After years of juggling more than one career, Kulleni Gebreyes, MD, MBA, had a tough decision to make. “I’m a little bit of a glutton for punishment,” she admits with a chuckle. While overseeing quality improvement (QI) for a healthcare foundation, she had negotiated to take off every other Friday and work several ED shifts per month on weekends at two local hospitals.
Then, in January 2012, Dr. Gebreyes began a new full-time position as a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers in McLean, Va. It became too time-consuming and exhausting to treat patients and consult in healthcare industries, says the mother of two children, who are 7 and 4.
Dr. Gebreyes is among a growing number of physicians who, after a number of years, opt to give up clinical medicine for nonclinical roles in healthcare or other industries altogether. “You are ready for transition when the new choice excites and energizes you,” she explains, “and not necessarily when your first choice disappoints you.”
A career shift offers new opportunities for broadening one’s horizons while often striking a better work-life balance. Many clinicians make the transition slowly and wisely, and some take an expected financial hit as they carve out an entrepreneurial and creative path.
“Modern medicine is very difficult. You can burn out if you’re not careful,” says Dan Hale, MD, FAAP, a pediatric hospitalist in the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.
Stepping off the merry-go-round can help you regroup. Fortunately, he adds, hospitalists can exercise more flexibility in scheduling than physicians in different specialties. Some hospitalists prefer to work nights and weekends in order to free up weekdays for other activities. Others decrease their clinical shifts and devote more time to teaching, research, or administration.
For those who decide to leave medicine completely, “hospitalists definitely have people skills day to day in their jobs that are applicable in multiple other careers,” says Dr. Hale, a Team Hospitalist member. “Becoming a physician requires so much dedication and hard work, so you will succeed in whatever career you choose.”
The Society of Physician Entrepreneurs (www.sopenet.org) is expanding by about 150 to 200 new members each month. Founded in 2008 and officially launched in January 2011, the society has more than 4,700 members globally. The interdisciplinary network includes physicians and innovators in other professions—from law to information technology to product development.
Its purpose is to “bring all the stakeholders together in one virtual space to collaborate,” says co-founder and president Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA, professor in the departments of otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado Denver, where he directs the graduate program in bio-innovation and entrepreneurship.
“The opportunities for physician entrepreneurs include working with industry, consulting, creating their own company, and much more,” Dr. Meyers says. “As domain experts, physicians are in a unique position to add value to the innovation chain.
I have really enjoyed using all of my medical background and knowledge and applying it toward film. It’s very grounding. It gives you a purpose.
–Maren Grainger-Monsen, MD, filmmaker-in-residence and director of the bioethics and film program, Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, Stanford, Calif.
“However, to leave practice and be successful at something nonclinical requires education, experience, and networks,” he says. “Doing what you did successfully in your last career won’t be a guarantee of success in your next career, so you have to be willing to pay your dues and accept the risk.”
Deborah Shlian, MD, MBA, a former family medicine physician and managed-care executive in California, has evolved into a medical management consultant and an author of both fiction and nonfiction titles. Dr. Shlian, who now lives in Boca Raton, Fla., had always wanted to write. Her father, an internist, encouraged the pursuit of medicine, so she followed in his footsteps.