Q&A with Philippa Kennealy, MD, MPH, CPCC, PCC, founder and owner of The Entrepreneurial MD (www.entrepreneurialmd.com).
Question: What type of business do you operate?
Answer: I’m a physician development and business coach. My role is to help physicians who are struggling with launching a nonclinical career or a new business, or revamping a medical practice to become a satisfying venture. Although I am personally based in Los Angeles, The Entrepreneurial MD clients can be located anywhere in the world as long as we both have phone or Internet access. About 95% of my clients are not located in Los Angeles. I’m 57 years old. I was 41 when I left medical practice and went on to have several more careers.
Q: Why did you give up the practice of medicine?
A: I left my five-member private family practice in mid-1996, after joining my group in the middle of 1988. I realized that not only was I feeling unfulfilled and frustrated by work, but that I was even starting to dread it. I particularly dreaded the nights and weekends on call—for the latter, I started getting that “sick in the stomach” feeling on Mondays. I also realized that I had become bored with the repetition of the work and loved the idea of learning a whole lot of new stuff. I had embarked on my master’s degree in public health at UCLA around that time (mid-1995) and became completely energized by being a student again in a class of adult learners.
In short, I was deeply restless, in my early 40s, and ready for a change.
Q: How would you advise other MDs who are considering the pros/cons of not seeing patients anymore?
A: Above all else, it is important to get to really know yourself. Give yourself the gift of real reflection rather than just reaction. Upon such reflection, I knew that what truly energized me in clinical practice was my connection to people rather than being able to use a stethoscope or remove a mole. I also recognized that this “passion” was portable—unless I was locked away in a room with only a computer for company, I would thrive professionally no matter what I chose next, as long as it involved being in a helping relationship with others.
Engage in conversation with others who are like-minded—your mentors, people who have made career changes, your significant others. Do your homework and recognize that in the end, it is only you who can make the decision whether to stay or leave. Be compelled to make changes in your life because you are moving toward new opportunities rather than merely running away.
Q: Can you name some pros and cons for physicians interested in a career change?
A: The pros: interesting challenges, a chance to remake your career, re-engage your brain, feel challenged; reinvent yourself, strive for the dream(s) that you may have put on hold many years before or gave up because you did medicine to please others; acquire new skills, which may be fun.
The cons: risky if unplanned, you may have to take an income hit for a while, you may be a victim of “the grass is always greener” [mindset], you may never discover what you really want if you are simply acting from dissatisfaction and aren’t willing to do the work of change. It feels scary, and it takes a certain amount of inner courage and external support to make the move.