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Entries in Harvard Writers Conference (1)


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

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