Stepping onto the threshold of a new year, I wonder what doors will open and what places they will take me. And I wonder who will guide me to those doors, who has resources to build me more doors, and who can give me the keys to unlock those doors. Who is on my team, I ask myself, because I’ve learned that getting to where I want to go is often not a solo journey.
As a middle school student, Isaiah 1:17 sparked a purpose in me: "Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor.” I volunteered in local nursing homes, hospitals, and schools. Still, I yearned for an international trip, but I was limited by time, money, and opportunity. Suddenly, I was a second-year pediatric resident, still dreaming. Then, an earthquake shattered Haiti and a nonprofit startup in my town was taking volunteers there. One of their trips fit perfectly into my schedule. I was on a surgery elective and requested to be on an international elective instead. Piles of paperwork and signatures from hospital leaders later—and not one peep of complaint from my residency program—I spent 10 days in Haiti, fulfilling the purpose I had set out to do more than 10 years ago. Team International Mission Trip comprised a nonprofit group, residency program, and me.
Now, as an early career physician, working with underserved populations is still my passion. Where do I carve out the time and resources for this amidst working full-time, spending time with my family, and, apparently, starting my own nonprofit (more on this later)? Perhaps I can find other people to help me answer this question, so I talked to my physician boss. I told him that I wanted to give talks to parents in low-income neighborhoods, but I can’t afford to work less to make time for it. He nodded and suggested that I use the hospital’s grant writers to apply for funding that can offset the cost of me not seeing patients. He also offered to introduce me to others in the hospital who might be interested in such a project. Team Underserved Parents Talk comprised my physician boss, hospital grant writers, grants, other hospital staff, and me.
Somewhere along the way, as mentioned above, I co-founded a nonprofit called Girl Med Media. The organization strives to support women in medicine through education and community. Over the course of one year, five founding board members and four continuing medical education team members organized a conference to address gender gaps in medicine. It was a lot of details to arrange from scratch, and we are still going strong with more to share on professional and personal development and on opportunities to network and to mentor/be mentored. We needed more hands on deck. We looked around for women (maybe one day men, too) who had qualities that would complement our current group, and we asked them to join us. Team Girl Med Media included three additional board members and two new conference planners added to the squad.
The common strategy to achieving each of my goals was to ask for help. When I know what I want, I can narrow down who I can seek out for additional wisdom and resources. If you aren’t sure who to ask, make a list of experts you know or colleagues who might know them and make a list of related organizations such as your hospital and professional societies. If your list is small or blank, include even peripherally relevant people and groups to get started. If asking is frightful, then keep in mind that your passion is worth your bravery. If the chance of rejection is holding you back, then remember to not let others say no before they have a chance to be asked. Try this exercise at least once every year: ask for more doors, for more tools to open them, for more materials to create them. Ask and arrive at your destination sooner, faster, and stronger. Who will be part of your team this year?
Dr. Joannie Yeh is a pediatrician as well as a 2018–2019 Doximity Author.
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