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Dr. Stephanie Pearson was removed from the career she had studied for her entire life when she suffered an on-the-job injury. She found herself in a dark place, ready to end it all. But, through the coaching of a psychologist, her husband, and a puppy, she was able to pull herself back up, and is now thriving in a second act, one in which she is ensuring that her misfortune isn’t felt by others.
And, maybe you need to also find your second act. That’s when a trusted coach can help. Reach out to www.mymdcoaches.com
MD Coaches, LLC provides leadership and executive coaching for physicians by physicians to overcome burnout, transition throughout your career, develop as a leader or meet your individual goals. Remember, you are not in this alone. Reach out to us today!
PHYSICIANS BY PHYSICIANS. It showcases unique physician talents, whether it be in the form of writing, painting, creating cookie masterpieces, or storming capital hill in the name of healthcare advocacy. Use promo code RxforSuccess to get three months free when selecting the monthly option. https://rxforsuccesspodcast.com/physicianoutlook
Today’s Episode is brought to you by Doc2Doc Lending. Doc2Doc provides Match Day loans of up to $25,000 to fourth-year medical students and current residents. These loans are designed to help students cover personal expenses, such as moving costs, housing down payments, and living expenses before and during residency. With fixed interest rates, flexible repayment terms, and no prepayment penalties, Doc2Doc Match Day loans provide financial flexibility and allow students to focus on their exciting journey towards becoming a physician.
Doc2Doc was founded for doctors, by doctors. They understand the challenges and hard work involved in becoming a doctor, and they support doctors throughout their careers. Using their in-house lending platform, Doc2Doc considers the unique financial considerations of doctors that are not typically considered by traditional financial institutions. So, Don’t let financial stress hold you back from achieving your goals – Doc2Doc lending has you covered. Visit www.doc2doclending.com/mdcoaches to Learn more.
Stephanie Pearson, MD, FACOG, is a Board Certified OB/GYN and an advocate for physicians’ disability and life insurance. A resident of Bryn Mawr, PA, Stephanie grew up in Southern New Jersey, received her B.S. from Emory University, her MD from MCP/Hahnemann (now Drexel University College of Medicine), and completed her residency at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. Injured in the prime of her career, she’s made it her mission to educate and empower her peers about the importance of protecting their most valuable asset — the ability to earn an income and life’s most important people, their families. She believes every physician deserves the protection disability insurance provides. In her role as CEO of PearsonRavitz, an insurance advisory firm, she leads her team to fulfill her mission across all 50 states.
Note: Links on this page may be linked to affiliate programs. These links help to ensure we can continue to deliver this content to you. If you are interested in purchasing any products listed on this page, your support helps us out greatly. Thank you.
Access the Show Transcript Here
[0:00] I had a four and a six year old. I was the primary breadwinner.
We had just bought a new house a year prior to this.
And my first thought was I would be better off to my family dead.
There are times in our lives that change the way we see the world.
Navigating these challenges can take insight, trusted confidants, or even a coach.
Let’s explore those moments.
In this companion podcast to Rx for Success, we will discover ways to learn and write our own success stories together.
I’m Dr. Dale Waxman, a physician coach with MD Coaches, and this is Life-Changing Moments.
[0:54] In contrast to most professions, physicians invest many years to hone their craft and become highly proficient in some very specific skills.
What happens if suddenly one cannot perform those skills? This is what happened to our guest today, Dr. Stephanie Pearson.
The compelling story about her path into medicine, a work-related injury that ended her clinical career, and her professional transformation that followed is covered in Rx for Success podcast episode number 123.
I invited Dr. Pearson back to explore more deeply these profound inflection points in her life, and how she progressed and changed through them.
Stephanie, welcome to Life Changing Moments.
Hi, thanks for having me. Thanks for coming back and allowing us to kind of explore a little bit deeper some of these pretty significant shifts that you underwent during your trajectory and that course of your professional development and also your illness.
And I was just curious, I know that that’s recounted in longer narrative in the RX for Success podcast, but I wonder if you could just kind of bring us up to speed with the recounting of your story.
[2:18] Sure. So I…
I started my clinical career in 2005 as an OBGYN. Unfortunately, I was kicked in the shoulder during a difficult patient delivery in December of 12 and ended up developing a frozen shoulder from a torn labrum.
I had surgery in December of 13 and went to sleep getting told I’d be back to work in 12 weeks.
And I woke up getting told that my clinical career was probably over.
I have not regained full range of motion. I have nerve damage, chronic pain issues, and have not been cleared to do OB or operate.
[3:07] I had been cleared to do office GYN as tolerated and thought that that’s what I would be doing.
And unfortunately, not so. The day that my FMLA was up, received a termination letter and that really started my journey. Not what I thought I was going to be doing turning 40 and I had always thought that I would be you know that 80 year old physician getting whispered to that maybe it was time to retire or that maybe I’d leave in some you know fantastical I’d have an am I at the OR table or something like that?
And that’s really how it all started, or I guess ended. I don’t know, it depends on how you wanna look at it right now. Yeah, there’s both endings and beginnings here, aren’t there? Yes.
Yeah, and you know, if there’s a story that illustrates the title of this podcast any better than yours, I don’t know if there, that waking up from surgery was a major life-changing moment for you.
[4:19] That is an understatement. Although I don’t think I appreciated it then.
I still had anesthesia on board.
[4:26] It was probably a, honestly, I don’t think it really hit me until I got terminated because up until that time, I really thought I was going back.
I thought that I’d be welcomed back with open arms. I had been asked to be the chairperson prior to me leaving that August.
And I didn’t have a reason to think that that wasn’t what was on the plan.
I’d been talking to my partners, I’d been talking to the department chair, no one gave me any forewarning that I was getting terminated.
And I think that it was the day that I got that letter handed to me by my post person that everything kind of came crashing down.
Right, and that, you know, one of the things that you talk about openly in the RX for Success podcast is how that affected you mentally. I mean, I don’t think the metaphor of the rug being pulled out from under you is adequate enough to describe what that was like for you and the impact that it had on you. And do you mind sharing again the impact that that had on you? Yeah, I’ve been known to say thousands of times in the last 10 years that I really don’t have any secrets. I feel like if I can help anyone.
[5:53] By sharing my story then something good’s come out of this.
And I really crashed hard in the beginning. I had a four and a six-year-old. I was the primary breadwinner. We had just bought a new house a year prior to this And my first thought was I would be better off to my family dead.
[6:18] And I knew that I was overfunded for life insurance and underfunded for disability insurance because we had figured that out while I was home, recuperating and trying to plan ahead so that we weren’t caught kind of chasing our tail.
And at the time, it seemed like a realistic, honest thought.
I was really only thinking financially, but I was like, oh my God, what am I gonna do now?
My family relies on this. I had kind of tongue in cheek told my husband when we got together that, you know, I would always make money, but I’m not a good house cleaner.
[7:02] And all of a sudden I was like, uh-oh, now I’m not making money and I’m still not a good house cleaner.
And I can’t do it because my shoulder doesn’t work, right?
And that was really the beginning of a downward spiral. I wrote my husband letters, I wrote my kids letters, I had a plan.
I was already in extensive therapy. I was seeing a psychologist at the time three days a week, which is a lot.
And really what got me not to do it, which seems crazy, is my husband had done two things.
I think I talked about one of these on Rx for Success, but I didn’t talk on the other one.
My husband was actually smart enough that when everything was happening, he actually got me to sign for additional life insurance.
[7:59] And that life insurance had a two-year suicide limitation, meaning if I died by suicide within the first two years of signing up for the policy, it wouldn’t pay out.
And so I signed it without thinking about it. And then he said, OK, look, now you can’t do anything because now we’re not getting this money if you kill yourself.
And then he took it a step further by bringing home a puppy, putting her on my bed and saying, look i get it the boys and i aren’t quite enough right now to get you out of bed. You have a choice you can be surrounded by filth or you can get out of bed and start taking care of something like you’re supposed to. And at the time i hated him. I mean i was like what are you doing to me?
You know it was very i was very victim oriented but it saved my life.
I started going on really long walks with her, taking her to the dog park where people didn’t know me as Dr. Pearson, right?
[9:03] It wasn’t my normal world and so I got to slowly come out of my shell and just be Stephanie, and meet people and not have to go through the story because at the dog park, right, people are just friendly.
It’s just how’s your day going? Let’s talk about dogs, right?
And so all of those things kind of in concert started really pulling me out of my own funk.
[9:30] Today’s episode is brought to you by Doc-to-Doc Lending. Doc-to-Doc provides match day loans of up to $25,000 to fourth-year medical students and current residents. These loans are designed to help students cover personal expenses such as moving costs, housing down payments, and living expenses before and during residency.
With fixed interest rates, flexible repayment terms, and no prepayment penalties, Doc-to-Doc Match Day loans provide financial flexibility and allow students to focus on their exciting journey towards becoming a physician.
Doc-to-Doc was founded for doctors by doctors. They understand the challenges and hard work involved in becoming a doctor, and they support doctors throughout their careers.
Using their in-house lending platform, Doc2Doc considers the unique financial considerations of doctors that are not typically considered by traditional financial institutions.
So don’t let financial stress hold you back from achieving your goals.
Doc2Doc Lending has you covered. Visit www.doc2doclending.com to learn more.
[10:57] I’m Rhonda Crowe, founder and CEO for MD Coaches. Here on Rx for Success, we interview a lot of, great medical professionals on how they grew their careers, how they overcame challenges, and how they handle day-to-day work. I really hope you’re getting a lot of great information, but if you’re looking for an answer to a specific problem, management or administration challenge, or if you’re feeling just a bit burnt out, like maybe you chose the wrong career, Well, then there’s a faster way to get the help you need.
No, it’s not counseling. It’s coaching.
Rx for Success is produced by MD Coaches, a team of physicians who have been where you are. I know you’re used to going it alone, but you don’t have to.
Get the support you need today. Visit us at mymdcoaches.com to schedule your complimentary consultation.
Again, that’s MyMDCoaches.com, because you’re not in this alone.
[11:58] Dr. Darrell Bock We’ll get back to our interview in just a moment, but right now I want to tell you a little bit about Physician Outlook.
If you haven’t discovered this remarkable magazine, please do so very soon.
It was created by physicians for physicians to showcase the intersection between clinical and non-clinical interests. Whether it’s writing, painting, cooking, politics, and dozens of other topics, Physician Outlook gives a physician perspective. It’s available online and in print. It’s really unique among physician lifestyle magazines, and like the Prescription for Success podcast, Physician Outlook amplifies the voice of any physician who has something to say. It also engages patients who still believe in physician-led, team-based care. And Prescription for Success listeners can get three months free when you enter our promo code RX4Success and select the monthly option at checkout. That’s a really great deal on this stunning publication.
And now let’s get back to today’s interview.
I’m curious at that time. How did your inner dialogue shift?
[13:14] Once I realized that my family would not be better off without me dead and that, you know, my kids needed a mom And there was more to life than money. I think I just started going back to, to be honest, kind of the workaholic perfectionist Stephanie and thinking, okay, enough’s enough.
Now I got to figure out what I’m going to do. I’m 40, my brain still works, my legs still work. I can’t give up. I’ve never given up on anything in my life. And it kind of lit a fire under my ass in that it would have been a lot different if I were 70.
[13:59] Maybe you know but I really started to kind of get back into the swing of things for lack of better phrasing and started initially really embracing being.
[14:13] At home you know I started going to my kids preschool and helping out there and and figuring out kind of other things that I could do and reaching out to people and trying to gauge, right?
What was there that I could do?
And at the time, one of my partners was involved in a lawsuit.
One of my first thoughts was, is there any way I can help him while I’m home?
And I reached out to our lawyer, malpractice lawyer at that time, he was all too happy to have me do research and review some medical literature and you know lend my expertise.
To that and I actually really enjoyed that line of work, but at least in Pennsylvania, I don’t know how it is around the rest of the country, but you essentially time out, of being an expert witness. You have to have had physical patient interactions. So I was able to do that for a little while, but I eventually timed out. There’s another chapter here, which we’re going to get into in just a moment about, you know, attending the, the Sikh conference.
But before we go into that, that piece, I want to play a little excerpt in a moment from our X for success before we get to that.
[15:37] I just wonder if there’s any suggestions or advice you have for people who may be going through similar circumstances as you had gone through with that very significant change with the disability.
I’m not talking about insurance right now, just just the mental piece.
What was helpful for you aside, not everybody has a wise husband.
So what thoughts do you have?
Listen, my therapist was worth her weight in gold, understanding that that also costs money.
So we were fortunate enough at the time that I could see her three times a week, and we eventually went down to two times to one time once I was kind of off the ledge. I definitely think, therapy, whether it’s a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a coach, I don’t care really as long as there’s somebody who is unbiased.
That you can just unload. And there were days where i would just sit there and cry for an hour.
[16:47] But it was a safe place to cry right? I didn’t necessarily always want my kids to see it. So i think that’s number one. I think number two is not hiding. It’s putting yourself out there and talking to your friends and potentially your family.
[17:07] Finding at least one or two people that you can really confide in.
And I will tell you that was also not super easy. My physician friends were actually some of the meanest when everything went down and I had to actually distance myself.
[17:28] From a lot of my physician friends and really latch onto you know my best friends from college, my you know friends who weren’t physicians, which for a lot of us there aren’t that many right. We go into medicine, our lives are the hospitals that we work in, the buildings that we work in. It’s really hard to make friends as an adult and I think that I actually was fortunate that my kids were the ages that they were because in preschool I find or have found that that’s where parents actually do meet and talk. You know once your kids are in elementary school and beyond there’s not much as much parent interaction. So looking back I think that, that was also really helpful that I had friends outside of medicine which also ties into that whole identity piece. And I do think that animals are the best therapy in the world. Whether you’re able to go to an SPCA and just play with animals for a little while or you have the ability to adopt.
You know, whether it’s a cat, a dog, a ferret, I don’t care. There’s so much science and.
[18:44] Literature behind pet therapy. I think that that was probably the biggest thing for me, to just get out of my own head and out of my own, it’s going to sound so hokey, but like, out of my humanness to take care of an animal. It’s unsolicited, unconditional love.
Yeah, that’s awesome. So thank you for that. There’s some some wise wise words in there. We are.
[19:14] After all social, you know, one of the things I think one of the things that you’re that’s also true the converse of what you just said is is isolation which is very damaging in the situation that you’re in. So really forcing yourself to reach out for the therapist and forcing yourself to connect with other parents and preschoolers and having to take your dog for a walk forces you to be social. And so I just wanted to kind of underline that, underscore that for our listeners.
And I started a secret Facebook group at the time called Physicians for Physicians, which started out really because I needed a sense of community and I knew other docs were out there.
And so it’s a space for physicians who because of injury or illness have had to change their scope of practice or leave medicine.
And it was one of the most helpful groups because it was other people that got it.
[20:18] And basically I went into various social networks that I had and just said, hey, this is something I’m doing.
If you would like to be in it or you know somebody that would like to be in it, feel free to reach out to me.
And we have over 500 members. I know it’s not as big as other Facebook groups, And I hope it’s never as big as some other Facebook groups.
But it’s been incredibly helpful and supportive in knowing that you’re not alone.
Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s that’s great that you put that out there so that people do feel that.
Well, I want to fast forward, you know, because of what we also want is, you know, what’s sort of the next chapter for you.
And then I think what’s important for listeners to hear is how to then, you know, what’s the next navigation with all the things that you have, all the great skills that you’ve acquired.
[21:15] So you found yourself at a conference called SEEK, which as I understand it is around physicians doing things that are not necessarily clinical medicine.
And I’m just going to play an excerpt from our X for Success where you talk about what your process was there.
Nothing there really resonated except something that one person said.
None of the jobs were calling to me, but one of the physicians said two things.
She said, you need to figure out what you’re passionate about.
She said, everyone has knowledge that other people could benefit from.
And I really latched on to those two thoughts and wrote them down and went home and talked to my husband about it.
And we were like, okay, what am I passionate about? So take us forward.
So what did you find out that you’re passionate about?
[22:27] Couple of things. I realized that I still had the passion for teaching and education. When I was a resident, I loved teaching med students and when I became an attending, I loved teaching residents who wanted to learn. And so I wrote down teaching education, right? And I wrote down that on one side of the paper, right? And then on the other side, I was like, Okay, well, what can I educate people about? What can I teach people? And at first, you know, I was stuck in science mode.
[23:06] Right? And thinking about OBGYN, particularly, and for a while, I helped one of the area residency programs with their simulation stuff, and really liked it. But I didn’t think it was going to be be a full-time job and I was thinking forward right and then maybe a few months later I realized I had an epiphany that wow I’ve really learned a lot about this whole insurance thing and I can’t be the only person that felt taken advantage of and I can’t be the only person who wasn’t helped when they needed help and And I started lecturing to area residency programs.
I reached out to my friends in the area and said, hey, look, you guys know what happened to me. And I think this is really valuable.
And I think this is really important.
We weren’t taught this 20 years ago.
And I started doing it.
[24:07] And at first, wasn’t making any money doing it. So I was still doing other things.
And then at some point, and I really don’t remember the timeline, but my husband and my now business partner, two different people, got together and basically thought, okay I’m doing these lectures and I’m sending people to you. Hmm, maybe there is a space here for me.
And it was my husband’s idea. It wasn’t my idea. I actually thought it was the dumbest idea I’d ever heard because I don’t consider myself a salesperson. And he was like, right, but that’s what’s good about you is you are no-nonsense and you are being educational and you’re not a sleazy salesperson. And so you know that became.
[25:02] Kind of my North Star, right? I was like, huh, all right, maybe we are going to change the way that this industry is. And that was really what kind of got me going. It was somewhat altruistic, and somewhat cathartic. Every time I tell my story, it got easier to tell. And I didn’t end up in tears. And I didn’t end up depressed for days. It became part of who I was now, right?
And that piece was incredibly helpful for me from both an emotional and physical health standpoint.
And I really set out to be the best.
And I don’t mean that to sound trite or egotistical. It just kind of fell in line with how I was.
[25:53] In my previous life, right?
Like I wanted to be the best OBGYN. I wanted to have the best surgical skills.
So now I just translated that to, okay, I really want to be the best in the industry and I wanna change how the industry treats physicians.
And so it just, I don’t wanna say it all fell into place, but it kind of all fell into place.
It just wasn’t an overnight fall into place. Yeah, there’s parts of your story here after that SEEK conference that are intentional. I heard sort of listing what am I passionate about?
And there are other parts of it that are organic, like some things just sort of showed up for you and then you said, let me go in this direction.
I wonder if you can talk about what that’s like to have opportunities show up and for you to go ahead and say, huh, maybe I should kind of go there.
It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time. There have been multiple times in my life where I have said, okay, I’m giving.
[26:58] And over to the universe and I’m not going to second guess when things are presented to me.
I think that a lot of times and I don’t know if this is just physician centric or human centric that we end up second guessing what’s been presented to us and we don’t see the value in what’s there right that the old adage of it’s right in front of you right. And so this was another period in my life where I was like, okay, you know what? I’m surrendering to the universe.
[27:29] And I’m really going to look at what’s coming my way and I’m going to go with it. And again, this wasn’t the only thing that came into my lap at that time. There were a couple of other things, you know, someone had reached out to me about biotech consulting and I was like, sure, right?
[27:48] I just threw my hat in the ring. If things came my way, I said I’m at least gonna try them out and see what feels right. And there’s something really freeing about that and there’s something mildly terrifying of trying something new and not knowing if I was gonna fail or succeed. And with the whole insurance thing, I had to take another set of tests, right, in a topic that I really I knew about disability but I didn’t really know about health and life and you know and I was like oh my god what if I don’t pass this test and right all that old fear of failure starts to creep in. But I just kept pushing through and saying okay bring it you know let’s see what comes of this. And the insurance thing is is what really ended up resonating and sticking and people started reaching out to me for my advice and people started reaching out to me to look at their stuff and I was like oh all right this is what she meant when she said everyone has information that someone else would deem valuable. And so that was really that pivotal moment where I was like, huh.
[29:05] All right, I think I’m onto something here. Yeah, it’s awesome. And you know, it sounds like you are you, it’s not just that people see the value in coming to you for their for assistance, but there’s some passion that you have for this that you didn’t have for some of the other opportunities that were presented to you. Oh absolutely and and that was part of that second kind of epiphanial piece of what feels right, right? What aligns with what my internal values are and is it fun? I mean I know that sounds kind of hokey but I didn’t really have fun doing the biotech consulting. I didn’t really have fun doing the medical editing. You know medical editing sure I felt like okay I have one foot in the physician’s space doing this but it wasn’t getting me excited to get out of bed and this really was you know I was like all right I’m actually helping people again and I’m actually making a difference again and I think that that’s part of why we have been successful is I think that.
[30:19] People can sense that. Yeah you you offer such a great service. I mean I certainly I didn’t need to get any of this information when I was in my training either.
And then your compelling story that makes it, I’m sure for your clients, man, she is driven for this not to happen to anybody else again.
I hope so. I mean, that is exactly why I’m doing what I’m doing.
That’s awesome. Well, Stephanie, just one last question.
[30:48] You’ve been wonderful in sharing of yourself in these pretty significant chapter in your life.
As you look back on these last several years, when that pivot, that life-changing moment happened, is there anything else you’d like to impart to our listeners about things that you’ve learned along the way that could be helpful to them?
[31:11] I think trust yourself. Again, going back to the kind of surrendering to the universe, I really do believe that things present themselves when we least expect it.
And if we can stay open to the possibility that something is being presented for a good reason, and really trusting your gut.
I’ve really come to trust my gut a lot more than I probably ever have.
And realizing that things don’t have to be perfect, right?
The enemy, what is it? enemy of good is perfection.
And I’ve had to let go of that. And I’ve had to accept the fact that I’m going to make mistakes along the way.
But as long as I stay true to my values and true to what I’m passionate about, I think people can really go a far away.
Excellent. Wonderful advice for our listeners. I really appreciate that.
So, Dr. Stephanie Pearson, thank you again so much for coming back and imparting your wisdom.
And I know that we have ways for people to find you through our website.
And once again, thank you so much.
Thank you for having me. Thank you.
[32:30] Here are my takeaways from this conversation. Alexander Graham Bell is known to have said, when one door closes, another opens.
In his case, he was referring to the frequent failures he encountered as an inventor.
Fortunately for all of us, he didn’t quit at these junctures, but found ways to see another door opening to possibility and eventual success.
Such is the case with Dr. Pearson.
Though not an inventor, she encountered a sudden, unwelcome, and life-altering setback along her professional path.
Fortunately, with some hard work, she too was able to see another door opening.
Here is what I heard about how she enabled herself to do just that.
[33:16] 1. When confronted with the closed door, don’t isolate. Seek therapy or counseling or coaching, for having an unbiased confidant to share your story in a safe place is critical for healing.
2. To begin seeing the open door with more clarity, reflect on what you are passionate about and what knowledge you have that others can benefit from.
Number three, trust yourself and trust what is happening in your life. As Dr. Pearson said so well, opportunities present themselves when we least expect them to. So stay open to the possibility that something is being presented for a reason and trust your gut and go in that direction. Finally, I really appreciated Dr. Pearson’s reflections on the trappings of professional identity and her suggestions to connect with others without the shield and burden of the initials that come after our name. We are, after all, humans like all other humans.
[34:20] We have the same needs, frailties, and vulnerabilities as everyone else.
And that serves as a reminder. If you’re feeling a little trapped and having some difficulty seeing some open doors in your life, consider coaching from one of the physician coaches at MD Coaches.
For more information, please contact us at MyMDCoaches.com.
Thank you for listening and be well.
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