; who has become a true friend from this crazy journey; who has bumped into me at some event or clinic somewhere around the world and said hello; who believes in me even when I don’t; who believed in me even when it doesn’t all make sense.

I can’t wait to share 2019 with you all.

Have a wonderful New Year and enjoy the celebrations :):):)

*I think I am serious about the mental health balm!

Deceleration as a Tool for Identity and Preventing Burnout

I was listening to The Tim Ferriss Show (his podcast), Episode #295, where he goes into “The 4-Hour Work Week Revisited.” If you’ve read any of his books, or even if you’ve just heard of “The 4-Hour Work Week,” I highly recommend listening to it. He has some thoughtful insights from the unprecedented response to his most famous book on working well, productivity and “lifestyle design”, and answers some of the most commonly asked questions he’s received since first publishing it over ten years ago.

Approximately midway through the episode, Tim discusses what he believes is the most important and overlooked chapter, “Filling the Void.” In a nutshell, the chapter is about what the reader could do after finding their success on their terms; automation, fantastic cashflow, a great team, flexibility, low stress; as detailed in the book. However, Tim has found that people too often mistake the chapter as being a treatise on the benefits of lifelong idleness after achieving “success” in this manner. Furthermore, he believes people who misread this chapter may misunderstand how to relax well.

“It’s about contribution; getting yourself out of a ‘me, me, me!’ focus, so that you’re hopefully putting a positive dent in the world, in a way that extends outside of yourself and your immediate family, and hopefully has some persistence over time,” says Tim. “And taking the tools you’ve developed in a business capacity, and applying them to impact in some fashion. I expect many people skipped (the chapter) because they don’t expect to succeed…. But (perhaps) what started out as a party or a celebration ends up being really lonely, they feel isolated and don’t know how to address that…. and by thinking about filling the void, about starting to incorporate those pieces into your life, BEFORE you end up in a challenging psychological position where you end up being reactive, … since you haven’t filled the void with anything non-business related, you’re going to continue to work for work’s sake. This is really common for people who succeed in any capacity. .. It’s really rare you see someone who’s been in sixth gear for a very long time, who then retires and is really good at chilling out. Learning to relax and enjoy other aspects of life, and engage with people around you- friends, community or built community- those are skills you need to practice and develop, just as you need to develop and practice the skill of split testing (ie. A-B testing) to anything else. It’s not a default ability you have as soon as you stop.

“They can be really existential (issues) for someone. If the business has been your identity for a long time, and all of a sudden you want to replace that, if you don’t have a compelling replacement, you’ll just continue working because you don’t want to have to sacrifice that identity.”

(If you don’t have a business, feel free to replace it with “work” in the quotes above to apply to your situation.)

I think this is why people have trouble taking a break; even if you haven’t felt that you’ve reached your ideal of “success” yet; even if you’ve failed or had a hard time and wanted to distance yourself from your work for a time; in order to recuperate. If your identity’s so wrapped up in your work (and don’t worry, you’re not odd- it’s very common in medicine and startup land), you’ll feel that strange sense of time stretching out, empty and unfilled, and you’ll perhaps feel guilty for having that free time, and try to keep “busy” by filling it up with quick dopamine rushes, which may be simply starting a bunch of new projects with too much zest (who doesn’t love enthusiasm?), or at their extreme, can include overspending, binge eating, even drugs and so forth.

Or maybe you don’t experience any of that, but you think that to fill that void, you have to go back to work ASAP. And if that work environment was toxic for you, or you had issues to work through that you didn’t get addressed while having time off, those issues can quickly reappear, or be amplified, creating an even worse situation for yourself.

And the worst is that you may feel you’ve trapped yourself.

But there’s always a good way out.

You can be proactive about this.

As Tim suggests, no matter where you’re at in life, you can start today by asking yourself if you’re enjoying enough time with your friends/loved ones; if you’re doing something meaningful to you that is part of your identity, like a hobby that isn’t directly related to your work; or you can start something new, a new activity or hobby that helps build your identity beyond your medical life or startup life. You need to know that you’re valued beyond the workplace. And if you do find that you want to go back to work, that’s okay, but you could consider an option of trying a different work environment; working fewer hours/part time; or changing your work style in some other way. (A burnt-out, bullied doctor shouldn’t necessarily jump straight back into the exact same workplace; locuming a couple of days in a different workplace, or volunteering your compassion, integrity and other qualities into a tutoring job for homeless children, let’s say, could help you recuperate and feel fulfilled beyond your initial job description.)

It takes time to decelerate; even a car doesn’t do it gracefully when the brakes are slammed on! Patience with yourself will go far.

Feel free to comment below with your thoughts!

Don't Be Afraid

Don’t be afraid to say no to a deal that isn’t fair.

Don’t be afraid to walk away from teammates who don’t support you, despite false words and appearances.

Don’t be afraid to walk away from those who discredit you and your hard work.

Don’t be afraid to call out what’s wrong.

Don’t be afraid to believe in you.

Don’t be afraid to persist.

Don’t be afraid to wait to figure out your next move.

Don’t be afraid to walk away from that which doesn’t nourish you.

Don’t be afraid of time.

Don’t be afraid of change.

Don’t be afraid of success.

Don’t be afraid of happiness.

Don’t be afraid of your dreams.

Don’t be afraid to put your health first.

Don’t be afraid to put your loved ones first.

Don’t be afraid to say what’s tough.

Don’t be afraid to have values.

Don’t be afraid to care.

I hope this helps you.

Best Reads This Week, September Edition

We’ve been quiet for awhile! Hello again :)

It’s great to be back!

We’ve got a lot happening at The Medical Startup- thankyou for bearing with our site facelift as it happens.

For now, entertain yourselves with a roundup of some great articles we’ve enjoyed from around the Web this week.

  • Beth Comstock’s a CEO- and an introvert. Tips and strategies at Girlboss.com.

  • Clinical trials are underway for novel early-stage cancer screening through a simple blood test. (The article’s from January but still relevant!)

  • Our friends at Lysn have been listed as one of the top 5 Mental Health social enterprises in tech to watch, along with other inspiring startups. Check out the full list at Social Change Central.

What are some articles and resources you’ve enjoyed recently? Share your finds below!

Doctors, You’ll Never Be Good Enough- And That’s Okay

First published May 12, 2017

Like many in the medical world, I’ve been deeply saddened by the suicide of a Brisbane gastroenterologist, the father of four children, the husband of a loving wife.

I don’t know them personally, but am touched by the email that his wife wrote and son sent online- which has triggered a flood of goodwill from his patients (the Facebook comments on the CourierMail post are so heartening) and from other health professionals and members of the public, who, like me, may not have known him personally, but felt devastated by this very unnecessary loss.

So what can we do? How do we stop others from thinking the only way out is suicide?

What’s the worst that could happen if you choose NOT to die?

 

Your patients may be looked after by other colleagues, or will find other specialists.

 

Your family will be concerned and worried about you, but they will be happier that you’re taking time to recover.

 

Your colleagues will most likely be concerned about you too, not mean-spirited. (If they are, why choose to work with them or choose to listen to them? What do they know about who you really are?)

 

Maybe part of it is our fear of delegating responsibility for our patients to others when we’re too crushed or sick to continue. Handover is so complex- even more as a consultant in private practice for many years. You would have built strong relationships with some of your patients who’ve grown with you; with your staff; with your routine. You would know their test results and the dates of their treatments off by heart.

 

And of course, when a patient dies, it is never easy.

 

Just because you’ve dealt with a patient’s demise or deterioration over and over again during the years, it doesn’t mean your feelings will be bulletproof forever.

 

And then, you also may fear delegating the responsibility of your struggles to others, to psychologists, to counsellors, to psychiatrists, or to a friend who’s a listening ear.

You’re good at curing patients. Why can’t you cure yourself?

You’re feeling enormous responsibility. Why burden others with that terrible weight?

 

There’s so much blame in medicine. We constantly want to be better. It’s the mark of a true professional, a craftsperson even in other professions. You want to better yourself.

 

But even doctors are only human.

 

Maybe we think it’s the absolute end, there’s no way out if we step back for a few days, weeks, months, years- it’s too terrifying at that moment to deal with the enormity of a future you don’t know.

 

We try too hard to control our futures and our patients’ futures, but as doctors and health professionals, and even startup founders, even we can’t control everything.

 

Maybe it’s time to recognise that and embrace it as something positive we can learn to live with.

But don’t do it alone.

Please seek help, no matter what your journey is.

Condolences and respects to Dr Bryant and his family. 

People may look like they’re doing okay on the outside, but are actually screaming for help inside. Please be kind to each other and ask directly, “are you okay?” 

Some useful sites/resources in Australia if you’re seeking help or contemplating suicide:

– Lifeline

– BeyondBlue

– Mens HelpLine

– Mindful in May

– R U OK? suicide prevention

– Victorian Doctors Health Program (please reach out even if you’re not living in the state, people are always happy to suggest other resources)

– your GP

– a psychologist

– a counsellor

– the AMA, which has other links to Drs4Drs which lists resources for Doctors in each State/Territory, and other sites; and the Australasian Doctors NetworkAustralasian Doctors Network which advocates for doctors’ health.

– Online video calls to a psychiatrist (you’ll need a GP referral but it is bulk billed)

– Lysn, a provider of online video calls to a psychologist

– your work’s Employee Assistance Program (many public and private companies including public hospitals in Australia, possibly in your country too, offer this free confidential service through external providers. The RACP also offers this, and probably other fellowship colleges do, too. Don’t be afraid to ask your HR or Workforce managers about this; it’s your right as an employee, and they are human, too, and know everyone goes through stuff.)

Feel free to list other resources you’ve found helpful below in the Comments. 

 

You + Career ≠ Self Worth

First published March 19, 2017

 

It’s devastating to hear of yet another young doctor suicide in Australia.

As the papers report, the 4th known in 6 months; probably many more unreported.

That doesn’t include the statistics for other healthcare professionals in Australia, or of those who work within healthcare; and of course, those from non-healthcare professions, too.

We don’t know the victims personally, and we’re not going to pretend we know their story.

But we know our own stories.

The pressure of our careers and perfectionism in the age of Instagram is higher than ever, and we want to remind everyone:

Your career is not your value as a person.

We know it.

And we can give advice on how things can change in the healthcare profession.

Because, this may not surprise you, these exact same issues crop up in the startup world, too. 

 

The same exacting degree of impossible high standards. 

Being the top one percent of the cream of the crop. 

Feeling like you have to beat and compete with that top percent of the cream of the crop. 

Congratulating yourself for pushing through 100 hour work weeks or more without a break, week on week.

Being made to feel ashamed when you try to enjoy your Sunday off but have hours of lectures to catch up on.

Being told by senior bosses and advisors that “we’ve been there, we’ve done that, we’ve pushed through insane hours at the risk to our health and our relationships, too.”

The thing is, thirty years down the track, the seniors in various professions may have neglected to realise the impact that social media and digital devices have on all industries and their workers.

We’re constantly surrounded by information overload.

Our email inboxes keep filling.

Those Tweets keep flowing in.

Our patients demand the best, and we are doing our best within our limited neural networks. 

Peer pressure scorns you when you haven’t published enough papers.

Your brain and body work best when you have enough rest.

We have to accept that we can never know everything. 

We’re not perfect.

And despite the external factors set to validate “success,” we have to remember we’re able to set our own internal values. 

We’ve been in the undergraduate medical class where people sneered at Mindfulness and Resilience training.

We’ve been there when we were too scared to call in sick despite being sick with gastro, because we’re worried our colleagues will think we’re too “soft” or faking it.

We’ve seen colleagues return to work when they’re still having gastro, risking hospital outbreaks, because they are the only Registrar on call that weekend in a major city hospital, and their bosses don’t get paid for stepping in for them.

You feel pressured to return to work before you’re well, too.

Yet other colleagues make it difficult for the workplace to trust your cohort, because when they call in sick, they’re pictured at festive events the same day they were meant to work.

We’ve been told we’re worthless by Directors of Training, despite studying and working at the cost of seeing loved ones when they needed us.

We’ve cried through weekends off because they were never really “off” when you had to study, study, and study for fellowship.

We were told by Colleges and work paraphernalia to look after yourself and seek help.

When we tried to do more sport or see friends, we had the opportunity cost of less time for study group.

We were told we didn’t want it badly enough, and we knew that was bull.

Yet it’s never enough.

There’s always going to be someone who says you’re too “soft” or worse.

You have to learn to tune them out.

You have to know what’s important to yourself.

What happens if you do achieve that goal you’re seeking? Will it really make you happy? Or will it more likely unlock another list of far-reaching career accomplishments you’ll need to add to your LinkedIn?

You have to accept that the only thing you can be perfect at is being YOU. 

Being the one who your aunts and childhood friends call on your birthday.

The one who gets to hold your nephew.

The one who gets to laugh at your partner’s jokes.

The one who bakes the best cake in the family.

Who were you before you started your degree?

What interests did you enjoy along with medicine or your profession?

What did you do to relax?

If the answer’s “Nothing!” to all of that, you can still start something now.

Did you ever talk to anyone outside of work about your problems?

The strongest thing you can do is find someone.

Your problems are NEVER too small to share with someone who cares or is trained to help. 

Lifeline, Beyond Blue, a counsellor, psychologist, a GP, the Victorian Doctors’ Health Program– they’re all there to help you.

Most major workplaces including hospitals, manufacturing factories, corporations, and so forth- have an Employee Assistance Program or similar where staff can access free, confidential counselling sessions.

You can go to the other side of town or chat over the phone, and not let it be known to anyone in your workplace or fellowship college.

You may not click with that counsellor or listener immediately, but persist – or try someone else. It’s not personal. The counsellor relationship doesn’t have to be perfect immediately.

Try something new. The brain loves novelty. Attend an acting class. An illustration class. A free yoga session on the beach. Be anonymous. Challenge yourself to step out from what you know. That one-hour break at the new yoga session could be exactly what you need to feel reinspired.

Call a friend you haven’t seen since school. It’s amazing how similar our paths are, despite differences in uni degree (or lack of- and it’s incredible what lives people can build for themselves without a college or uni diploma!). The same stressors. The same feelings of lack of self-worth in any industry.

A key reason why we started this blog was to inspire others about healthcare and entrepreneurship. Because those skills and these stories of real people who have hit rock bottom before career success, can be used by you, too. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re medical or not.

At the crux of it, you’re doing whatever you do because you want to do good.

And doing good (and being well enough to do this) involves taking risks.

You’re thinking like an entrepreneur if you take a risk and decide to take time out from training.

You’re thinking like a startup founder by deciding to apply for a paid Biodesign Fellowship overseasinstead of following the PhD route the majority are taking.

You’re a risk-taker if you decide to apply for a Google prize through your PhD.

You’re creative by founding a cancer app combining clinicians’ and patients’ needs instead of waiting a few years to finish training before starting to make an impact.

And you’re a champion if you’re learning to deal with your fears

Both the medical and startup worlds must learn to be kind to their own. 

But while they’re learning how to do so (and it’s really not that hard to be nice), refuse to be a victim. 

You are in control of your actions.

Be yourself. Be passionate about being your best self, in medicine or any tribe you’re connected to.

And allow yourself to receive kindness from others.

You’re not alone.

Help can be found in Australia from many sources including Lifeline (13 11 44), BeyondBlueBlack Dog Institute, the Victorian Doctors’ Health Program, and your GP. Please comment below if you have more resources to share including outside Australia.
There is also a
donation fund set up in honour of a recent doctor-suicide victim.
Thank you for reading this. 

How Two Australian Medical Startups Are Inspired By Social Media

First published October 6, 2016

The power of communication is something that fascinates The Medical Startup.

Perhaps it’s our experience from looking after stroke patients who’ve lost the ability to speak.

From meeting patients who speak English as a second, third, fourth or even fifth language, and being awed at their skill.

From speaking with non-medical professionals who are trying to break into healthcare and learn healthcare’s language, and vice-versa.

Or from recognising how difficult it must be when an Australian doctor moves to work in a US hospital, and gets stumped by differences in common hospital terminology (read: ER versus ED; or in the UK, ICU vs ITU; or even paracetamol versus acetaminophen, which I encountered on a flight one day. Add in the accent difference, and you’ll see what we mean!).

This fascination with communication in medicine was what inspired us to connect with the Mayo Social Media Summit, which will be in Melbourne next month. Below are two Australian medtech startups founded by medical doctors, and how they’ve used social media with their apps.*

One through instant messaging, and one for the cancer journey. 

1. Bleep

 

Bleep‘s hashtag feature as inspired by social media. Free download on GooglePlay and the AppStore. Pic courtesy of MedSquared

Sydney-based medtech startup Bleep took a page from social media by cleverly including hashtags to group conversations within its clinician messaging system, and using the “@” system popular with Twitter and Instagram to directly contact particular team members looking after a patient.

 

Emergency Medicine doctor Joe Logan and co-founder Sarah Humphreys wanted to make messaging easier, secure and more efficient for healthcare workers within hospitals, residential care facilities and other clinical care centres. As Dr Logan explained, “At work, I receive texts, phone calls, emails and paper notes from members of the care team, making communication inefficient as it’s often between two parties rather than the multidisciplinary team.” Not to mention the confusion when a four-digit pager number is entered incorrectly and directed to the wrong person or team, wasting precious time in an emergency.

With Facebook and Twitter already on most peoples’ phones, this means Bleep takes a familiar practice from out-of-work communications to implement safer and better targeted messaging systems in clinical care.

2. CancerAid

 

CancerAid makes the cancer journey easier for patients, loved ones and healthcare professionals through several features including its Journal, Treatment diary, Opt-in Research, and Newsfeed. Pic courtesy of founder Dr Nik Pooviah

Another Australian startup, CancerAid, has successfully used storytelling and community-building to help humanise the earth-shattering cancer experience for would-be users of their app.

Founder and Radiation Oncology registrar Dr Nikhil Pooviah was struck with his CancerAid Awards inspiration one day as the app was preparing for its soft launch on the AppStore. (Stay tuned for Android news.) Celebrating the victories of cancer patients, oncology researchers, charity fundraisers, and others in the Oncology world, CancerAid’s growing reach speaks volumes about the power of sharing experiences to help deal with a tremendous burden of illness.

CancerAid‘s Symptoms Journal solves the memory recall problem encountered by patients and care providers in clinics worldwide, allowing better tracking of side-effects and other problems. Pic courtesy of CancerAid

Furthermore, CancerAid’s Awards and Championsconcept empowers users to treat the cancer journey not as a setback, but as a temporary hurdle, a race of sorts, with a Winning mindset from the start.

What strategies do you use involving social media with your healthcare solution? Leave a comment below or Contact Us if you want to share privately.

The Mayo Social Media Summit is for anyone interested in how social media can help solve problems in healthcare. They also run a course for medical professionals navigating social media. Tickets for the Summit in Melbourne are available here. 

*The startups listed are not affiliated with the Mayo Clinic. If you’re interested in learning more about either startup or enquiring about trialling either at your hospital/clinic/service, contact them at the links in this article. Both Bleep and CancerAid are currently available on the AppStore for free download.  Bleep is also on GooglePlay. 

Innovations for Aged Care and Senior Citizens at the Digital Health Show

First published April 19, 2016

 

The Digital Health Show Conference and Workshophad some standout projects aimed at improving the lives of the elderly and more vulnerable in our communities. Innovation for our ageing population will help integrate our society’s communities, improving wellbeing across all age groups. Here are some highlights:

 

1) A/Prof Valerie Gay and Dr Peter Leijdekkers of UTS showed how their community model, Le Bon Samaritain, links elderly residents in the community with “Good Samaritan” neighbours who are alerted via smartphone app if the resident is in distress, via a Red, Yellow and Green light system. Using “tech to empower communities,” this will help engage neighbours with often isolated members of the community. From our experiences working primarily with the elderly, we’ve seen many preventable hospital admissions occur during heatwaves, floods and falls, and feel that systems like these will help improve safety in our communities.

2) Philip Goebel, Physiotherapist and co-founder of Quanticare technologies, demonstrated the Footprints sensor, that attaches to a user’s walking frame and analyses gait during everyday use. The Internet of Things Innovation World Cup Winner at Barcelona, Philip created Footprints in response to the feeling that “our healthcare system is very reactive; focusing on fall detection, rather than indicator of cause.” Footprints uses an optical sensor which analyses gait via spatio-temporal gait metrics. The data generated can assist with prescribing mobility aids and falls risk management.

 

3) The ePAT (Pain Assessment Tool) for Dementia uses facial recognition software assess pain accurately in dementia sufferers, who often cannot verbalise their pain. Founded by Professor Jeff Hughes, former head of Pharmacy at Curtin University, he described how, by using the inbuilt cameras on smart devices, ePAT can assess facial pain cues at the point of pain onset, as well as non-facial pain cues. The benefits for dementia sufferers and their carers, will extend to more accurate pain management in hospitals and the community, and is being looked into with pre-verbal children.

4) Eureka ConnectionA/Prof Helen Hasan, Information Systems specialist from the University of Wollongong, hosted a workshop discussing Eureka Connection’s vision for bringing computers and smart devices to senior citizens. Starting with the Illawarra region of New South Wales, Helen’s passion for bringing tech literacy to seniors through home visits, community centre stations and education was reflected in the videos of seniors who were awed at sending their first email, receiving their first Skype call, and joining their first Facebook community group during a seasonal flood. As the elderly are at more risk of injury and isolation, tech education to encourage connectivity and social integration helps their wellness and physical health. Giving advice on how to set up a computer or smart device; selecting the right device for their needs, making it user-friendly by, for example, enabling large text; and helping them to reload credit and find hotspots are just some of the things this ambitious project hopes to achieve.


What are your thoughts on these projects for seniors? Comment below.

The Medical Startup attended the Digital Health Show 2016 on a courtesy pass. See our other highlights from the Digital Health Show here.