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Nonclinical physician career, income & lifestyle.Freelance MD is an active community of physicians that gives you greater control of your medical practice, income, and lifestyle, even if you’re clueless about where to begin and you’re already working 80 hour weeks. Join Now For Instant Access To Members Only Content & Downloads. It's free!
 
Friday
Jan042013

The Course That Changed My Life (No, Really!)

A writing career, unlike a medical career, is not linear.

Like everyone, I get lots of junk e-mail. Much of mine consists of announcements of continuing medical education courses that have no relevance to my work as a primary care internist. “Updates in Pediatric Anesthesia?” No thanks. “Frontiers in Electroencephalography?” I don’t think so.

A few years ago, though, a CME flier for a new, three-day course on nonfiction writing (www.HarvardWriters.com) for clinicians arrived in my in box. This one I did not delete. An English major in college and still an avid reader and writer, I’d resigned myself to keeping my work life and my writing life separate. Here was an invitation to combine them, even to use one to enhance the other. Though I went on to take the course again, and also to serve on its faculty, I learned things in those first three days that have stuck with me in what is now a fully developed second career as a professional writer:

A writing career, unlike a medical career, is not linear: If you’re a nurse, doctor, or therapist, chances are you went to professional school and never looked back. You worked hard, put one foot in front of the other, and moved ahead. You rarely faced rejection. Writers, even famous writers, get rejected all the time. The last success doesn’t always lead to the next. That’s not to say that writing careers don’t progress. I could, for example, draw you a line from my work on a synagogue newsletter to the Boston Globe and NPR--it just wouldn’t be a straight line.

Learn what a “platform” is, because you need one: “Platform” refers to all the things you’ve done that make you the best person to be writing a particular publication. Say you’re an OB-GYN who wants to write a book about contraception. It’s good that you’re an OB-GYN, but you have a better chance of selling your book if you’ve blogged, lectured, written editorials, and appeared on TV to discuss your subject. With each step, you become the “go to” person. Your name gets around. You get asked to write, lecture, and appear more. Platform leads to more platform.

Relationships matter: Writers, agents, and editors are people. Like all people, they prefer to work with other people whom they know, respect and can rely upon. This course is a great place to begin networking. Other writing courses and conferences (e.g. those listed in Poets and Writers or Grub Street) and even social media are also venues to meet the people who can nurture your career. Writing is solitary--publishing is not.

Write about what interests you most: You may be a health professional, but you have other interests, and you should incorporate these into your writing. For example, I love books and now review books (mostly health-related, some not). I’ve also liberally sprinkled my medical writing with memoir, jokes, and various current events that obsess me. Anything that you know something about, that you’re passionate about, can become part of your writing--and part of your platform.

Did I mention that you need a platform?

About: Suzanne Koven is a primary care internist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Her monthly column, "In Practice," appears in the Boston Globe and her blog by the same name is featured on boston.com. Dr. Koven's essays, reviews, and interviews have also been published by JAMA, NEJM, Psychology Today, The Rumpus.net, the Boston Globe Books section, and several other sites and journals. Her first book, Say Hello To A Better Body: Weight Loss and Fitness for Women Over 50, was released in May, 2012. Read more at www.suzannekovenmd.com.

Monday
Dec312012

Developing Your Portfolio Career

Building a more satisfying career as a physician.

Years ago at an American Academy of Pediatrics meeting, I attended a session called something like “Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians.” While I don’t remember all the details of the presentation, what stuck with me was the extent of dissatisfaction of such an array of physicians: young and old, male and female, PCP and sub-specialist.

Now, some 20 years later, I think I have finally figured out a solution to the problem that nettled that audience years ago. Or at least I’ve found the solution for me. It’s called a “portfolio career”. What’s that, you say? Well, a portfolio career is one which combines multiple employment situations, exploits one’s various talents, culminating in a more satisfying work experience than would be possible just focusing on one area of expertise. Anton Chekov may have crafted the first portfolio career as a physician-writer back in the 19th century. He famously said, “Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress.” Since his time, many doctors have carved side careers in publishing. Atul Gawande, surgeon and New York Times best-selling author says, “You can be a doctor and be most anything else.”

My portfolio career looks like this: I spend about a half to two thirds of my time as a physician. I am in private practice with one other pediatrician and moonlight in my local ER a few days a month. The rest of the time I write. Fiction, essays, book reviews, clinical reports. You name it, I’ll write it. I blog. I pen a syndicated health column for parents. I write conference coverage for national magazines. I’m called upon regularly to comment about medical developments in the news and how current events impact children.

You, too, can craft a portfolio career in writing. If you’ve always wanted to write, if you think you have a book in you, if you have years of experience and pearls of wisdom to share, I have a piece of advice for you. Come to the Harvard Writers’ Conference in March 2013. You will meet editors and agents, publishers and publicists, fellow doctors and dramatists, all interested in finding (or being!) the next Malcolm Gladwell.

You’ll also meet me! After the publication of my memoir Crash: A Mother, a Son, and the Journey from Grief to Gratitude (Globe Pequot Press Sept. 2012), Julie Silver invited me to present The Examined Life: Writing and the Art of Medicine at next year’s conference. I am thrilled. I’ll be talking about how I came to the conference in 2009 with a book proposal and an idea for a memoir and left with a real live contact in the publishing world and ultimately achieved representation and sold my memoir. I’ll also talk about real concrete steps you can take right now toward that portfolio career in writing.

So join me for the conference that helped shape my career as a physician-writer. March 14 th to 16th in Cambridge. You won't regret it!

About: Carolyn Roy-Bornstein's essays and short stories have appeared in many medical and literary journals and anthologies including JAMA, The Writer, Brain,Child, Literary Mama, Kaleidoscope, Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, The Examined Life and several editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Her flash fiction won third place in a Writer's Digest Short Short Story competition. She teaches writing workshops at venues from the University of Iowa to Grub Street Boston. Read more at www.carolynroybornstein.com.

Thursday
Nov292012

Doctor, You Should Write A Book...Or Should You?

Doctors Book WritingAs a physician, there are many good reasons to write a book that draws upon your expertise. 

For example, physician authors I've had the pleasure of working with have:

- Developed their keynote speaking opportunities

- Secured large increases in research funding for their projects

- Grown their practices (even when that may not have been their goal!)

- Shifted their one-on-one practice to one that is based on offering courses, teleseminars, information products or other models that have given them more freedom in how they use their time

- Landed on national TV and become sought after for their expertise--both by media and conference planners.

And much more.

But should you really write a book? Not necessarily. Only if you can answer "yes" to the following 5 questions:

  • You have a new perspective, fresh voice, something new to offer, proven system, compelling success stories or address an audience that has not been served well by other books.
  • You're committed to put time aside consistently to get the writing done.
  • You're interested in writing--even if you don't think you're a great writer, you don't dread it!
  • You're willing to learn something about the industry and get input from experts (more on this in a moment)
  • You're willing to actually promote the book--whether through a blog, online course, speaking or some other venue--and you'll need to start building your following before the book is even published--often before you even get a book deal.

If you do decide to write a book, where do you start? My top recommendation is the CME publishing course through Harvard Medical School. There, you'll get a sense of the specifics required--from how to write a book proposal to how to write for a trade audience  to how to develop your following. You'll also have the opportunity to meet top agents and publishers looking for books on health-related subjects. As faculty these folks are not just there to hear your pitch but also to help you formulate your book concept. You'll also meet course director, Julie Silver, MD, as well as professionals who can help you get the pieces that may be missing in your background--whether it's help with learning to write better and editing your manuscript, formulating the book concept or developing an online following.

If you're even thinking of writing a book, I highly recommend this immersion into the book writing and publishing world, March 14-16 in Boston, MA. See you there?

Thursday
Nov292012

Physician Education Costs & Salaries By Specialty 

MD Salaries Infographic.

Click on the image to launch the full infographic from MD Salaries.net.

Physician Salaries

Sunday
Nov182012

Physician - Why You Should Blog

Physician NetworkingSome physicians are embracing blogs. Why?

More people read blogs that you may realize. Smart, informed and professional people read blogs. In fact, I probably don't need to point this out, but you are probably a smart, informed professional person who is reading one now!

If this is true, why do blogs have such a bad reputation among many high level professionals? It's likely due in part to the fact that nearly anyone can blog (and lots of people do), so it may seem like it's not worth pursuing something that essentially anyone can easily do.

But, all blogs are not the same. And, one blog can change your life--or at least really enhance it. Blogging is really about having something to say and then reaching your intended audience.

For example, the first time that I talked psychiatrist Ron Schouten into blogging was for Harvard Business Review--a very prestigious blog site. Dr. Schouten's blog was titled Psychopaths on Wall Street and was read by many thousands of professionals including a Time Magazine reporter who blogged about it on the Time website within 24 hours.

Dr. Schouten began to see the power of blogs and how they can reach a wide and impressive audience.
And, it's interesting to see what happens when a doctor starts to blog. Doctors who blog often virtually meet other doctors or professionals who blog, and they form some really great relationships. For example, David Yamada is a tenured professor of law at Suffolk University and a scholar at the Workplace Bullying Institute. One day, Professor Yamada was browsing through the bookstore and came across Dr. Schouten's book, Almost a Psychopath. Dr. Yamada blogged about this book in a blog post titled Do Almost Psychopaths Help to Explain the Prevalence of Workplace Bullying and Abuse?

Professor Yamada virtually met Dr. Schouten thereafter, and this led to Schouten being invited as the keynote speaker at a conference Yamada was organizing. Their paths have crossed numerous times--as they have similar interests in educating people about the subtle and not so subtle "bad behavior" that so often occurs in the workplace--very often due to men (and some women) who have subclinical psychopathy (read the book to find out more!).

If you haven't tried out blogging, consider submitting one to FreelanceMD.com. Before you do, read some of the blogs on this site and think about what people might want to hear more about. One blog really can open up lots of new doors, and it's fun to try!

More: 59 Top Physician Blogs Worth Reading

Thursday
Nov152012

An Uncommon Cure for Physician Burnout

A recent Mayo clinic study concluded that almost 50% of physicians are experiencing at least one symptom of burnout. I actually think it's much higher.

Inevitably we're told to cope with burnout using a variety of methods. I take that to mean "Shut up and put up." Well, I've got a different solution for physician burnout. Watch my video where I explain my alternative solution:

Wednesday
Oct032012

Become A Key Opinion Leader & Sought After Speaker

Putting yourself in a postion of opportunity.

Yesterday I was leading a conference call with two physicians, two publicists, a literary agent and an editor. The goal of the call was to launch a new book and raise the profiles of the two physicians. They are already well known in their fields, but with a new book coming out they can reach broader audiences. Their message is honed from months of work, and they are ready to share it. This call was about helping them to do just that.

If you were on the call, you would have heard quite a few "insider secrets" about how physicians can become key opinion leaders. If it was easy, then most doctors would probably be KOLs, because frankly most of them are very intelligent, creative, talented and have wonderful ideas that could really help others. But, it's not so easy to "bump up" and begin speaking at higher levels (for example, to bigger groups or to more senior executives) or having reporters contact you to get your opinion about something.

Here are a few highlights from that call for those of you who are thinking about taking your career to the next level.

1. Prepare an online folder with a new (and nicely done) headshot, updated bio (or two or three if you want to speak to different types of audiences), pdf of the special sales contact information for conference organizers to order bulk quantities of your book (if you have published one; if not, consider coming to the Harvard CME publishing conference www.HarvardWriters.com), a word document with the title of your talk and objectives and a short narrative description (to be used for CME accreditation or for marketing copy).

 2. Give your online reputation a makeover. Keep in mind that you will almost certainly be "googled" by any reporter, conference organizer, etc. So, what does Google say about you? At the Harvard/Discovery Channel conference that I'll be co-directing on October 19-21 in Silver Spring, MD (come join us and learn all this and much more--there's still some slots left http://dryou.discovery.com/) social media experts will be doing "online audits" for all of the attendees to help them figure out what others are seeing about them online and how that is impacting their professional reputation. The goal of the audit is to provide attendees with important strategies to improve their online reputations.

3. You need a TV clip to get on TV. I know it's frustrating, but if you've never been on TV, it's unlikely that you'll be asked to do an interview. Most producers, especially for major news shows, want to see a video clip (or reel) of someone before booking them for a show. At the Harvard/Discovery Channel conference, we will be doing simulated TV interviews -- both live and taped with a teleprompter–and all of the attendees will leave with a video clip so that they'll have something to show producers in the future.


At every conference that I attend (even the ones that I direct), I learn new things. While we always mention the faculty in the conference brochures, the attendees are usually an amazing group of high level physicians and others who become key contacts for future opportunities–especially at conferences like the two that I mention in this blog. This is my final "secret"– you need contacts. Networking is critical, and there's no better place than a conference with like-minded individuals who share your vision and your passion for changing the world!

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